Seattle Repeals 'Head Tax' Designed To Combat Homelessness

Jun 13, 2018
Originally published on June 13, 2018 11:01 am
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In Seattle, leaders have repealed a tax that was supposed to address the city's growing homelessness problem. The so-called head tax was seen as targeting Amazon, the city's largest private employer. Simone Alicea from member station KNKX in Seattle reports.

SIMONE ALICEA, BYLINE: The city council passed the tax unanimously last month, but then Amazon, Starbucks and others helped fund a campaign to put the head tax question to voters. A majority of council members, like Lorena Gonzalez, decided they couldn't win that fight.

LORENA GONZALEZ: It is clear in this case that money has funded this campaign to put us in a situation where we are repealing this law. And that's the truth.

ALICEA: The vote was 7-2 to repeal. Council member Kshama Sawant was one of the nay votes. She, unlike other council members, has referred to the head tax explicitly as an Amazon tax.

KSHAMA SAWANT: It is magical thinking to believe that somehow you will be able to win a tax like this without making enemies out of Jeff Bezos. No. Jeff Bezos is our enemy.

ALICEA: The tax was going to raise more than $47 million for housing an emergency homeless services in Seattle. Head tax opponents, like Julie Hall, have questions as they see more and more tents in their neighborhoods.

JULIE HALL: We're tired. We're tired of not seeing results.

ALICEA: Head tax proponents spoke about the urgency of the homelessness crisis. Here's Reverend Cecilia Kingman.

CECILIA KINGMAN: We have a moral imperative to give all our families a home.

ALICEA: It's unclear where this episode leaves Seattle in its efforts to fight homelessness or in its relationship with a major employer, and all of this could serve as a warning for cities looking to land Amazon's second headquarters. For NPR News, I'm Simone Alicea in Seattle. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.