By SUZANNE DOWNING
In 2019, the Seattle news channel KOMO produced “Seattle is Dying,” a documentary by Eric Johnson that has been seen by more than 15 million people on YouTube.
The homeless industrial complex and liberal apologists lost their minds, and said the production was irresponsible and inaccurate “propaganda.”
“‘Seattle is Dying’ is something else. It’s propaganda stuffed with overblown and florid rhetoric designed to propose simple answers to complex problems while simultaneously generating fear and pointing fingers,” wrote one liberal-leaning columnist out of Oregon, in a column that did not age well.
It wasn’t propaganda, however. “Seattle is Dying” was prophetic, not just for Seattle, but for cities up and down the West Coast.
Once known as the Emerald City, Washington’s biggest city was, when the documentary was made in 2019 and is today facing a crisis of confidence, as rising crime and a deteriorating quality of life leave residents frustrated and contemplating the exits.
Some are, in fact, leaving. King County, home to Seattle, saw a net domestic outmigration of -16,035 in 2022, on top of outmigration of net -37,655 in 2021.
Eric Johnson didn’t make up the terrible conditions in the city; he simply pulled back the curtain and called it like he saw it.
Now, a recent poll conducted by Suffolk University for the Seattle Times shows that fully one-third of Seattle residents are considering abandoning the community they once loved. The downtown streets are overrun with lawless vagrants and addicts, leading to a reversal in the city’s reputation as a thriving metropolis.
“Freattle,” as it’s become known by some, is a place where deadbeats and druggies can exploit the city’s generosity.
Yet, the city is not as liberal as many might think. Pew Research Center report reveals that 41 percent of Seattleites lean Republican, while 42 percent lean Democrat, and 17 percent remain undecided. Despite the political diversity, the people elect liberal, and even socialist officials. Between public policy and the homeless industrial complex, families are being driven away. The Seattle Times poll shows that over 50% of the Republicans polled in King County are contemplating leaving.
Among those who are looking for another community than Seattle, 34 percent cite increasing crime as the primary reason. It doesn’t help that Gov. Jay Inslee and the liberal legislature have also created a statewide environment that is unfriendly to families and accommodating to petty thieves, drug pushers, and hardened felons.
The situation in Seattle is also found in Portland, Ore. The most recent U.S. Census reveals that after 15 years of continuous growth, Portland’s population started to decline as people left during the pandemic and working families never came back.
Further down the coast, the Bay Area has seen population decline across all its counties. Some attribute this decline to the trend of those in the Bay Area choosing not to have children, coupled with insufficient in-migration.
The shrinkage in the Bay Area gained momentum in 2020, partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed people to work remotely. With the freedom to choose, many decided to leave for places like Bend, Ore., where the population has been growing at an annual rate of 2.54 percent. Meanwhile, the Bay Area lost 93,000 residents between April 2020 and January 2021.
In 2022, Los Angeles County experienced the largest population decline in the entire state of California, with a decrease of 90,704 residents, continuing its downward trajectory.
Between 2021 and 2022, the county shedded 271,098 residents. That’s equivalent to the population of Anchorage, Alaska.
Even red-state Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, is not immune to the exodus from liberal-run cities.
Anchorage’s population fell below 290,000 during the last U.S. Census, as people who can afford to move are seeking refuge in the conservative Mat-Su Valley.
While Anchorage’s assembly and school board have become hotbeds of socialist policymaking, further alienating middle-class families, the Mat-Su Valley, home offers more abundant housing options, fewer burdensome housing regulations, superior schools, and a sense of safety.
People vote in the politicians who promulgate the policies. And when those policies turn out to make communities into dystopian nightmares, people vote with their feet. Sometimes, those fleeing the ruins end up packing up their liberal leanings and bringing them along, without realizing they’ve created the very problems they are leaving.
The common thread in these dying cities is the liberal value of making life “painless.” The compassionate Left believes that legalizing painkillers makes life more painless. That’s why the Left also pushes universal basic income, universal health care, and SNAP benefits.
Pain has always been a warning signal and the right to a pain-free life allows people to escape the feedback on their behaviors. Rather than allowing people to get the warning signals to stop whatever it is they are doing, cities are making entire industries that are codependent on enabling and growing bad behaviors.
In 2019, one brave reporter – KOMO’s Eric Johnson – was right all along. Even though he was pilloried by many of the news pundits and the defenders of big government, Seattle is still dying. And so are Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Anchorage.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.