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.

Sign up for PACIFIC: The new CNNMoney newsletter about the center of change and innovation

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.

Confirmed Cases: 24190

Reported Deaths: 1036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8181606
Ramsey2863122
Stearns201413
Nobles15125
Anoka136370
Dakota126354
Washington61731
Olmsted60810
Kandiyohi4901
Rice4522
Clay42426
Scott4082
Todd3130
Wright3051
Mower3031
Sherburne2372
Carver2062
Benton1753
Steele1590
Blue Earth1380
Martin1295
St. Louis11814
Freeborn1150
Pine890
Nicollet8610
Unassigned8610
Winona7915
Carlton730
Watonwan710
Cottonwood700
Crow Wing682
Goodhue663
Otter Tail640
Chisago611
Polk612
Itasca5410
Dodge520
Chippewa491
Lyon490
Morrison450
Meeker450
Le Sueur441
Douglas410
Becker390
Jackson390
Murray390
McLeod340
Isanti320
Waseca260
Rock220
Mille Lacs191
Faribault180
Swift180
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Pennington170
Sibley160
Brown152
Beltrami140
Cass132
Norman130
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Marshall100
Pope90
Wadena90
Aitkin80
Koochiching70
Yellow Medicine60
Mahnomen61
Lincoln50
Renville50
Big Stone40
Grant40
Red Lake40
Redwood40
Clearwater30
Hubbard30
Traverse30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Houston20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19217

Reported Deaths: 531
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4160125
Woodbury274034
Black Hawk173944
Linn94976
Dallas89220
Marshall89216
Buena Vista7350
Johnson6149
Wapello5589
Muscatine55641
Crawford5142
Tama40227
Scott35810
Dubuque34518
Louisa34311
Jasper26116
Pottawattamie2578
Sioux2190
Washington1888
Wright1670
Plymouth1292
Warren1260
Allamakee1204
Story1091
Mahaska9310
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines621
Clinton611
Boone610
Taylor540
Clarke530
Guthrie503
Cedar461
Benton411
Webster391
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Hamilton350
Clayton343
Iowa330
Buchanan330
Osceola330
Marion320
Cerro Gordo281
Cherokee280
Madison282
Fayette270
Lee250
Winneshiek240
Monona240
Jefferson230
Harrison220
Davis210
Lyon210
Dickinson200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Sac180
Humboldt170
Lucas170
Hardin160
Hancock160
Delaware150
Keokuk150
Clay150
Appanoose153
Butler151
Emmet140
Ida140
Page130
Greene130
Franklin130
Cass120
Howard120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Winnebago110
Pocahontas110
Chickasaw100
Carroll90
Van Buren90
Adair90
Kossuth90
Union70
Adams70
Montgomery70
Palo Alto60
Unassigned60
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Ringgold40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Mason City
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 57°
Albert Lea
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 55°
Austin
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 57°
Sunnier skies for the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Rochester People's Rally

Image

Religious leaders call for justice for George Floyd

Image

Rochester downtown under curfew Saturday night

Image

Sean Weather 5/30

Image

Governor Walz GivesUpdate

Image

Gov. Walz Addresses Minnesotans in Overnight Press Conference

Image

Riots, Fires continue in Minneapolis

Image

Protesters in Downtown Rochester

Image

Mower County Fair will go on as planned

Image

Minneapolis Gas Stations Shut Down

Community Events