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: 471092

Reported Deaths: 9165
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32160471
Hinds30628574
DeSoto29693344
Jackson23098335
Rankin21062357
Lee14515218
Madison13993264
Jones13112218
Forrest12926231
Lauderdale11301294
Lowndes10206171
Lamar10017125
Pearl River8616208
Lafayette8052136
Hancock7172111
Washington6816146
Oktibbeha6799117
Neshoba6377201
Monroe6343158
Warren6310159
Pontotoc607692
Panola6056123
Bolivar5991143
Marshall5948116
Union562385
Pike5450133
Lincoln5217129
Alcorn516288
George456466
Scott450392
Leflore4392140
Prentiss435275
Itawamba433295
Tippah432480
Simpson4251110
Copiah424784
Wayne422363
Tate4202100
Adams4184110
Yazoo412486
Sunflower4077104
Covington406591
Marion4016100
Leake390485
Coahoma387098
Newton361674
Grenada3511100
Stone343757
Tishomingo323788
Attala319685
Jasper309562
Winston299191
Clay286172
Chickasaw280564
Clarke275587
Calhoun258539
Holmes258585
Smith242246
Yalobusha216447
Tallahatchie214949
Walthall204657
Lawrence203231
Greene202645
Perry195753
Webster191642
Amite191451
Noxubee174438
Montgomery169453
Jefferson Davis164341
Carroll159437
Tunica147634
Benton138232
Kemper136939
Claiborne125534
Choctaw124424
Humphreys123037
Franklin114327
Quitman101425
Wilkinson98435
Jefferson86332
Sharkey61720
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 761865

Reported Deaths: 12856
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1087131712
Mobile696141168
Madison47959565
Baldwin35517431
Shelby34948283
Tuscaloosa32719498
Montgomery32358648
Lee21708200
Calhoun19823367
Morgan19140308
Etowah18450414
Marshall17138255
Houston15970340
St. Clair14803270
Limestone13986179
Elmore13893240
Cullman13892229
Lauderdale12986264
Talladega12235203
DeKalb11788220
Walker10110304
Autauga9416120
Blount9329149
Jackson9026132
Coffee8598153
Colbert8257160
Dale8204143
Escambia639399
Tallapoosa6315165
Covington6265153
Chilton6188128
Russell588353
Franklin560093
Chambers5182127
Dallas4595174
Marion4540114
Clarke447871
Pike441488
Geneva419499
Winston402682
Lawrence4018101
Bibb392976
Barbour335567
Marengo318878
Monroe308244
Butler307679
Pickens297366
Henry290752
Randolph290055
Hale284081
Cherokee277249
Fayette269769
Washington242244
Crenshaw229463
Clay220261
Macon212554
Cleburne207346
Lamar185538
Conecuh175237
Lowndes168156
Coosa161531
Wilcox153533
Bullock146242
Perry133132
Sumter122735
Greene118241
Choctaw71925
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