Today, Amazon begins its search for another city where it says it will establish a second headquarters. HQ2, as the company is calling it, will be a "full equal" to its offices in Seattle. Surprising no one, the state's conservatives and business interests can't wait to blame Seattle for this news.
"We recognize there are many factors that went in to Amazon’s decision, but the Seattle City Council’s focus on dividing the pie of economic opportunity rather than growing the pie for the city and the region is undoubtedly among them," said Matt McIlwain, the managing director of Madrona Venture Group who created a nonprofit called the "Opportunity for All Coalition" (seriously) to fight the recently passed city income tax. If implemented, the tax will charge 2.25 percent on income above $250,000 per person. McIlwain points to a portion of Amazon's request for proposals that says it's looking for a city with skilled workers and "a stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure will be high-priority."
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (which takes pride in reminding Seattleites how much more socially progressive it is than many other chambers of commerce) offered a similar reaction. Chamber CEO Maud Daudon did not mention the income tax specifically but said the news should "serve as a wake-up call for our region to put aside our differences and unite around efforts to remain competitive to employers like Amazon."
"Today’s announcement from Amazon should come as no surprise, as the city has continued to implement policies that create an environment that is at best unfriendly, and at worst, outright hostile toward the needs of our largest employers," Daudon said. In recent memory, the chamber has opposed proposals to tax businesses to fund labor law enforcement and to give hourly workers at large companies more control over their work schedules.
And Susan Hutchison, the chairman of the Washington State Republican Party, blamed Mayor Ed Murray. After the income tax passed, Hutchison encouraged wealthy Seattleites to practice "civil disobedience" and refuse to pay the tax. (Murray, for his part, called it an "exciting day for Amazon" and said his office would begin conversations with the company about "their needs.")
Here's the thing: The income tax has not yet taken effect. The tax is mired in multiple legal challenges and will likely remain that way for months. (McIlwain is leading one of those cases and claims the tax is blatantly illegal. So, which is it? The tax is illegal and won't be allowed to stand, meaning Seattle's regressive tax structure will remain as it is? Or the tax is a legal and looming threat to business in Seattle?)
Also: Amazon hasn't said anything about actually leaving Seattle. Geekwire reports that the company has 6,000 open jobs in Seattle and still plans to open 2 million more square feet of office space here.
Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess (one of the council's most business-friendly members) told the Seattle Times there is "no evidence" that Seattle policies are to blame for Amazon's announcement and he does not believe the company is leaving. Council Member Kshama Sawant, on the other hand, issued a statement comparing Amazon to Boeing, which she said holds the region "hostage" for tax breaks. The solution, Sawant says, is to "unionize and to take these behemoths into democratic public ownership."