Nothing to like about Seattle?
By Jean Godden
Emmett Watson would have loved a recent banner headline: "Young Seattle Residents Find Little to Like About Seattle."
I don't know how many readers still remember the late great Emmett Watson. But, if you came from afar or are too young to recall, Watson was once Seattle's foremost newspaper columnist, appearing as often as six times a week in this city's daily papers.
Some years ago, Watson dreamed up an outfit he called Lesser Seattle. It was his response to an ad campaign pushed by the city's Chamber of Commerce. The chamber used the Greater Seattle campaign to "put Seattle on the map." But Watson claimed the push was "boosterism of a kind that would have shocked George F. Babbitt."
Watson shamelessly anointed himself president of Lesser Seattle and wrote columns arguing that outsiders should be kept out of the city. He tried to convince Seattleites to write relatives elsewhere with grim news about earthquakes, mud slides, bridge failures and how it rains all the time.
His idea was to discourage tourism or -- at the very least -- convince tourists to visit but not stick around. He had special distain for Californians, whom he claimed were coming to the city "in hordes" and buying up cheap (to them) real estate and -- his word: Californicating -- our city.
Watson's rhetoric, tongue in cheek or not, was anathema to chamber of commerce types. But Watson claimed he was using reverse psychology. He wrote, "Newcomers soon wanted to join our ranks. The last person to move here became the first to join Lesser Seattle. Each wanted to be the final immigrant."
Emmett Watson, alas, is no longer with us. But, in theory, he would have relished the "nothing to like" headline and the story by Seattle Times Columnist Gene Balk who reported on a new study, the 2019 "Cities Scorecard for Millennials." The Langston Co., a Denver-based market-research firm, developed the scorecard from interviews with 3000 young adults (21-38) who ranked their satisfaction (or not) with their chosen cities.
When compared to 22 other large cities on a variety of topics, Seattle bombed. The city scored in the bottom five in what the survey called "a city's value." What this means is that the young people have decided that negative aspects of living in Seattle far outweigh the positives.
Where these young people faulted Seattle most was the city's cost of living (they ranked it worse than even San Francisco's) and in traffic and mobility (ranked dead last of the 22 municipalities surveyed). Millennials gave highest marks to Houston, Dallas and Atlanta where cost of living is markedly less expensive than in the Emerald City.
Now, in fairness, we have not been told how the survey, undertaken by an outfit cleverly called Centiment, was conducted. It could have been another of those self-selected surveys that give polling a dubious name. As an example of a faulty finding, the poll claims Seattle's young folks are dissatisfied with the city's income tax. That's a bit of a head scratcher, since neither this city nor our state have an income tax. Do Seattle millennials have such high standards that it is OK to trash a tax they do not pay?
The study did highlight a few pieces of good news. Columnist Balk reported that young people gave the city high grades for anything related to career, nature and local sports teams.
On the opposite side of the ledger, rock bottom scores were tallied for Seattle's social environment. The Seattle Freeze, as we know it, is more than a myth. And here, certainly, Lesser Seattle's Emmett Watson would have been proud. He schooled his readers in outright hostility to newcomers and persuaded them to adopt mottos like "Seattle: Three Days of Summer" and "Rude Locals, Killer Fleas and Caterpillar Explosions."
Enjoyed him (and you) then and you now still.