The Austin Chronicle

Nuclear Freeze for Amazon?

Council members throughout the country reject HQ2

By Michael King, March 9, 2018, News

The latest wrinkle in the pending mystery of "HQ2" – where the Amazon Corporation plans to plop its second headquarters – is a nationwide petition, initiated on by urban theorist Richard Florida, for a "mutual non-aggression pact" by the cities, including Austin, that are still on the finalist list of 20. The petition, addressed to "elected officials and community leaders" of the finalist cities, calls on the official to reject "egregious tax giveaways and direct monetary incentives for the Amazon headquarters." Earlier this week, it had attracted more than 15,000 signatures for its 25,000 goal.

On Monday, March 5, City Council Member Greg Casar released a letter in response to the petition, signed by Casar, New York City Council Member Brad Lander, and Indianapolis City Council Member Jared Evans. (Casar reports that Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston has added his name.) Asked for a comment, several other council members expressed strong cautions about any possible incentives for Amazon, but as of Tuesday evening, none had signed the opposition letter.

"As elected officials from finalist cities for Amazon's second headquarters," they write, "we are strongly opposed to the tax-break bidding war that Amazon has begun at the expense of the public." They vow to oppose city subsidies for HQ2, invite other officials to join them, and add, "Amazon should make real commitments to our communities such as investments in affordable housing, infrastructure, and living wage jobs."

Not all local officials have responded with enthusiasm. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, picking up the nuclear war metaphor, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Unilateral disarmament has never worked."

Currently, the only local pitch to Amazon came from the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, and represented the general Central Texas region, and likely included state incentive offerings. The pitch remains confidential, and from the city included only a letter from Mayor Steve Adler challenging Amazon to "partner" with the community. Whether it can be confined within those limits is an open question.

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