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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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 270157

Reported Deaths: 3297
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin579261084
Ramsey24528470
Anoka19211213
Dakota18738176
Washington12351104
Stearns1200389
Scott735654
St. Louis712297
Wright646135
Olmsted604730
Sherburne499538
Clay435954
Carver397312
Blue Earth367011
Rice350331
Kandiyohi337613
Crow Wing306729
Nobles293828
Chisago27778
Benton256338
Otter Tail251415
Winona240928
Mower232822
Polk222221
Douglas211929
Morrison207521
Lyon189810
McLeod18089
Beltrami177115
Goodhue173126
Becker16769
Itasca165223
Steele16396
Todd161412
Isanti159115
Carlton148310
Nicollet144523
Freeborn13625
Mille Lacs129030
Le Sueur12899
Waseca128710
Pine11625
Cass11538
Brown112610
Meeker10117
Martin97020
Roseau9443
Hubbard92822
Wabasha8961
Dodge7770
Watonwan7604
Redwood75118
Chippewa7437
Renville68818
Sibley6844
Cottonwood6800
Wadena6706
Pipestone65618
Aitkin64722
Rock6259
Houston6012
Fillmore5910
Yellow Medicine55310
Unassigned52756
Murray5173
Pennington5076
Kanabec49711
Swift4835
Faribault4650
Pope4620
Stevens4342
Clearwater4156
Marshall4047
Jackson3981
Lake3463
Koochiching3275
Wilkin3175
Lac qui Parle3123
Lincoln3081
Norman3006
Big Stone2711
Mahnomen2404
Grant2256
Red Lake1833
Kittson1786
Traverse1190
Lake of the Woods821
Cook570

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 210482

Reported Deaths: 2173
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk31270322
Linn13252158
Scott1022075
Black Hawk10209126
Woodbury9870111
Johnson900835
Dubuque866490
Story637819
Dallas595555
Pottawattamie574666
Sioux349925
Webster330928
Marshall327841
Cerro Gordo323041
Clinton303637
Buena Vista290214
Muscatine266964
Des Moines266116
Plymouth257937
Warren254610
Wapello239971
Jones221112
Jasper202739
Marion191518
Carroll188220
Lee188015
Bremer176012
Henry16847
Crawford168215
Benton157414
Tama145140
Jackson13608
Delaware134721
Boone127711
Washington126513
Dickinson126210
Mahaska119027
Wright11425
Buchanan10789
Page10774
Hardin105810
Clay10434
Harrison101428
Clayton10084
Cedar98913
Hamilton9877
Mills9806
Calhoun9787
Fayette9588
Lyon9458
Floyd92614
Kossuth9214
Poweshiek91512
Butler8943
Winneshiek88910
Winnebago87423
Iowa86711
Louisa79916
Hancock7947
Chickasaw7853
Grundy77310
Sac7617
Cherokee7484
Cass73519
Appanoose7336
Shelby7184
Allamakee71111
Mitchell7074
Emmet70123
Guthrie69215
Union6866
Franklin67619
Humboldt6495
Madison6414
Jefferson6121
Palo Alto6044
Unassigned5810
Keokuk5237
Pocahontas5072
Howard4999
Osceola4941
Greene4860
Clarke4564
Ida42810
Monroe42812
Montgomery42610
Davis4225
Taylor4162
Adair4066
Monona3912
Fremont3432
Worth3330
Van Buren3294
Lucas3056
Decatur2950
Wayne2836
Audubon2811
Ringgold1832
Adams1521
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