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Analysis: the Seattle-Amazon tax fight is a lose-lose for everyone

Seattle and Amazon screwed the homeless.The war that pitted Seattle's City Council against Amazon, Starbucks a...

Posted: May 16, 2018 6:12 AM
Updated: May 16, 2018 6:12 AM

Seattle and Amazon screwed the homeless.

The war that pitted Seattle's City Council against Amazon, Starbucks and other businesses over homelessness has ended in a lose-lose-lose draw. It could go down as one of the biggest fiascos in the city's history as a leader of progressive policy, Seattle business and political leaders tell me.

The Council voted 9-to-0 to pass a compromise tax that will charge businesses $275 per-employee per year, instead of the $540 per employee figure initially proposed. Voter surveys show Seattle residents were overwhelmingly opposed to both proposals.

The city of Seattle lost because it failed to articulate a well-thought out strategy for dealing with homelessness; passed a watered-down bill that alienated the business community; and only won half as much revenue as it said it needed.

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Amazon and big business lost because they fought the Council with threats and criticism rather than seizing the opportunity to take the lead on an issue that it has demonstrated a commitment to elsewhere.

The nearly 12,000 homeless people living in King County lost because Seattle and Amazon got in a pissing match.

This could have been avoided, business and political leaders in Seattle tell me.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan could have brought the City Council together with Amazon, Starbucks and other businesses to hash out a plan that made sense for both sides. Seattle and Amazon could have then trumpeted their success as a model for how liberal cities and tech companies plan to deal with the homeless epidemic they've helped to create.

Instead, Amazon now says it is questioning its future in Seattle.

"We remain very apprehensive about the future created by the council's hostile approach and rhetoric toward larger businesses, which forces us to question our growth here," Amazon VP Drew Herdener says.

"The city does not have a revenue problem - it has a spending efficiency problem," he says. "We are highly uncertain whether the city council's anti-business positions or its spending inefficiency will change for the better." Amazon declined to comment further.

Starbucks is also angry: "This city continues to spend without reforming and fail without accountability, while ignoring the plight of hundreds of children sleeping outside," said Starbucks Senior Vice President John Kelley. "If they cannot provide a warm meal and safe bed to a five-year-old child, no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction."

Related: For Amazon HQ2 hopefuls, Seattle serves as a cautionary tale

The homelessness epidemic is the inconvenient truth of the tech boom that has fueled growth in Seattle, the Bay Area and Los Angeles, and its a problem for both city governments and the tech companies in their area.

City leaders and tech CEOs should own it. There is a massive opportunity to innovate on solving this issue. Doing it now would save lives (and generate good press). Avoiding it will yield massive problems down the line.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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