citylife

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

A mossback sounds off

Knute Berger sounds off on corporate welfare, sprawl, ethically challenged football coaches and a host of other topics in his new book, "Pugetopolis."

Berger is perhaps best known by his work for Seattle Weekly, where he served three stints as editor between 1990 and 2006. He is a contributor to Washington Law & Politics and www.crosscut.com.

Berger's editorials in Seattle Weekly ran in a column titled "Mossback," a slang term for someone who has lived in the Northwest for a long time; so long that they have moss growing on their back, so to speak.

The content of "Pugetopolis" is from several sources. Many are from Seattle Weekly columns; others are from other media outlets he has worked for. At the end of each section a date and source are listed. For many, Berger has added updated information, which keeps the reader up to date.

In a way Berger fills the role once occupied by the late Emmett Watson, a columnist for Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Watson promoted Lesser Seattle, a fictional organization dedicated to preserving the real Northwest spirit amid the onslaught of people moving in from California and elsewhere.

Berger is a true Northwesterner for sure. He was born and raised in Seattle and has lived in the Puget Sound region for the majority of his life. He never comes right out and states that people need to share his opinions and values to be a true Washingtonian. However, he does describe why he thinks this is such a special place and expresses concern over things he feels are contributing to a decline in the quality of life for local residents.

While some topics in the book are very specific to Seattle, much of what he describes can apply to Tacoma and other cities, from traffic jams to rising housing prices to environmental problems plaguing Puget Sound.

Those familiar with Berger know his political views are left of center, but reading this book provides a better assessment of his politics. Berger is liberal but he is no die-hard leftist.

In a commentary Berger did for KUOW in 2001, he suggests burning Pat Buchanan's book "The Death of the West," which he describes as racist and xenophobic.

But he finds common ground with Buchanan on some points. In a piece about the World Trade Organization riots of 1999 he mentions that Buchanan participated in the protests against globalization. "I might disagree with Pat Buchanan about which are the most important American values, but at least we agree that America should be a values-driven country, not a money-driven one."

He makes a case that our big cities would be better off if Republican candidates for the state house or senate, or county councils, had a viable shot at winning in the urban districts.

Berger describes why he decided to home school his children, and applauds the religious right for its effort to make it easier for parents all across the political spectrum to do the same in this state.

Regardless of one's age, or how long they have lived here, "Pugetopolis" is a worthwhile book full of insight into our region and what can be done to preserve the special essence of the area.

Berger will discuss his new book at Elliot Bay Books in Seattle at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and University Book Store in Seattle at 7 p.m. Jan. 21.

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