The Office of Sustainable Urbanism

I’ve been dreaming of a new City of Seattle department:  The Office of Sustainable Urbanism. The kind of department a visionary new Mayor of Seattle might be inclined to establish.

The Office of Sustainable Urbanism (OSU) would supercede and absorb the Office of Policy and Management, the Office of Sustainability and Environment, and probably DPD’s Green Team too.   Yet it would be bigger than the sum of these parts.  Because the OSU I’m envisioning would be the central, controlling organ for all policy making at the City.

I do not mean to denegrate the good work done by the folks in the departments named above.   But I believe that a powerful and unified department with a single mission is what’s called for if we ever hope to make the kind of rapid, radical change necessary to address the future challenges we face.

The mission is simple:  ensure that all City policy promotes sustainable urbanism.  And no apologies about the use of the word ‘urbanism.’   Seattle is a city, and it’s going to become more urban over time, and that is a good thing.  And for that matter, no apologies about the use of the word ‘sustainable’ either.  We all know what it means, and we all know it’s imperative.

Yes, and give the OSU deep pockets, and give it big, sharp teeth.  If the OSU disagrees with SDOT, OSU wins.  It often seems to me that it’s gotten to the point that what we actually need is an benevolent eco-fascist dictator.  But since that’s not gonna fly, the OSU could be the next best thing. 

No doubt the OSU would require exceptionally smart and talented leadership to avoid spectacular failure.  But Seattle is loaded with smart, motivated people.  We already know how to do much of what needs doing.  We just need to do it.  Now.