Seattle is a red flag in Dallas & Austin bids for Amazon’s HQ2. If Dallas or Austin gets the new HQ2 – the city had better be ready to bend to Jeff Bezos’ will.

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May 15, 2018 No Comments ›› admin

by Lynn Woolley

If what’s happening in Seattle is an indication, the city that ends up with Amazon’s big new headquarters may live to regret it. Don’t misunderstand; Amazon’s protest of what the Seattle City Council has been doing is correct. Businesses should not have to put up with that kind of thing.

There is another aspect – and that is that a business that is large enough to tell the Council what it can and can’t do is also a problem.

In Seattle, they met half way. The city of Seattle declared a “homelessness state of emergency” in 2015. The first plan was to tax large businesses $500 per employee per year. Amazon voiced its displeasure by pausing construction on an office tower.

The Amazon Spheres rest beneath Day One, the dominant building owned by the company. For most of its 23 years in Seattle, Amazon was largely silent, until this past week regarding the city’s head-taxl. (Kjell Redal/The Seattle Times)

So the Council downsized the tax to $275 per head for businesses of $20 million per year revenue. If Dallas or Austin gets the new HQ2 – the city had better be ready to bend to Jeff Bezos’ will.

Lots of companies face pressure from large employers – that is a normal thing.

Seattle has already been the home to Boeing – a company that left for Chicago (where it got multimillion dollar tax breaks) in September 2001. Dallas was part of the competition get Boeing.

Austin was not able to keep the giant Dell Computer Corporation as it refused to put up the tax breaks. So Dell moved its corporate headquarters to Round Rock and that small town has now become a much larger city.

Supporters and protestors of a proposed head tax pack Seattle City Council chambers as they prepare to vote on it at Seattle City Hall Monday May 14, 2018. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

When Dallas would not work with Jerry Jones to build a stadium at Fair Park, Jones moved the Cowboys to Arlington. And so it goes.

Most cities have a corporation or an institution that dominates employment – and that wields political power.

Dallas has AT&T. Irving has ExxonMobile. Temple has Baylor Scott & White. Killeen has Fort Hood. Waco has Baylor University. The point is that Amazon didn’t like something the Seattle Council was about to do – and it was able to get the policy changed.

In this case, Amazon had a point.

Bezos’ company was not happy that Seattle city fathers/mothers decide to solve the homeless crisis on the backs of the very companies that provide the most jobs. I could not agree more.

Seattle was trying to raise $86 million per year to spend of housing and such for people who cannot or will not work. The final proposal will raise $47 million annually.

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Seattle, a left-wing city, may very well use the cash to create jobs and get the homeless off the streets that way, but more likely, it will simply provide housing, food, and other necessities.

Liberal solutions always make things worse, and Seattle, if it’s not careful, will become a magnet for the homeless.

The city already counts about 11,600 homeless – far less than the count in Los Angeles. Most big cities have downtowns flooded to some extent with beggars – and it’s quite unconstitutional to pass ordinances against panhandling. Begging is speech and speech is protected. So how Seattle spends this money will be very interesting to see.

Meanwhile, Amazon will now finish its new building and will move in.

What does this mean for Dallas or Austin – should either get HQ2?

Let’s say the new headquarters comes to one of the Texas cities and it actually does spend $5 billion over the years and hires 50,000 people as promised. That would be a giant workforce in any town, and it will create an outsized political influence, as we’ve written about in these pages.

Both Dallas and Austin are growing and expanding rapidly. Both downtowns offer museums, restaurants, giant hotels and convention centers – and each city has its share of the homeless. Since Seattle is about to solve the homeless crisis, and other cities can simply do what they did, we can all rest easy.

Or not. Something else will come up. In Texas, It could be the bathroom Bill or other LGBTQ issues. Bezos may decide to bring Major League Baseball to downtown Dallas or Austin and he may want a prime location with a big tax break. Whatever it is, it will be something.

As Seattle has learned it will be hard to tell him no.

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