Final Analysis: Head Scratchers of 2016

They’re not the biggest stories of the year. But they do make one wonder.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
 
If you travel along Pike Street between Seventh and Ninth avenues in downtown Seattle, you’ve seen them. The boulders.
 
That’s right. Big, honkin’ rocks embedded in freshly poured concrete. They’re there to make the pedestrian experience on the sidewalks in front of the Washington State Convention Center more “user friendly,” says Convention Center CEO Jeffrey Blosser.
 
Not making this up. 
 
The rocks, I’m relieved to report, are “locally sourced,” because we wouldn’t want foreign rocks outside our convention center. The rocks will be joined by large coniferous trees and other native plants “to evoke a walk in the woods.” Yup. Conventioneers can step away from a stultifying breakout session and perch atop a domestically harvested boulder to watch somebody’s dog make a deposit in an evocative setting of Northwest foliage. 
 
The preciousness of such a moment can’t be overstated, which is why the Pike Street Boulderscape occupies the top spot in my Head Scratchers of the Year review.
 
These stories didn’t necessarily make it to the top of the 6 o’clock news, but they still bear reporting. Take Seattle University’s decision to fight the unionization of its adjunct faculty members. [Full disclosure: I’m an adjunct faculty member at Seattle U.] In October, the president of the university decided he would fight, on religious grounds, to keep the part-time profs from unionizing.
 
It’s a head scratcher because Seattle University is a Jesuit institution, and Jesuits are all about servant leadership, social justice, fair wages and the rights of workers. For centuries, Catholic teaching has held that collective bargaining is a vital tool in the pursuit of social justice.
 
I have a degree from one Jesuit university and I teach at another, and neither one has ever asked about my religious beliefs. Rather, I’ve always been encouraged to be myself and to embrace a love of learning and the pursuit of heroic leadership. Yet Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, a Jesuit priest, says he fears that government intrusion via the National Labor Relations Board could impede Seattle U’s Catholic mission. (It is oddly ironic that the words “catholic” and “university” are essentially synonymous, both trumpeting the concept of broadly based, all-embracing, comprehensive endeavors.)
 
Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, believed social justice — achieved through charity, benevolence and mercy — lay at the heart of Ignatian ethics. And since nontenured adjunct faculty members at Seattle U make up more than 50 percent of the teaching staff, wouldn’t it make sense for the university to welcome an effort that affords this group a path to higher wages and richer benefits?
 
And so I scratch my head.
 
The final Head Scratcher Award goes to Bill Bryant, who ran for governor of Washington by hilariously promising to fix Seattle’s traffic problems. Bryant was defeated by incumbent Governor Jay Inslee in the polls, so we'll probably never get to see Mr. Bryant’s brilliant fix.
 
What a pity. During the campaign, Bryant aired a TV commercial that showed him sitting in a car in a traffic jam and lamenting our famous gridlock. The commercial wins style points because Bryant has a pizza delivered to his car while he’s sitting in traffic. Nice touch. But then the candidate says, “I drive in this. I get it. And as your next governor, I’ll fix it.”
 
As if!
 
By virtue of its challenging geography, Seattle has no more room for expressways. And we’re decades late in warming to the idea of a comprehensive regional transit system. For Bryant to declare in Trumpian style that he can fix our traffic mess is the height of chutzpah. 
 
Do we look that stupid? I mean, just because we put rocks on our sidewalks is no reason to think we’re gullible idiots. 
 
John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at john.levesque@tigeroak.com.
 

Final Analysis: Would You Go to Work for Donald Trump?

Final Analysis: Would You Go to Work for Donald Trump?

Or would you rather end up on his enemies list?
 
 

Imagine getting a call inviting you to work for your country.

Now imagine your new boss is Donald J. Trump.

Would you move to Washington, D.C., to work for the president of the United States? For this president of the United States?

From what we know through simple observation, Donald Trump suffers from chronic narcissism, he doesn’t read much, he rarely smiles, he has a vindictive streak, he treats women badly, he has the argumentative skills of a bruised tangerine, he fears foreigners almost as much as he fears the truth and he spends his waking hours attached to marionette strings being manipulated by Steve “I Shave on Alternate Thursdays” Bannon.

Sure, you’ve probably suffered under bad bosses. But this guy takes the plagiarized inauguration cake. He thinks it’s OK to assault women. He made fun of a journalist’s disability. He said a judge couldn’t be impartial because of his ethnic heritage. He doesn’t pay people who have done work for him. He has been a plaintiff in nearly 2,000 lawsuits.

We have to assume that Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who got herself fired in January for standing up to President Trump’s ban on accepting immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, has probably updated her résumé by now. No doubt she proudly included a mention that she torched the president whose approval rating after one week in office had dropped faster than it had for anchovy-swirl ice cream.

If I worked for Trump, it would most likely be a challenging assignment. I try to be gracious and diplomatic with supervisors and coworkers, but I draw the line with people who lie to me. Or lie to others and put me in an awkward position. With them, I’m not so gracious, and I don’t hold my tongue. Which would probably get me early induction into the Sally Yates Hall of Flame.

Or maybe on the president’s enemies list. None other than Trump’s reality-TV pal, Omarosa Manigault, has revealed that the president possesses a long memory — longer, even, than his neckties — and that his people are “keeping a list” of those who don’t like him.

I know I should give my president the benefit of the doubt, but I’m happy to make an exception in this case. I don’t like Donald Trump. And I would be honored to be on his enemies list. Not since I played pickup baseball in grade school have I had such an urge to scream, “Pick me! Pick me!” Being added to a Presidential Enemies List would be such a treat, a career topper, really. Better than submitting to a colonoscopy without anesthesia. Or watching reruns of Celebrity Apprentice. Without anesthesia.

If selected, I would pledge to save my best words for the president and I would only use them in the bigliest way.

Of course, making the enemies list means I might never get the call to join the new administration. I might never get to engage in locker-room banter with POTUS. I might never get to untangle the marionette strings. I might never get to buy razors for Steve Bannon.

It is a sobering realization. But we must serve where we are best suited.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at john.levesque@tigeroak.com.