I Miss My Seattle

You may not know this but I have a website called “My Seattle.” Originally I put it together because we had so many of our traveling friends coming here to go on Alaska cruises that asked for recommendations I decided to put them all in one place. I love Seattle. When I list my favorite cities it has always been in my top five (at least it used to be).We choose to live in a Seattle suburb. One of the things we have loved about the 22 years we have lived here (Kathleen has been here even longer than I have) is being so close to the city. In fact for more than 20 years Kathleen commuted to an office that was about 5 blocks from the Space Needle. I am a Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariner fan. I am sure I will also be a Kracken fan as well. We love going into the city to eat at our favorite restaurants, to see theater, to go to concerts and so much more. That’s why this post makes me sad. Very sad.

You see, my Seattle is currently gone. What is left is an awful place that is both disgusting and dangerous.

Last week two of our friends from cruising were in town to take an Alaskan cruise. Before they came the posted on a thread we converse on from time to time that is on Cruise Critic. When they posted they were headed our way we told them we would love to see them and go out to dinner but we also told them to be VERY aware of what is going on in downtown Seattle and to take care when going anyplace on foot. They replied and asked for a much more in-depth about what to avoid and if their hotel and the restaurants they planned to eat in were OK to get to. Luckily they were but even better we decided to pick them up and get them out of the city for one dinner at least at one of our favorite seafood places in Bellevue (across the lake), Seastar. As we drove them back to their downtown Seattle hotel the sun was setting on the city. With the Olympic mountains as a background, the lights of the city looked like a fairyland. And from that distance it is. But you get close up, it isn’t.

So what’s wrong? The city has become a haven for drug users and the mentally ill with no real policing going on. One of the best ways I can tell you what is happening is to quote a reader-written Op/Ed from The Seattle Times:

“I am watching a block of downtown Seattle die. From my office on Third Avenue between Pike and Pine streets, in recent weeks numerous tents have been erected. More keep coming. No one has come to remove them. Daily, I observe people passed out on the street with needles in their arms. I must watch my step to avoid human excrement.

We have 30 employees in our firm. They do not want to return to work because they fear getting off the bus. Our offices have been burglarized four times in 12 months.

I am not conservative. Homelessness has complex causes and must be addressed through a variety of means. But allowing tent dwellers and drug users to occupy a city block is not acceptable. What message does this send to the businesses on the block and tourists who visit our city? Our company will not renew our lease if this persists.

Two blocks from Pike Place Market, where Wild Ginger previously welcomed diners pre-theater or symphony, now only remains graffiti, trash, drugs and tents. Are we willing to let what appears to be less than 300 people destroy a block of economic activity in our city? Apparently, we are.”

For those of you from out of town, the block he is referring to is on the main route from the downtown hotels to the world famous Pike Place Market. It just isn’t safe to go there. And I totally agree with his point of view.

This is what Seattle is up against. An ultra liberal city council has allowed the city to get to this point. The mayor is fed up and decided not to run again. The very capable police chief resigned. More than 200 Seattle police officers have left the force since the summer of 2020 and NOT been replaced. Those that are still here feel like they have been handcuffed themselves. Shops and restaurants in downtown and the Pioneer Square area report calling police after thefts from their establishments or to handle threatening behavior by mentally ill or drugged up people are being told, “We decline to respond,” when people call 911. There is video of a mentally ill man jumping on cars and breaking car windows with the police standing right next to the cars and they can’t do anything because they have been ordered to cease and desist if it is only a property crime.

To me, that means you are not safe in downtown. And even if you were safe in downtown it can be a disgusting place to go. An Instagram account called Seattle Looks Like Shit documents the kind of things that are going on in the city. It’s just sad. Warning, if you look at it, you may get grossed out by the videos and photographs of people urinating, defecating and shooting up on the streets but it will show you how bad it really is. It’s so sad. Many of the photos on the account were taken this week.

It is tough for Kathleen and I since we don’t live in Seattle where we can vote and have input. Yes, there are a few problems here in Redmond but they are nothing compared to what you will see in Seattle. Thousands of homeless many of whom are major drug users (the city attorney will NOT prosecute drug laws other than the sale of large quantities) or mentally ill are just camped out on the streets. Some in areas directly adjacent to schools. There have been school events cancelled because the city could not guarantee the safety of the kids participating. Many of the homeless have been offered shelter but refuse to take it because it means giving up their drugs. And things just keep getting worse. There were two other articles in the Seattle Times this very morning detailing basically the same thing. We see those articles and the reports daily. One week in late August there were 16 shootings in Seattle alone. Things are crazy here. We want them to get better but until we do, I wouldn’t come this way. I miss my Seattle.

The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.  — Fedrico Garcia Lorca

 

 

This makes me sad…and mad!

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 11.56.46 AMPlease excuse me if I get up on my soapbox. And yes, this is about travel…you (and others) traveling here. Our city (Seattle) is not doing very well. The article above is a prime example. Not sure if you heard about this on your hometown news but in the last three days there have been three shootings in downtown Seattle. Two of them within a block of each other. This wasn’t in a “bad” part of Seattle, it was right at what many of us consider the center of Seattle. A block from Westlake Park and Westlake Center. That’s the heart of our downtown.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Seattle. One of my many other websites is called “My Seattle.” I created the site about 10 years ago because so many of our cruising friends come here to sail to Alaska and they were always asking me for recommendations. Sadly, my recommendation to them now is…don’t come. You don’t know how much that makes me sad to write. Or come here but stay out of downtown.

I have a PDF flyer I put together for clients and friends about all the reasons I think that when you take an Alaskan cruise, you should sail out of Vancouver. There are lots of reasons I say this; sailing the Canadian Inside Passage, not losing a day due to your “by law” stop in  Victoria and others. Now I have to add this to that flyer: It isn’t safe to stay or tour downtown Seattle. Sorry, it just isn’t.

Its not just these shootings. We have a homeless problem here. It’s bad. (Want to know how bad? Watch this special done by KOMO, one of our local TV stations.) Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that people who are homeless should have opportunities to find a permanent place to live. I believe those people who want help are getting help. But we also have a population of homeless that does not fit that description. They are homeless by choice. Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s mental illness but they don’t want to live in a way that conforms to the rest of society. But it’s not just that they are homeless. They are aggressive in their panhandling and demeanor to the point that King County (where Seattle is) had to close two of the main doors into the county courthouse because of the confrontations happening outside those doors every day.

The original historical area of Seattle is Pioneer Square. That’s where we started. If you have been here you may have taken the Underground Seattle Tour, or walked from downtown to a Mariner or Seahawks game, then you were in the Pioneer Square area. The panhandling and confrontations are the worst down there and it’s been a few years since I have felt comfortable going to that part of town except at midday.

But that problem has rapidly moved north into downtown. Walking from downtown to our biggest tourist attraction, Pike Place Market is not something I would do today. You see to get from most of the downtown hotels to the Market, you would probably walk through the intersection where last night seven people were wounded and one died in what was probably (they haven’t officially said yet) a gang shooting. This wasn’t even late at night. It was at the height of rush hour. I would love to say it doesn’t happen that often but as I mentioned, there have been three shootings in the last three days within blocks of each other and more in the last few weeks not to mention knifings and other attacks.

Even if no one is shooting, it can be scary. Kathleen and I have been walking to restaurants or the theater and had vagrants yell and scream at us. Some want money, others are mad at the world. Most that scream at you are mentally ill and there have been so many attacks, you just don’t know what is going to happen. Sadly we have season tickets to a theater that is right in the middle of it. The season start in March and the only reason we are keeping the tickets is that we can park in the theater’s underground parking and not leave the building.

I am not going to go into why I think this is happening. That has been debated over and over again for the last few years. Watch the special on KOMO that I linked and you will get some idea. But I do have a solution. It’s what New York City did to clean up Manhattan about 20 years ago. Travelers didn’t want to go downtown in NYC and the city decided that had to change. Now, I have no problem walking the sidewalks there. I have a lot more problem walking the sidewalks in most of downtown Seattle. What’s the difference? Cops! And lots of them. If you have been in downtown Manhattan in the last few years you may have noticed that almost anyplace you are on a sidewalk, you can stop and look around and probably see at least two police officers. Sometimes more. Seattle needs to do that. NOW! Hire more officers and put two at every intersection in the downtown core. It’s not going to take that many. Downtown isn’t that big. At least the areas that currently need policing. The city says it has been doing “emphasis patrols.” Moving cops driving around. This (IMHO) is not what we need. We need street cops, who can enforce the law with the backing of the city, on foot, at every intersection.

In the meantime, my best advice if you come here is: Stay out of downtown. Especially anywhere in Pioneer Square or in the Pike/Pine corridor from 6th Avenue to Western. Unfortunately if you are sailing out of Seattle on Norwegian Cruise Lines, your ship docks just below that area and if you come here you will want to explore. But if you do, be VERY careful. Please. We now avoid this area like the plague.

What we all want is public safety. We don’t want rhetoric that’s framed through ideology. —Kamala Harris