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The Psychic Forces of NIMBY Rage

With several years of contentious political debates, many surrounding homelessness, ravaging Seattle, a writer attempts to explain how the politics of city building got so heated.
September 23, 2019, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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David Tonelson

Election campaigns are in full swing in Seattle, and Crosscut columnist Katie Wilson pauses to examine, "albeit speculatively," at the psychic forces setting the tone for politics in the city.

Wilson sets the infamous Ballard town hall of 2018—"the day Seattle Nice died"as a defining moment for "enraged NIMBY" politics in the city, quickly connecting the movement to a core demographic (i.e., generational) experience:

Although I hope and believe this specimen is still rather rare, even in Ballard, it’s worth examining as a kind of archetype; NIMBY rage is the distillation of a set of feelings and opinions that also resonate, if less strongly, with a much broader swath of the population. This broader group is not all older, or all white, or all homeowners, but that’s their core demographic, and the archetypal enraged NIMBY is most definitely an older white homeowner. And this core demographic shares a core experience, which is in many respects a generational experience.

The core generational experience Wilson describes is one of a social contract, reached through numerous ill means, under threat by homelessness, soaring costs, and the looming environmental disaster of climate change. Millennials, more accustomed to the risks and threats of the era, have reacted differently than Baby Boomers to the changing times.

Wilson also calls out a few specifically loud voices in the ensuing debate, like People for Seattle and Moms for Seattle, the former led by former Mayor Tim Burgess.

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Published on Monday, September 16, 2019 in Crosscut
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