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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

February 25, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Burgess bill an essential start to taking downtown crime seriously

Top of the News: It would be too extreme to say that downtown Seattle is sitting on a tipping point. Seattle still enjoys one of America’s best central cities, while the damage from the Great Recession has been heavily felt in suburbs and exurbia. One thing that is true: There’s no truly successful metropolitan area without a vibrant, real downtown. That’s why Seattle’s leaders need show a bias for action for addressing the stresses emerging downtown and in other urban neighborhoods. Anything can happen in the Great Reset.

On Monday, a man was sitting on Second Avenue when he was robbed of his iPhone — at gunpoint. It was 2:50 p.m. Later, while he was at a phone store, he saw the two thugs headed toward Westlake Center. Police were called and the perps were nabbed. Such street crime is on the rise, especially by the roaming hoods on Third Avenue looking for trouble and victims. The mayhem in the Transit Tunnel was a high-profile incident. If the gunman Monday would have decided to shoot, that affair wouldn’t have been a mere “petty crime.”

All manner of criminal havoc happens in the suburbs (e.g., this beating at a Renton shoppng center). But to many Americans, crime downtown carries a special danger. That’s why its important that Seattle leaders move quickly on Councilman Tim Burgess’ measure to address aggressive panhandling and crime. It can’t fix an economy that has put record numbers of young people out of work. But it’s just a start to support businesses downtown and in other shopping districts.

This issue cuts into many areas, including the economic. For the city of Seattle to have a competitive future, it must ensure high quality of life in its urban areas. A high-cost energy future, among other things, works in center citys’ favor. Downtowns are more sustainable. But Seattle can’t count on its past successes. I feel much safer walking downtown Seattle than I do driving around suburbia. But most Americans aren’t like me, and many Seattle residents don’t show the natural urban ease of those in Portland. It’s time to take perception and reality seriously.

The Back Story: The 2010 Economic Report of the President is available as a download from the White House. Yes, it’s partly a political document and partly a justification of the president’s actions in his first year in office.

But it also gives interesting insights into the state of the economy. For example, according to the Fed, GDP grew by 4,000 percent from 1952 to 2009, while assets in the financial sector grew by 16,000 percent. “It would be helpful to know if the ratio of financial assets to GDP is ‘too big’ or ‘too small,’ but no good evidence permits such a conclusion.”

Hmmm. A global financial panic cooked in the United States, where the financial sector became the nation’s most important industry, as America lost its status as the global leader in finished manufactured goods and the world’s biggest creditor. That looks like some evidence.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Everyday low price

Let Wal-Mart reform health care

With docs in China

Comments | More in Downtown and urban issues, Macro/Big picture, Sustainability


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