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Jon Talton

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

May 31, 2012 at 9:50 AM

The ‘Amazon effect’ vs. the violence effect

Seattle is the safest big city in which I’ve ever lived. Before I left Phoenix nearly five years ago, it was under siege by not one but two serial killers, raping and murdering victims randomly. But this placid city is given to periodic convulsions of violence and it’s not just city officials that should be concerned (Chief Diaz is where and why??), but business leaders.

These are the new hard times for millions of Americans, but Seattle is an island of prosperity and dynamic recovery. In addition to the region’s diverse economy, good bones and civic stewards, the city is benefiting from “the Amazon effect” as the online retailer continues a remarkable building boom of its new headquarters. We’re arguing, as we always seem to do, over blessings showered on us (arena vs. port) instead of over the gutting of our key industries and endless unemployment.

Make no mistake: The really lurid violent crimes tend to happen in suburban America. But the city always draws attention, even as urban cores are experiencing a vibrant revival. In Seattle, our density and tolerance can act as accelerants when things go sideways, as they have in recent days.

Density ensures the “creative friction” that makes a big city competitive and attractive to talent, but it also makes violence seem more personal. We not only tolerate but welcome (“Freeatle”) the people who fall between the cracks, the lost souls walking down the street screaming at the wind, the young, unemployed hoods who don’t want to hang out in their suburban neighborhoods. Sure, guns are a huge problem and the NRA, which taught me safe hunting in eighth grade, has turned into a pathological purveyor of irresponsible firearms proliferation. But, as a former paramedic and a mystery writer, I’ve spent enough time around law enforcement to know there is some tear in the dirtbag space-time continuum that the police are aware of, and need to get control of. Then there are events such as Wednesday’s, crimes and tragedies with no answers aside from a more serious approach to violent mental illness.

If Seattle is to continue its good run, serious action is necessary. We’re competing against the top cities in the world for two highly mobile assets, talent and capital. You’d better bet business leaders are paying attention.

And Don’t Miss: Banks’ hyper-hedging adds to risk of market meltdown || Bloomberg

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Spring marks a rebirth

Flowers, trees, debt resetting

Fall for the euro

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