Seattle Soundings: Media follies in 2017 and beyond

It’s a holiday season tradition! Here, for the 22nd year (!), is the list of overhyped and underreported stories of the year. After a year when “fake news” became a cliche and our mayor became an international embarrassment, we can only hope it gets better:

2017’s Most Over-Hyped Local Stories:

Was Ed Murray a Creep 30 Years Ago?

Yeah, probably. But because Murray’s scandal broke six months before the #MeToo tsunami, he might still have survived decades-old allegations had he not been such an unrecalcitrant bully in 2017. Murray’s insistence on publicly attacking the character and personal histories of his accusers - a sadly familiar script for abuse survivors - underscored for too many Seattle voters that Murray wasn’t the kind of leader they wanted. That was the real story, and a major factor as to why the top four finishers to replace Murray were all women.

Fun With Homelessness Numbers:

Murray’s delayed, much-touted $75 million Navigation Center opened in 2017. By year’s end, the city-run “Navigation Teams” fanning across the city to direct the unhoused to housing, had - depending on whose reports you believe - placed somewhere between one and 20 people in permanent housing. But that isn’t stopping city officials from claiming that they housed thousands of people in 2017, and predicting the city will place over 7,000 more in permanent affordable housing in 2018 - numbers only possible using a creative definition of the word “permanent,” a creative definition of the word “affordable,” a creative definition of the word “housing,” and... uh... pure fantasy.

Plus, as usual, car crashes, fires, violent crimes, big (or not) weather “events,” heartwarming stories of photogenic kids overcoming adversity or reuniting with pets, and every other staple of Chuckle-Buddy News. Every time you watch local TV news it lowers your IQ.

2017’s Most Underreported Local Stories:

Sigh. There’s dozens to choose from, many stemming directly from the down sides of an economic boom our region seems utterly unprepared for:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers:

Seattle’s rapidly growing population masks an unmistakable demographic trend: our newcomers are younger, whiter, and much, much wealthier than existing residents, many of whom are leaving Seattle in search of more affordable areas. Local media has instead happily continued featuring articles dripping with child-like wonder over real estate prices.

In Ayn We Trust:

All those new residents need public services: utilities, infrastructure repair, transportation, schools, parks, libraries, social services, public safety, and all of the other things governments do. Even though our growth is a direct result of government priorities, local leaders seem to think the free market will meet everyone’s needs. There’s been no significant investment in any of these issues outside special operating levies that have been wholly inadequate to meet the unprecedented demand. Meanwhile, our state can’t fund its own needs, and the feds are destroying programs as quickly as they can. Somehow, our city and county need to make up the difference.

Seattle’s War on the Homeless:

The second full year of the City of Seattle’s “State of Emergency” on homelessness continued to make things worse, not better. Murray oversaw an unprecedented, relentlessly destructive program to “sweep” unsanctioned encampments. By year’s end, under the guise of manipulated, “data-driven” preferences for providers that direct clients to their nonexistent new homes, the city reduced or ended funding for most of its emergency indoor shelters in 2018 - along with essential support services like restrooms, showers, and help for domestic violence survivors. Meanwhile, city leaders continue to treat homelessness and affordable housing as entirely separate crises. The entire approach - also embraced by newly elected Mayor Durkan - is deeply dishonest and cruel. And deadly - by year’s end, the King County Medical Examiner had counted a record-shattering 144 people that died living on Seattle’s streets.

The First Year of Seattle’s Groundbreaking “Democracy Vouchers” was a resounding success:

The program, the first of its kind in the country, aimed to attract more candidates and more resources for candidates not beholden to special interests. It did. It remains to be seen whether, by the time the program is fully implemented in 2019, Democracy Vouchers will be enough to counter the enormous corporate and individual wealth in Seattle’s booming economy - some of which will inevitably be invested in the best candidates money can buy. Based on this year’s experience, the vouchers will at least give candidates who don’t want to sell themselves to the highest bidders a fighting chance.

Did I mention that SPD is still a problem?

And, on that cheerful note, get out and make your own news in 2018. If this compilation suggests anything, it’s that we can’t rely on others to push for change, or even to tell us when change is desperately needed. We’ll have to do both ourselves.