Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Amazon’s growing spending on Seattle politics includes a spate of donations from Jeff Bezos’ ‘S Team’

Headline from the Seattle Times. From the article:
Earlier this year, 11 members of Amazon’s so-called “S Team” — senior leaders who report directly to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — started writing checks to a group of Seattle City Council candidates and a political-action committee. For most of the executives, it marked their first donations to Seattle council races.

The local political spending of Amazon’s top executives, along with a record-setting $1 million contribution to a pro-business political-action committee last week, underscore the company’s desire for a more accommodating council in the city where it occupies nearly 50 buildings and has more than 50,000 employees. ...

Amazon’s local political awakening began in earnest in 2017, as the Seattle City Council started a public discussion of a “head tax” on big businesses to fund housing and homeless services. That year, the company donated $350,000 to a business PAC to help get Mayor Jenny Durkan elected. ...

Amazon’s $1 million donation last week to the Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE), a PAC associated with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, was the largest outlay by a corporation or other single player in a Seattle city election. It came on top of $400,000 Amazon gave earlier to CASE to spend on the election.
Amazon isn't happy at Seattle's attempt to pass a "head tax" on employees for large corporations.

Since corporations game their taxes, and most cities don't levy income taxes, this is a way to get at taxing corporations.

The Seattle City Council passed the tax at $250 per employee, but later reversed it.  According to Geekwire, Amazon has more than 50,000 employees based in Seattle, so the tax would have raised at least $12,500,000 per year.  (See the discussion on District 1 Seattle Council Member Lisa Herbold in this election endorsement article from The Stranger.)

Even so, Amazon announced they would be moving a major division to suburban Bellevue ("Amazon details plan for Bellevue expansion, bringing several thousand jobs in coming years," Seattle Times).

Seattle's City Council, like San Francisco, tends to be quite liberal/progressive and has one of the nation's only Socialists, Kshama Sawant.

It does provide some scary thoughts concerning Amazon's entry into Arlington County, Virginia.  Then again, Virginia is a Dillon Rule state which means that the State Legislature must authorize by law, the ability of local governments to act.  In other words, no legislation on head taxes at the local level unless previously enabled by the State Legislature.

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At 9:15 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: Chase in the previous entry. Chase is making a large "social justice" investment which the purple line is just part of.

Going back to Mari's customer comment, I'd say yes, big US companies are starting to see inequality as an issue for their bottom line. Also goes back to neoliberiasm (US faction) which basically used debt expansion from 1985 onwards as way for US consumer to keep up without raising wages. We've reached the end of that cycle. The Business Roundtable statement on profit motive this summer isa clue.

But given that the JPMorgan effort is being led by Heather Higgenbottom, you can see it explicitly a political/lobbying effort as well to curry favor.

At 4:17 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

... I should have included links to Facebook and Google each making $1B commitments to expanding housing in the Silicon Valley.

Granted (1) they are based there and (2) the problems are much more severe, whereas JPMorgan's presence in the PL corridor is minimal and they haven't been exacerbating housing demand in the way that the Silicon Valley companies do, but $5MM is nothing.

I've been thinking about "fake news" or substance vs. non-substance in news for the past few months.

Fake news/Bernays type PR masquerading as news, or press releases etc. has been with us for a long time.

I remember being critical of some press releases from CSPI when I worked there. One was that kids in a couple of elementary school classes could name more alcohol brands than presidents. Besides making the point that it wasn't a systematic random sample, it was all a function of who spends money on advertising. And families of people like James Monroe or John Adams or John Buchanan need to get off their butts and launch promotional campaigns for their ancestors.

I wuz gonna write a piece about the Mayor Bowser announcement that "DC's security fund was drained by the President Trump military tattoo" but I didn't because of the study.

They were talking about like $1.7MM, which isn't even a rounding error in DC's $15B annual budget.

That was in fact, "fake news." A $5MM donation in the context of a billion dollar need is pretty close to being fake news, or at least "a drop in the bucket."


speaking of your point though, the day job of State Senator Luz Escamilla who is running for SLC mayor is "VP of community relations" for Zions Bank. ZB is Mormon-related...

At 1:28 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

RE: fake news

well this is the underlying intellectual problem of our times -- discerning the signal from the noise -- how to how enough baseline knowledge to place news into context.

Not new -- but given instant access to information we can all fool ourselves.


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