Friday, April 25, 2014

A Region Without Social Capital

This morning's paper was filled with depressing news.  Our Metro Transit services is facing dramatic cuts due to the voters rejection of Proposition 1 on Tuesday. Washington schools are sending out notices to parents that their schools are failing due to the failure of the legislature to come to agreement on teacher performance standards.The key word here is failure. We have bickered and failed to come to agreement on everything from mass transit to school, arena and state roads and highway funding.

The Seattle Metro region ranks is one of the most economically vibrant and resilient metro areas in the country ranking 5th in the nation according to the Institute of Government Studies at the U.C. Berkeley. We also rank 8th in the nation in business environment.  But when it comes to community connectivity (you might call this term social capital) we rank 205th in the nation. When it comes to income equality we rank 105th in the nation.

The bottom line is that the Seattle Region lacks the glue that brings people together. We lack the social capital to get things done.  Our business community lacks the interest in solving big regional problems. Pollsters tell us that we are the most anti-tax blue state in the country. Perhaps much of this has to do with the fact that we are a in-migration state. People come here from elsewhere bringing their education with them and maybe just don't feel invested in our education and governmental institutions. Maybe we are just a bunch of know-it-alls who think we are the only ones with the real answers.

Whatever the cause, I think the real problem is trust.  Our citizens lack both trust in government and in each other. This is a serious and expensive problem. Failure to make long term investments will hurt all of us.