Those Brits! Focused. Stiff upper lip. And, did I say "focused?"
I recently returned to Seattle after a week-long trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. I was part of the annual international study mission put together by the Trade Development Alliance and the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. (Don't fret, I paid my own way and didn't use a dime of City money. Highlights of my trip after the jump.)This was my third international study mission since joining the Council and it was packed full of briefings on a range of topics as the headline above indicates. (Read about about my trip to Helsinki, Finland here, here, here and here and my trip to Montreal, Canada here and here.)
The focus our delegation witnessed was evident from our first meeting in Edinburgh where we heard about the city's collaboration across sectors—higher education, business, and government—to identify and exploit opportunities for economic growth that would lead to more jobs. In almost every briefing, we heard speaker after speaker discuss the importance of higher education in the world's global knowledge-based economy. By the way, public education in the UK is free, all the way from elementary school through college. (England is beginning to impose fees for college because of the recession.)
In Scotland, we heard about an economy that was heavily industrialized, especially in Glasgow, a major ship, train locomotive and machinery manufacturing hub, and now working hard to transform itself to other forms of manufacturing in clean energy technologies. The "first minister" of the Scottish parliament (nominally the head of state except for the fact that Scotland is part of the UK and that head of state rules from London) announced new goals for carbon-free energy production while we were in Glasgow. (King County Executive Dow Constantine was part of our delegation.)
A big focus in Scotland is renewable energy, primarily from wind and ocean tides.
We were taken on a quick tour of the River Clyde while in Glasgow. Thirteen miles of the river are undergoing massive redevelopment as the city makes the transformation from heavy manufacturing to lighter industry and residential development; it's a process that will last 20 to 25 years and involve over $8 Billion in public and private investments. The vision is to "develop a thriving, vibrant River Clyde with people and communities at its heart." They're off to a good start.
I couldn't help but think about Seattle's waterfront and our opportunity to blend our maritime industry with new open spaces, pedestrian prominades, and walking/running paths stretching from Magnolia to Alki Point once the Alaskan Way Viaduct is replaced with the deep bore tunnel under downtown.
My colleague, Councilmember Nick Licata, and I stood together at the Glasgow City Council Lord Provost's chair. I was just a little jealous . . . the Glasgow City Hall was built in 1888. The Glasgow Council has 79 members. Yikes!
We had valauable discussions about homelessness in both Glasgow and London. The UK adopted legislation in 1977 granting a "right to housing" for all residents. In the United States, only New York and Massachusetts have similar laws. We just might want to copy what we learned in London about how to serve the most vulnerable in our city. Councilmembers Licata and Conlin and I have been discussing the need for a "right to shelter" law for the victims of domestic violence in Seattle. Complicated and expensive, for sure, but certainly worthy of continued work.
As with my previous study missions, this trip was very helpful. My strongest impression was how closely and effectively the city governments of Edinburgh and Glasgow worked with their business community and universities to create postive, forward momentum on a wide variety of issues, from homelessness to economic growth and job creation.
Flying home we caught an amazing view of Greenland from our Boeing 747.