Brian Surratt: Cities cannot be bastions for the global elite

Director Brian Surratt returned from a Hamburg, Germany last night, where he studied how Germany’s iconic Port and City are managing their busy Port and how the City is managing growth and equity. Upon returning he wrote:

At the closing dinner of my Marshall Memorial Fellowship last spring, Kevin Cottrell, strongly suggested that we return to Europe within the next 12-18 months to solidify the wonderful connections we each made during our transatlantic fellowship. Well, last week, I was fortunate to return to Europe as part a Seattle study tour organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States to Hamburg, Germany.
Hamburg is one of Germany’s most prosperous cities: it is Europe’s 3rd largest port (handling over 9 million cargo units annually, 3x the units Seattle and Tacoma move), it is home to a major Airbus assembly facility, and has a dense and cosmopolitan urban core that boasts growing tech and creative companies. Like other fast-growing global cities, however, it is experiencing its share of difficult social challenges, including rising housing costs, social and economic gentrification, and the complexities of integrating immigrants into the community, including 60,000 recent Syrian refugees.
I learned a great deal from Hamburg, how they have continued to support its maritime base as part of its urban center, their testing of housing policies to produce more affordable and “social” housing and intentional urban design and planning to make Hamburg more livable for more people. One of the folks we met challenged me: if cities like Hamburg and Seattle are indeed the primary social organizing tool for people today and in the future, then cities must meet the social, economic and cultural needs of all residents. Cities cannot be bastions for the global elite – our leaders, our policies, our neighborhoods, our employment base must work for creatives, poor folks, children, people of color, the working class, technologists. That’s Hamburg’s challenge, it’s Seattle’s challenge.