Seattle City Council repeals controversial head tax

Seattle to reverse and repeal new head tax after Amazon pressures city leaders

In a humiliating reversal, the Seattle City Council voted to repeal an employee hours tax passed unanimously less than a month ago, pleasing large businesses and leaving service providers wondering where the local government will get the money it desperately needs to solve the growing housing crisis.

But a vote for repeal from the city council would nullify that effort.

Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled she'd sign the repeal, though the margin is veto-proof.

Reporters struggled to hear the actual vote, as supporters of the head tax erupted into chants of "Shame!" and "Vote them out!" that drowned out the roll call.

While the creation and ultimate passage of the head tax was a crawling slog of Seattle politics with a dozen or so public meetings and hearings, Tuesday's repeal vote will take place without even public comment. It would have gone into effect in 2019, giving the council the option for renewal after five years.

The two in opposition to council president Bruce Harrell's repeal legislation are District 3 Socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant and citywide representative Teresa Mosqueda.

Amazon, Starbucks and Paul Allen's Vulcan chipped in $25,000 each.

Amazon, Starbucks and the Northwest Grocery Association are among the biggest backers of the referendum campaign.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold said the head tax was "not a winnable battle" at this time.

But the version of the head tax passed by the City Council on May 14 was much smaller than the one originally envisioned. Only L.A. and New York City have larger homeless populations than Washington state's largest city, Springer said.

Sawant, meanwhile called on supporters to pack City Hall and jam the phone lines in support of the "Amazon Tax". "But I don't have a replacement for you. what this has proven is various components of our community have the power to stop things".

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"I think this is problematic enough and Amazon has shown enough troubling behavior that I would drop out" of the running for HQ2, Richard Florida, an urban expert at the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute, told The Hill. "We pursued a process for nine months to do outreach.to make concessions we did not want to make".

"This is not just a stunning betrayal by politicians and a kowtowing to big business", Sawant said.

"On behalf of those clients, I implore the businesses who opposed the Employee Hours Tax to find a revenue stream and a plan you can support", he continued.

The council will now be looking at alternative measures to tackle the homeless crisis. "A hollow handshake and a broken promise is not good practice".

It's literally a matter of life or death for the people I work with.

Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce head Marilyn Strickland praised the turn of action from the city's leaders.

"Every day, we turn clients away because we don't have enough beds and we don't have enough staff to provide long-term case management to clients in the system", Andrew Coak, a member of the task force and case manager at the Downtown Emergency Services Center, said in a statement.

But a one-night count in January found more than 12,000 homeless people in the Seattle and surrounding region, a 4 percent increase from the previous year.

And many have offered the internet giant billions in incentives to choose their city for the HQ2 project that would bring about 50,000 jobs to the winning region.

This is a developing story and will be updated with new information.

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