Life

The Case For Seattle As The Coolest City In The Country

COOLEST CITY IN THE COUNTRY is a new series that argues for one of our favorite cities being crowned “coolest.”

Seattle is a great city, no doubt. Is it the best in the country? Well, that’s why we’re writing this — to cajole you into taking that stance (or to open ourselves to your mockery in the comments).

Here’s what’s not up for debate: The “Emerald City” is one of the nation’s cleanest metrops. It also draws a high-rankings for energy efficiency and strong adherence to better environmental standards. It’s unarguably progressive from a political standpoint. It’s beautiful, too — sitting on the calm Salish Sea, with an abundance of wildlife in literally every direction. This allows the average Seattleite the chance to unplug with ease — a habit that is crucial for citydwellers to maintain good physical, social, and mental health.

There are also matters of taste worth debating. The food and drink scene is incredible, but is it tops in food-obsessed Pacific Northwest? What about the art? The music? The style?

Let’s explore some of the facets of Seattle that we find interesting — the bits of the city that make it stand out.

FOOD & DRINK SCENE

It’s easy to make an argument for the Pacific Northwest having the best food scene in the country. With access to the sea and mountains plus the high plains and cattle lands to the east — the variety is nearly unmatched. But Seattle’s food and drink scene stands above the rest.

In 2015, the city opted to raise the minimum wage to $15 (with a multi-year implementation). This experiment in labor has allowed restaurants and bars to balance the pay disparities between the front and back of house. It’s also led many Seattle area establishments to forgo tipping in the classic sense and add in a built in service fee to assure employee wages.

Sure, experiments like these are happening in Manhattan, too. But only in small pockets at a few elite restaurants. Seattle restaurateurs and bar owners Tom Douglas, Renée Erickson, and even fast food chain Ivar’s have all implemented policies that pay their employees living wages and 86’d tipping at their various restaurants and bars across the city. “We saw Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law as an opportunity to right some of the serious discrepancies between the back-of-house and front-of-house,” Bob Donegan told the world when Ivar’s decided to go all in with the new wage laws. And, according to him, it’s worked.

So far, the wage hike and tipping succession have proven to be fairly successful across the board. Employees are staying in their jobs longer, lessening turnover (and training costs). More money is flowing into the service industry. And there’s more equality between the kitchen and wait staff. Even studies that have tried to tear down the idea of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage experiment have been disproven.

So, yup, go to the Seattle area for amazing food and to witness an egalitarian glimpse into the future of food and drink service across America.

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Ready for the weekend. #cocktailhoureveryhour

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GETTING AROUND

Seattle is surrounded by seemingly endless natural beauty. You have the diverse and dense Olympic National Park and the wild waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west, the calm waters of the Salish Sea to the north, the Cascade mountains to the east, the Columbia River to the south, and just over the mountains are high plains and deserts with vineyards and hops as far as the eye can see. All of that’s within a two hour or less drive of downtown Seattle. Most of it is less than an hour away from any city dweller’s door.

What really sets Seattle apart is the ability to get around the metropolitan area with public transportation. Commuter trains (the Sounder) have made it easier to travel between Tacoma, Seattle, and Everett — allowing you a chance to live in a cheaper neighborhood outside the city and commute easily, quickly, and cheaply.

Seattle is also building the ever expanding tram system. The Link Light Rail can even get you from the airport into downtown in about 30 minutes flat. For a city that had very limited public transportation just ten years ago, this is a great start.

LEGAL WEED

Washington voted to legalize the recreational use of cannabis in November 2012. Nearly five years later, there’s a massive local industry, creating a dramatic tax revenue windfall for the state. This should come as no surprise, given that Seattle has been the host to the Seattle Hemp Fest for over 20 years.

Washington was at the forefront of legal weed and has become the industry standard for how to build a marijuana industry (along with Colorado). The tax revenue so far has been in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, and is expected to go well above $1 billion a year in Washington state. This straight up means cities like Seattle have more money for public works, education, the arts, infrastructure, healthcare, and law enforcement — not to mention the savings when law enforcement no longer wastes time with stoners.

Getting lit in Seattle is as easy as walking into a shop, making a selection of buds, edibles, and tinctures, and then going along your merry way. Legal cannabis is a huge win for Washington, Seattle, and you. If getting stoned isn’t your thing, Seattle still has a long list of old-school microbreweries for you to visit while your friends toke.

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Smoke weed every day. Fuck yeah Washington.

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JOBS

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Seattle has a crazy low unemployment rate — 2.6 percent as of spring 2017. A lot of that’s due to the big hitting industry and tech around the Seattle area. Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, REI, Expedia, Costco, T-Mobile USA, Nordstrom, Alaska Air, and Boeing (manufacturing only) are all based near the Emerald City. Find those industries a little dry? Seattle has one of the densest populations of microbreweries in the country too.

The excess of opportunities have led to the quickest increase in annual income among major US cities, with a $10,000 increase per household from 2014 to 2015 alone. With a median household income at $80,000 per year and a wide selection of industries to choose from, Seattle is a great place to work, live, and play.

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Photo by @r3z13 #seattle #amazonsglassballs #nightlife

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COST OF LIVING

All the above about great jobs doesn’t really mean much unless you can afford to actually live in a city. But Seattle is also more affordable than similar cities. For instance, if you’re in tech, expect to pay about 40 percent less for a two bedroom apartment in Seattle compared to San Francisco — approximately $2,000 compared to over $3,500. Buying a house is straight up half the price — around $500k compared to $1 million plus. If you’re willing to commute for 45 minutes on a new train from Tacoma, WA, you can cut those prices in half again.

Seattle may not be the cheapest city in the America, but great access to jobs with high median incomes that more than cover the average cost of living means you might have money in the bank at the end of the month. Money that you can spend on exploring the awesome wild spaces that surround the city. Or starting a collection of Sub Pop vinyl. Or opening your own microbrewery. It’s up to you really.

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Photo by @endlessreflectionphotography #seattle

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POLITICS

Ugh, just the word politics raises the hairs on most people’s necks these days. One place where politics seems to be working at the moment is in Seattle (within reason because nothing is perfect).

The city is largely a progressive bastion with big business at its core. It dares to ask the question, “Can we be liberal and progressive while still maintaining huge industry and entrepreneurship?” The answer seems to be “yes.” Elon Musk even moved his SpaceX headquarters to the city.

Seattle has enacted a ban on plastic straws and cutlery to address the mind-blowing amount of plastic we use. It’s making the living minimum wage work. The publicly elected city council has nine members (five women and four men) and includes one of the only socialists elected to office in the United States — Kshama Sawant, an Indian immigrant.

Add in the flood of cannabis dollars and Seattle is in pretty good shape. Now, if they could just figure out how to bring an NBA team back

That’s our case for Seattle. And we didn’t even bring up the music scene! Or the street art! Or… Just go and check it out while flights are cheap!

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