'Come talk to us:' Seattle City Council president fires back at Amazon, Starbucks
SEATTLE - Don't sit on the sidelines - help us. That's the reaction Tuesday from Seattle's City Council President after Amazon and Starbucks blasted council members following the controversial business tax vote.
The criticism takes aim at the city's response to homelessness and reveals an apparent lack of confidence.
"My reaction is: Thank you for the criticism, now that you've launched it, come to the table and talk to us," said Seattle City Council president Bruce Harrell.
Harrell echoed what he told a divided and packed City Hall Monday night.
"I think we are doing the best we could, and it's not good enough," he said.
Big Seattle businesses affected have called the tax 'misguided' and 'punishment' for creating jobs.
Even after a scaled down version, which shrunk the tax per employee from $500 to $275 a year for five years, Amazon and Starbucks didn't hold back.
In a statement Amazon said in part the city "...doesn't have a revenue problem it has a spending efficiency problem."
Starbucks also slammed the council in statement that read in part, "...no one believes they will be able to make housing affordable or address opiate addiction."
"Many of us are actually quite capable of being frugal and knowing how to scrutinize how we spend money. Many of us have experience in investment strategy," said Harrell.
The new business tax is estimated to raise about $48 million to go towards affordable housing and homeless services.
"Frankly, I think we can do a lot more to end homelessness," said Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute.
Lee runs the nonprofit, which offers 2,000 affordable housing units and operates three hygiene centers in Seattle.
At the centers known as Urban Rest Stops, anyone who is homeless can bathe and do laundry for free.
Lee said the city made a mistake when the prior administration 'defunded' the University District's Urban Rest Stop.
She contends it may be one of the most important and vital service when coupled with the affordable housing shortage, and the long wait and expensive costs associated with constructing new units.
"That's why we need to put emphasis on emergency solutions and crisis response," said Lee.
She said the new administration recognized the value and found a way to put dollars back into the Urban Rest Stops.
Harrell insists the only way to solve the homelessness crisis is for hear from all stake holders, including advocates like Lee and all employers like Amazon and Starbucks.
"Don't sit around and ignore the problems. Come to the table, talk to us. This is the beginning of a discussion, not the end," said Harrell. "Continue to come to the table and help us work through these issues. You see them as much as we see them."
Amazon resumed construction planning for a downtown building, after it abruptly halted work during debate over the tax.
But, the online retail giant added it's questioning its growth in Seattle.
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