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Observations From Seattle

State of the Union: The people are nice, but the city is not.

(Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

I've been out this week reporting in the Pacific Northwest.

The people here are nice. They wear their politics on their sleeves, but that doesn’t bother me. I don’t have a problem with progressive people, even if, had they known my politics, most would have a problem with me.


I was struck most of all by how dirty Seattle is. I shouldn’t have been, maybe, but I was.

The caricature of the city is pretty accurate. There really were drugs and homeless people everywhere. Almost every block is covered in graffiti. I would walk down roads only to find piles of trash and abandoned encampments lurking around the corner. I knew it was bad, but had no idea it was this bad.

I know every city has some of these pathologies, but Seattle is unique among ”nice” cities I've visited in its almost total disregard for these pathologies. Even the supposedly “upscale” places, like the chain stores or hotels, were dirty. Nowhere had the regal charm of Grand Central Terminal or even the basic cleanliness of a New York department store.

I only saw one corner of the city, and might be painting with too broad a brush. But locals I know tell me this is just what the city is like. Since most of the people here seem to have a high tolerance for disorder, it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s true.


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