Check out the rest of our 2017 Year in Review package.
Talk About Road Rage
Most drivers didn’t even tap their brakes for Washington’s tough new distracted driving law, the first in the nation to make even holding a cell phone while stopped illegal. Then, news reports began circulating that some other longstanding, possibly more addictive activities—say, personal grooming, french fry sneaking, coffee guzzling, smoking, music surfing—could be charged as secondary offenses. (Fun fact: Turns out “hugging” while driving has always been illegal.) Then, boy, it was full speed ahead on those Facebook rants and recall petitions.
So, just how are commuters (the number of mega-commuters, those driving 90 minutes one way, in our region is up 72 percent since 2010) to maintain their sanity or get anything done when traffic is at a standstill?
Home Sweet Expensive Home
We now have the fastest-rising home prices in the U.S.: Median prices set a record- and wallet-busting pace, hitting $729,000 in June; up a whopping 22 percent from January and twice the price of five years ago. Good news for sellers; bad news for everybody else: New buyers, you will spend half your income for a “starter” house. But at least you’re not a renter, who, while benefiting from newly lowered move-in fees, now pays, on average as of September, $2,181 per month—or the ninth-highest rent in the world.
Phew! Seattle’s new $15-an-hour minimum-wage law has had little to no negative effect, according to University of California researchers. Ugh: A University of Washington study found low-wage workers had suffered losses of jobs, hours and earnings. Pac-12 rivalry?
An overdue “gotcha” on the rich or an empty political gesture? In July, the Seattle City Council passed the city’s (and country’s) first wealth tax. So, given our pesky constitutional ban, it’s off to state Supreme Court we go!
Despite what some critics (say, the American Beverage Association) claim is a regressive tax on the poor, in June the Seattle City Council passed a levy on sugary beverages.
In typical trying-to-please-everyone fashion, Seattle managed to deliver records for the most and the least rainfall.
Not that anyone asked, but Bellevue, Federal Way and Auburn voted to ban safe injection sites in response to a King County proposal to open two such sites.
An Everett businessman vented his frustration with homeless campers and drug crime via an electronic billboard. His 24/7 “Welcome to Tweakerville” greeting, along with live cameras streaming on Facebook, caught Everett’s—and the world’s—eyes, especially when it livestreamed the aftermath of a brutal attack that, as of press time, may result in murder charges.
Yes, you do need to hand over a few extra cents per bullet. In August, the Washington Supreme Court votes 8 to 1 to uphold Seattle’s guns and ammo tax.
Fancy-pants Moët Hennessy bought Woodinville Whiskey, our state’s largest craft distillery. It is the second (after SoDo’s Westland Distillery was sold to equally fancy-pants Rémy Cointreau) spirit works to be snapped up by a global conglomerate within a year.
Passing the Torchlight
In what felt like a true old Seattle/new Seattle moment, after 66 years of televising roaring Blue Angels and hydroplane races live every single Seafair weekend, KIRO-TV pulled the plug, citing flagging viewership and ad revenue. The headlines about groping Seafair Pirates probably didn’t help.
The New Glass Ceiling
Not since it costarred with Elvis in It Happened at the World’s Fair and its 50th anniversary in 2012 has the Space Needle generated more hoopla than with some remodeling news. Got to wonder, though, whether that new glass floor will cause spirits to soar or some less poetic bodily flights. Imagine that cleanup gig.
Seattle Weaponizes the Frappuccino
In August, the ultraconservative InfoWars radio host and conspiracy-theory zealot Alex Jones got a coffee shower while talking Trump to passersby in downtown Seattle. No word on beverage specifics; we’re guessing iced?