The economy’s future lies in cities, not the state or Congress
This is a position to which I have been gradually moving over the past couple years. While Olympia deserves credit for passing some important social reforms that cost no money, when it comes to economic issues, the best we seem to be able to hope for as Democrats are lawmakers willing and able to play defense in support of the status quo: "As the Senate Ways and Means chair, I ... worked successfully to restore cuts to education and social services proposed by Republicans," mayoral hopeful Ed Murray boasts on his own campaign website about his legislative accomplishments. He blocked proposed cuts! Leadership!
Meanwhile, some really useful and creative reforms are happening at the local level—Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance, the Sea-Tac Good Jobs Initiative, our recent debate over living wage jobs—with plenty of room for even more innovation and experimentation. Seattle possesses the most dynamic and attractive economy in the state. If Olympia won't pass the legislation necessary to sustain and grow our economy, we'll just have to do it ourselves. And then we can rely on our representatives in Olympia to defend our right to home rule, since playing defense is what they seem to be best at.
Offended by our state's most-regressive-in-the-nation tax structure? Let's pass an income tax in Seattle—say, a five percent tax on incomes over one million dollars—and force that 80-year-old decision back before the courts. Once voters have approved it somewhere, and that 1933 decision has been overturned, state lawmakers will no longer have an excuse to keep an income tax off the table.
Frustrated at the slow pace at which Olympia is expanding access to high quality early learning—the only educational reform that everybody agrees works? Then don't wait on Olympia to pay for it by raising the revenue you know they'll never have the votes to raise. Seattle could easily afford to implement universal preschool for all its children—paid for by that 5 percent tax on income over one million dollars. As could Bellevue, Mercer Island, and dozens of other cities. Let's do it here first, prove that works, and inspire the rest of the state to go to Olympia and demand that they get it too.
The point is not to cut out the rest of the state, it is to lead it by example.
No doubt Riley and I have a different policy agenda, but we've come to the same pragmatic political conclusion:
Katz and Bradley see metropolitan areas driving a revolution from the bottom up.
The result they picture is a power shift where leaders of these city-states are wielding much more influence at all levels. They are not forsaking but working with their federal and state counterparts and they are much more influential.
“State and national governments will eventually have to bend to the people who are driving our country forward,” Katz predicts.
Riley and I may have different revolutions in mind, but the means toward achieving revolution is one thing on which we both agree.