Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Author archives

You are currently viewing all posts written by Robert J. Vickers.

September 19, 2014 at 6:16 AM

Take a tour with ‘da mayor’ of Seattle Dick Falkenbury

Few new arrivals to Seattle will get a more gilt-edged presentation of the city than the personalized tour I received Wednesday from former 20-year cab driver and 2003 city council candidate Dick Falkenbury.

Dick Falkenbury (Robert J. Vickers / The Seattle Times)

Dick Falkenbury during a tour of Pike Place Market. (Robert J. Vickers / The Seattle Times)

After learning of my newbie status, the lifelong Seattleite and Puget Sound gadfly offered to show me around town, and I eagerly accepted. The nearly three-hour outing left me with butterflies in my stomach.

But my assumption that I would reap the benefits of his encyclopedic Seattle knowledge exclusively that day was shortly dispatched as Falkenbury repeatedly paused to help random glassy-eyed tourists who’d lost their way.

These were my first clear indications that I was travelling with Seattle’s unofficial version of Ed Koch, the late New York City mayor who gained notoriety for walking his streets and querying city dwellers: “How’m I doin’?”

Falkenbury wasn’t asking, but plenty of folks treated him as though he was “da mayor” of the city despite his slightly disheveled appearance and proclivity to speak rather than breathe.

Such recognition about town, his undeniable passion for the city, and the eccentric twinkle in his eye was hard to resist. But more was to come.

More

Comments

September 9, 2014 at 6:09 AM

NBA gaffe 2.0 may help Seattle get a team, but won’t improve race relations

Danny Ferry, Hawks President of Basketball Operations and GM

Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson. (AP Photo/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnny Crawford)

Seattle is stirring about another prospect for regaining professional basketball.

This time the inkling comes from Atlanta, where majority Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the NBA team after he acknowledged sending emails questioning the team’s economic viability because of its predominantly black fan base.

Specifically, Levenson worried that “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

On the surface, it sounds just like former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling expressing a personal distaste for racial minorities. In response to the cultural backlash, the NBA forced Sterling to sell the team last month to Seattle businessman Steve Ballmer.

But Seattleites should resist the temptation to paint Levenson with the Sterling brush, no matter what affect it has on repatriating that NBA franchise.

More

Comments | Topics: bruce levenson, donald sterling, hawks

September 5, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Reader responses to newcomers to Seattle: Most vulnerable Seattleites have reason to fear change

My recent editorial notebook and solicitation for experiences of new Seattle migrants produced an assortment of tales and, not surprisingly, a good dose of resentment.

Several readers replied emphatically to my suggestion that newcomers could contribute to the city’s growth with strong suggestions that I go back to where I came from. One email’s subject line summed up the sentiment: “Who asked you?”

“We aboriginals have loved and lived and appreciated what we have, just the way it was,” the email read. It finished: “Leave us alone,  we were doing just fine. Who says we want to evolve?”

A more thoughtful respondent boasted the following:

“Yes there’s a lot that can be made better, but not by you, who have no sense of place, people, or history. You have no investment, except perhaps financial, please take that investment with you and go.”

The authors may not have expected it, but I understand their reaction. Wherever this attitude surfaces, it usually comes from the most vulnerable with the most tenuous hold on an illusory stability.

Any change loosens their grasp on that already shaky stability, so it makes sense that any suggestion of change prompts fear.

When I said new arrivals could contribute to Seattle’s future – rather than be a drain on it – what some heard was that new arrivals “hate” Seattle and want to change what long-time residents cherish most about the city.

While Seattle certainly has an abundance of unique charms, it also has plenty to work on.

More

Comments | Topics: Seattle

September 2, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Seattle’s new police chief is an empathetic multitasker, but far from naive

At a time of national hand-wringing over police use-of-force, things are calm in Seattle thanks in part to the city’s new top cop Kathleen O’Toole.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole (Photo by Ted S. Warren / AP)

Sworn in as Seattle’s first female police chief just two months ago, O’Toole immediately set out to not just build bridges with the city’s various

communities, but also with the department’s rank-and-file.

In her third day in office, she called on old contacts in Boston to help her open community channels here in Seattle. Those ties were so strong, she said, that some Boston associates flew to Seattle for her swearing-in.

“It’s the way I’ve always done business,” she said Wednesday during a wide-ranging, candid interview.

More

Comments | Topics: consent decree, kathleen o'toole, seattle police

August 26, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Lakeside basketball and Steve Ballmer, just the latest symptoms of a bigger problem

It’s bad enough that many college athletes are callously manipulated in the money-saturated world of intercollegiate athletics. Society considers young adults old enough to advocate for themselves.

But when high school teens – inexperienced in self-advocacy – are used in the same exploitative manner, something has fundamentally broken in American society’s basic educational promise to its children.

That broken promise was laid bare last week when Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker detailed how area billionaire Steve Ballmer created a foundation to recruit talented minority child basketball players to play for Lakeside School’s basketball team.

More

Comments | Topics: basketball, Lakeside, Steve Ballmer

August 21, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Should Obama go to Ferguson?

Whether President Barack Obama goes to Ferguson, Mo. in the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen has become the question du jour among American politicos.

Obama’s liberal base and a righteously raw black community have clamored for the nation’s first black president to get directly involved in the latest episode of deadly violence meted out upon a defenseless black youth.

But visiting Ferguson would not only be a risky move for a president bogged down in political immobility, it would more likely inflame tensions than quell them.
And given his track record dealing with issues of race, it’s probably better that Obama maintain some distance while demonstrating an empathetic engagement.

His presidential performance in two previous race storms – the Henry Louis Gates racial profiling and Trayvon Martin shooting incidents – didn’t live up to his 2008 “More Perfect Union” campaign speech on race, or the country’s subsequent and wildly unrealistic expectation that he single-handedly improve America’s racial climate.

More

Comments | Topics: african american, barack obama, race

August 14, 2014 at 6:16 AM

About Robert J. Vickers, our new Seattle Times editorial writer

Greetings, Seattle! I’m Robert Vickers, and I’m the newest addition to The Seattle Times editorial board. I arrive here having spent several years as a journalist writing about public policy, higher education, legal affairs and politics at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., and The Daytona Beach News-Journal…

More

Comments | Topics: Robert Vickers, Seattle Times editorial board, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution