This week, the Seattle City Council voted to undo a new tax that would have made big businesses pay per employee to generate money for public housing and help for the homeless. Seattle's housing costs and homeless population have both exploded in recent years as the tech industry — mainly Amazon — has brought higher salaries and lots more jobs. But Seattle businesses, including Amazon, pushed back hard on the new tax. One month after it passed, the city council flipped the reset button. Mike Rosenberg, a reporter covering housing at the Seattle Times, spoke with Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood about whether it was normal for businesses to fight city policy as hard as they did. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Mike Rosenberg: There's sort of this idea of "Seattle nice," where you don't really have so much hostility going back and forth, and particularly from Amazon, which really has been very quiet. I mean, it's hard to get them to comment even on a lot of their own plans that they have with the city. And so for them to come out at all was some sort of comment on what was going on. But then you had other companies like Starbucks and smaller companies come out and not only say things that were critical of the city council but put that into action by launching this whole campaign.