It’s a holiday-season tradition! Here is my list of overhyped and underreported local stories of the year. As usual, there’s no shortage of candidates — add your own!
And as always, here’s to better local news coverage in 2013.
•The Sonics are not about to come back — Another new arena got approved this year, largely on the offer of the owner to pay a lot of the costs if Seattle can attract new NBA and NHL teams.
The thing is, very few pro sports teams move, several other cities are also competing for teams and no city in the history of North American pro sports has attracted teams from two leagues in the same generation — never mind in the same year or two.
On the delusion that Seattle is somehow different, widely repeated in local media, a pricy, new arena would now be built in Sodo.
•Microsoft, home of lousy software — Time after time, a Microsoft acquisition or product launch is treated to the sort of fawning local coverage that is probably produced directly by Redmond’s PR people.
This year, it’s Windows 8, which entirely abandons the PC market for tablets and mobile devices and has been universally panned in the trade press — not that you’d know it from the local stenography.
Objective coverage of Microsoft’s loss of its innovative edge would be genuinely interesting. But that’s not what we get — ever.
•The banning of plastic bags in Seattle last July has not, oddly enough, been the end of the world heralded by American Chemical Association stooges. Most people took it right in stride.
Plus, as usual, car crashes; fires; violent (and potentially violent) crimes; big (or not) weather “events”; heartwarming stories of photogenic, plucky kids overcoming adversity or reuniting with pets…. Every time you watch local TV news, it lowers your IQ by two points.
•McGinn and the City of Seattle are still in denial about SPD — From dragging his feet on settling a pending Department of Justice lawsuit, to trying to sneak in a toothless civilian overseer, Mayor Mike McGinn and his cronies have consistently refused to acknowledge that the Department of Justice and tens of thousands of non-white Seattle residents might have a point: The cops take cues from their leaders, and the routine and not-so-routine abuses continue.
And now the Seattle Police Department is adding drones. Feel safer?
•Not that KCSO is much better — A lawsuit by former King County Sheriff’s Office deputies and employees alleges rampant sexual harassment, the county auditor issues a hugely critical report and the county’s jails continue to be a mess — local media yawns.
•Legislature fails, again — The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in January that the state Legislature failed its constitutional duty to adequately fund K-12 education. Olympia’s response? More budget cuts for K-12.
•Tunnel tolls keep dropping — When the controversy of what to do to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct was raging, surface-transit advocates were criticizing the $4.2 billion tunnel plan as having unrealistic financing. They were right.
The commission charged with setting tolls originally wanted $5 tolls for the new tunnel. Now, they’re saying even the lowest option, 75 cents (and $2.50 in rush hour), would cause so many people to divert to downtown streets that it will cause gridlock — and raise only $110 million of the $400 million originally expected from that funding source.
Avoiding downtown gridlock was the prime rationale for building the tunnel — that and real estate development.
•And Mercer Street is still a mess — After the city and state spent millions beautifying Paul Allen’s South Lake Union properties while making Mercer Street two-way, daily gridlock is worse than ever.
Luckily, all that carbon monoxide won’t ride to the upper stories of Allen’s newly permitted developments, so it’s all good.
•Yesler Terrace: The fix was in — The city approved Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) plans to redevelop Yesler Terrace — a housing project intended to serve the poorest of the poor — so that only 10 percent of its housing will actually serve them. Instead, half of the land will be sold to private developers. The rest will be new, high-end, market-rate housing and office space.
That deal was cut long before the interminable public hearings focused on the irritating reality that SHA’s mission is only to provide housing for the very poor. Welcome to the Seattle Way.
•Eyman initiatives unconstitutional — In June, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that Initiative 1053, a 2010 Tim Eyman initiative requiring two-thirds Legislative approval for any new government revenues, was unconstitutional. That didn’t prevent the identical I-1185 from passing in November with hardly any mention of the I-1053 ruling.
•The criminalization of protests — Using the public pretext of some misdemeanor vandalism during a May 1 demonstration in Seattle, a secret federal grand jury convened in March led to raids on activists in Seattle, Olympia and Portland.
Four activists are currently in jail for refusing to testify to the grand jury about their entirely legal activities.
•Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain became a national leader in the Catholic hierarchy’s war on women and gays, campaigning against Referendum 74 and spearheading a national push to silence dissident nuns.
Pity nobody’s remembering that Sartain came here in 2010 on the heels of a pedophilia scandal in Illinois.
GEOV PARRISH is cofounder of Eat the State! He also reviews news of the week on “Mind Over Matters” on KEXP 90.3 FM. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.