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Atlanta’s LINK group finds Seattle stuck in ‘Seattle Nice’ mode

By Maria Saporta

One of the biggest challenges facing the Greater Seattle region is “Seattle Nice.”

That’s what Phil Bussey, president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce told a delegation of about 110 metro Atlanta leaders visiting the region on the annual LINK trip.

“We can not make a decision until everybody is happy,” Bussey said. “It took us 13 years to build a third runway.” (A later speaker actually said it took 19 years).

In talking to the Atlanta group, Bussey touted all the attributes of the Seattle region. It’s an area that values innovation — from Bill Boeing in the early part of the last century to Bill Gates 75 years later.

It’s an area that values the natural environment and enjoys a green, healthy lifestyle.

And it’s an area focused on the global community with strong ties to the Pacific.

When businesses were asked about the top benefits that Seattle has to offer, the No. 1 answer — 60 percent — answered “quality of life” and the “environment.”

So Bussey said the region seeks to keep its quality of life so that it will keep its skilled workforce and high tech jobs in the community.

When asked about the areas challenges, Bussey mentioned that the business community is in a current standstill with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who was elected in November, 2009.

Greater Seattle Chamber President Phil Bussey speaks to metro Atlanta's LINK delegation (Photo: Maria Saporta)

Business, community and state leaders for nearly a decade have wanted to tear down the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct. A couple of years ago, there appeared to be consensus between city and state leaders to replace it with a tunnel that would open and unobstructed vista to Seattle’s waterfront.

But Mayor McGinn, a former state chairman of the Sierra Club, is steadfastly against the tunnel, preferring a surface boulevard that would accommodate cyclists and transit.

“The biggest challenge we face right now is getting this infrastructure issue resolved,” Bussey said, adding that he personally views the tunnel project as a legacy he can leave his grandchildren.

Stating that folks from Seattle seek consensus by playing “Seattle Nice,” Bussey said that approach hasn’t worked with the mayor.

“We’ve tried,” Bussey said. “Thus far there has been no compromise.”

McGinn, who is supposed to be introduced by Mayor Kasim Reed, will be addressing the Atlanta delegation late Wednesday evening (after 11 p.m. Atlanta time) at Canlis Restaurant

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. James R. Oxendine May 4, 2011 7:26 pm

    “McGinn, who is supposed to be introduced by Mayor Kasim Reed, will be addressing the Atlanta delegation late Wednesday evening (after 11 p.m. Atlanta time) at Canlis Restaurant”

    Well they are being hosted at the finest resto in town ,one that is up for best in the country at the James Beard awards.Report

  2. Lonnie Fogel May 4, 2011 7:33 pm

    As it stands, the viaduct cuts off much of the waterfront from the city center. When San Fran. took down the elevated highway along the Embarcadero after the ’89 quake, it reconnected the city to the waterfront and the ferry building. It made a big difference.

    Seattle seems to work well. It is so darn clean. Downtown is interesting and walkable with some unique amenities. We spent a week there last Summer. First time I’d been there on a non-business trip. It seemed very livable.

    I kind of like it that Seattle folks want to be nice, even if it slows things down a bit. All the better to deliberate, reach consensus and have a good vibe around town.Report

  3. a transit fan May 5, 2011 12:04 pm

    Engaging compromises over construction of an automobile tunnel is a loser. Boston buried I-93 in a tunnel but hasn’t delivered several transit enhancements and failed to link North and South Station.Report

  4. Seattle Area Resident May 5, 2011 4:21 pm

    The problem with Seattle Nice is that we never reach consensus. Everything always has about 50% support. Then when you do get something that has more broad support — like our tunnel, a small, but loud contingent cause trouble and cause delay.

    All the delays and all the talking just cost money, as every year our major projects get delayed, the higher the price tag becomes (Alaskan Way Viaduct/tunnel; Evergreen Point floating bridge; light rail, etc.).

    Our delays and hesitation is why your city has MARTA. The federal funds that paid for MARTA were supposed to go to build a rail system in Seattle, but Seattle Nice got in the way and the voters turned it down, so the $$ was sent to Atlanta. Now we are trying to pay for a light rail system that is costing billions more and provides a lot less — with only minor contributions from the federal government.Report

  5. Wes Magee May 5, 2011 4:27 pm

    I response to Bussey’s last quoted statement, Seattle actually has reached a consensus. The Governor, state legislator, former Mayor, and City Council have all agreed to the tunnel option on the waterfront. McGinn is the only major representative against it and he wasn’t in office when it was agreed to.Report

  6. jeff May 5, 2011 5:54 pm

    considering that Internap, and at least one more company I forget the name of, moved from Seattle to Atlanta, maybe SEA should be sending delegations to ATL for guidance, not the other way aroundReport

  7. Ron May 5, 2011 7:39 pm

    Jeff you may be thinking UPS; started in Seattle, running parcels to Canada & the islands of Puget Sound.

    I have lived in Atlanta (3 yrs) and live in Seattle now. I plan to stay here as long as I can even though they have all those nice people.Report


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