We get that Seattle leads the pack when it comes to talent, technology and smarts. The influx of power players and sheer brainiacs into our town has helped transform it into the soaring metropolis it is today. Of course, with growth and development come big-city problems: traffic, parking, housing…the list goes on. That’s where our lineup of luminaries comes into the picture. Many members of this carefully curated collection are finding innovative solutions to new complexities. Others share their savvy and skills in science, sports and the arts—promising to elevate Seattle to even greater heights.
The New SeattleitePHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN AJHAR
You see them around town—those self-described geeks with the blue badges in their convertible Mini Coopers, adding to the Mercer Mess, with a yellow Lab named Jeff Bezos riding shotgun. You’ve seen them in Bellevue, dropping their supersmart kids off at preschool. We’re talking about the newcomer, our Most Influential Person of 2015, who is changing Seattle in ways that are big and small, good and bad, if not badass.
Not that these predominantly male, data-mining software engineers from California, Texas and India are powerful individually. It’s just that there are so many of them. Hard to say exactly how many, but to put it in perspective, a record 64,376 newcomers applied for driver’s licenses in King County in 2014, and 2015 will probably bust that record, according to the state Department of Licensing. The city of Seattle grew by more than 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, outpacing the rest of King County for the first time in decades, according to the county Office of Financial Management.
Media coverage has focused mainly on negative impacts: soul-sucking traffic, runaway rents and scarily fierce competition for half-million-dollar, 900-square-foot condos. What isn’t often reported: This infusion of talent and dollars is funding schools, small businesses and transportation options. The injection of demand is kick-starting the retirements of the old guard in neighborhoods the newcomers fancy, including South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Ballard and West Bellevue. And that giggling you’ve been hearing? Those are apartment developers. With the City of Seattle figuring that 30 percent of residents are now young adults ages 25–34, and its planning department predicting there will be 120,000 more people in Seattle over the next 20 years, there’s a push to build fast.
And hey, ladies, have you noticed it’s raining men? According to U.S. Census data collected between 2011 and 2013, our local “computing, engineering and science” labor force is 78.6 percent male. And for those who have been unemployed since the Great Recession: Did you know there are tens of thousands of jobs listed on LinkedIn in greater Seattle? Apparently, every Amazon position creates almost three other jobs—such as in doggy day care, as a Mini Cooper salesperson and as cook on a grilled-cheese food truck.
So where does this leave us? We salute and honor you, newcomer, on whose shoulders we have risen far above the “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” era of the 1970s. And yet, for those of us who remember when the bumper sticker “Visualize Ballard” was a joke, there is a sense of loss. Some of us yearn for a Seattle that was weird and pleasantly gloomy, before global warming and high-tech corporations made everything so darned sunny. The question is, how many more responsible, math- and science-career-oriented newcomers can the city sustain before its soul heads south for Portland?--Jenny Cunningham
Nurturing KnowledgeBrad Smith, president and chief legal officer, MicrosoftPHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
This stalwart Microsoft executive has been a regional force since joining the company in 1993, and increasingly, a global one since rising to the position of general counsel in 2002, and then president and chief legal officer in September.
Smith brings some of that impact home by helping lead Microsoft’s funding of a new partnership between the University of Washington and China’s Tsinghua University. Microsoft dollars will go toward the creation of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a graduate academic institute focused on technology innovation. Students will begin classes in the fall of 2016. The $40 million initiative will attract top technical talent and research dollars to Bellevue’s new Spring District development—a 16-block, mixed-use urban neighborhood under development at the intersection of State Route 520 and Interstate 405. Education has long been one of Smith’s concerns, motivating his behind-closed-doors negotiations with state lawmakers earlier this year in which Microsoft agreed to forgo $57 million in tax breaks in exchange for increased state funding of education. Smith also aims to increase diversity in Microsoft’s legal department, offering $15 million in bonuses to certain law firms that it hires. The extra money is earmarked for firms that bring more minorities into their upper ranks. —Gianni Truzzi
Game ChangerAna Mari Cauce, Interim President, University of WashingtonPHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
Ana Mari Cauce,
University of Washington
University of Washington interim president Ana Mari Cauce has a strong following among UW staff and faculty, thanks to her skillful management, first as dean of the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, and later as provost. Cauce took on the job after previous UW president Michael Young left abruptly last February.
Cauce, who has also been instrumental in such initiatives as the Husky Promise, which guarantees full tuition for qualified low-income students, and the push to make innovation a more central part of the student experience, won over many in the community when she launched an initiative to combat racism and homophobia in April. “We may not be able to solve racial inequity,” she said in a speech that referred to her own experiences as a gay Latina, “but we’ve got to begin by not being part of the problem.”
In June, she presided over the launch of the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX), a joint venture with Tsinghua University, China’s equivalent to MIT (see previous page). The institute will offer a project-based curriculum leading to a master’s degree in technology innovation, filling an important need for more tech talent. —Leslie Helm
Leading the CausesPaul Allen, BenefactorYou’d be hard-pressed to name an aspect of Seattle that Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen hasn’t influenced, whether it’s the arts (he owns the newly revitalized Cinerama and founded EMP Museum), real estate (his company Vulcan Real Estate has reshaped South Lake Union) or sports (he owns the Seahawks and is a part-owner of the Sounders Major League Soccer team). Since he made a pact with Bill Gates to donate the bulk of his wealth in 2010, the philanthropy-minded former techie has made serious commitments to scientific research. His latest enterprise? Donating $100 million over a period of years to launch the Allen Institute for Cell Science, complementing his Allen Institute for Brain Science, established in 2003. He’s building a site to house them both on his home turf in South Lake Union, creating a miniature empire of scientific study in the Pacific Northwest. The Institute for Cell Science’s first goal is to research the way stem cells transform into other cell types, such as those that comprise muscle or skin. Allen isn’t simply accumulating research institutes, however; the avid art collector coproduced the first-ever Seattle Art Fair this summer, a four-day affair showcasing more than $250 million worth of contemporary art from icons such as Seattleite Buster Simpson and Japanese visual artist Tabaimo. While we can’t know how successful these art and research ventures will be, we can count on Paul Allen to keep investing in innovative, game-changing projects. —Niki Stojnic
Public DefenderJim Ritter, Seattle Police DepartmentPHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
Jim Ritter, a Seattle Police Department officer, is trying to show Seattle’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community that the city is on its side. A member of the gay community himself, Ritter was appointed last fall as the SPD’s first LGBTQ liaison. He hoped to address what he calls the “alarming lack of reporting of anti-LGBTQ crimes” by the victims. To that end, last May he created the Safe Place initiative, which sets up a citywide network of businesses and nonprofits committed to protecting LGBTQ individuals. Local managers and store owners register on the SPDSafePlace.com website and receive a 4-by-6-inch, rainbow-striped sticker—it’s shaped like a police badge—which Ritter installs on a street-facing window. Hundreds of local businesses and organizations have signed up for the program, and, in several reported cases, endangered Seattleites have found refuge inside Safe Place venues. To critics, some of whom are calling the program a PR stunt, Ritter says he is “ensuring that the members of Seattle’s LGBTQ community are respected by my [fellow police officers], and are able to walk Seattle’s streets without fear of being victimized. —Ryan Kindel
Satellite ImageryLocal Artists Bring it HomeFrom left: Kirsten Anderson, Sierra Stinson, Sharon Arnold and Greg Lundgren PHOTO CREDIT: HAYLEY YOUNG
When word of the Vulcan-sponsored Seattle Art Fair went public, some local artists felt left out by its emphasis on New York and LA galleries. Accordingly, art instigator Greg Lundgren conceived of a satellite art exhibit, running concurrently and focused entirely on local artists. Working with local curators Kirsten Anderson, Sharon Arnold and Sierra Stinson, Lundgren launched Out of Sight, featuring work by more than 100 visual artists, hung in a beautifully raw 24,000-square-foot space at King Street Station. The show not only proved that Seattle artists easily hold their own with a national audience, it also invigorated the local art community in a way that promises a thrilling future. —Brangien Davis
Voice ActivatorIjeoma Oluo, Writer, SpeakerPHOTO CREDIT: CHUSTINE MINODA
Whether defending the disruption of Bernie Sanders by Black Lives Matter activists, questioning the enormous social outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion (versus the comparative acceptance of black men killed by police) or creating a “Badass Feminist Coloring Book” (badassbooks.net), Ijeoma Oluo has emerged as one of Seattle’s strongest voices for social justice. As a local writer, public speaker and self-proclaimed “Internet yeller” on racial, sexual, economic and gender issues, Oluo has provoked conversation, opened eyes and attracted a Twitter following (@ijeomaoluo) of nearly 19,000. Best of all, she gets her message across with incisive wit, remarkable humor and an appropriate magnitude of rage. —B.D.
OpinionatorsHanna Brooks Olsen, Sarah Anne Lloyd and Alex Hudson, Founders, SeattlishFrom L-R: Alex Hudson, Sarah Anne Lloyd and Hanna Brooks OlsenPHOTO CREDIT: CHUSTINE MINODA
The year was 2013. The brain trust of the International Communist Conspiracy looked upon Seattle, its foothold in North America, with concern. Yes, City Council member Kshama Sawant and news weekly The Stranger were playing their roles. But something was missing: a blog sympathetic to its cause, written with sarcastic humor and intelligence, instead of pious anger and solemnity. As luck would have it, three self-described “mouthy broads” were preparing to launch just such an effort. Hanna Brooks Olsen, Sarah Anne Lloyd and Alex Hudson were fresh out of work following the closure of Seattlest, the local branch of national blog network Gothamist. Not content to go down the road of public relations gigs and plasma donations, like so many other spurned reporters, they kept plugging away, offering their opinions to the world without the paycheck. Today, their creation, Seattlish, is a must-read for fans of local politics and civic life, provided those readers aren’t in the market for nuance, or anything but mockery of views outside the hard left of the political spectrum. For some, the blog is a symptom of an increasingly abrasive political culture. But for those who find Seattle’s mainstream liberals a bit too self-satisfied, Seattlish is part of the antidote. —Drew Atkins