Up against a wall of *if*, here’s *how* Seattle head tax money would be spent on Capitol Hill


If it survives a voter referendum cooked up this week by business and economic groups opposing the plan… And if the spending plan put forward by the City Council somehow can survive mayoral opposition…

How much of the roughly $237 million over five years in head tax revenue will come to Capitol Hill? The short answer is, some, but it’s too early to say exactly. A Seattle City Council resolution, however, gives a starting point. Along with the head tax, the council approved a companion resolution that laid out broad preliminary plans for the windfall of cash.

The resolution is non-binding and could change during the council’s budget process in the fall. Additionally, the Mayor Jenny Durkin’s office has indicated that she opposes the preliminary spending plans, council staff say. Continue reading

With or without head tax cash, businesses make push for homelessness outreach on Broadway

(Image: Alex Garland/CHS)

Even with the city’s new head tax on the books, a group of Broadway businesses have decided not to wait for new funding streams to start — and their decision on how best to put the money to use shows how the priorities to the issue can differ in the distance between City Hall and Capitol Hill. The Broadway Business Improvement Area will fund its own outreach worker to help people experiencing homelessness and be available to area merchants when issues arise.

In past years, the city had run a program funding outreach workers to visit areas around downtown to assist the homeless population. That program was then expanded to the International District and then to Capitol Hill. That program, at least the Capitol Hill portion of it, lasted for about two years before closing in March.

At the time, the businesses which make up the BBIA began looking to find a way to allow the program to continue, and now that may be taking shape, said Egan Orion, administrator of the BBIA. Continue reading

Seattle approves plan for ‘reasonable’ tax on its largest businesses to help pay for housing, homelessness — UPDATE

The Seattle City Council Monday afternoon chose a smaller, simpler, “reasonable” compromise to create a new tax on the city’s largest companies to help pay for affordable housing and homelessness services.

In a 8-1 vote, the council — some reluctantly — chose a new version of the plan introduced as Amendment 24 during the afternoon full council session with sponsorship from eight of the nine members — all save Capitol Hill’s District 3 rep, Kshama Sawant.

UPDATE: The council unanimously approved the final ordinance modified by approved Amendment 24 with a 9-0 vote.

“I’ve been really struggling with how I feel about this compromise because I’ve been really, really focused on the spending plan and the dire needs of our communities,” co-sponsor of the original legislation Lisa Herbold said before the vote. But she said she was proud the plan for a new tax had “evolved more towards progressivity” and would do things like protect the city’s small businesses. Continue reading

Behind Capitol Hill small biz roundtable and Saturday’s March on Amazon, Seattle biz tax maneuverings swirl — UPDATE

With reporting by SCC Insight

UPDATE 12:45 PM: With Durkan’s surprise counter proposal defeated. the Herbold/Gonzalez legislation was approved out of committee Friday but now faces a battle in securing a crucial sixth supporter before Monday’s full council vote. With negotiations underway, Saturday’s activism won’t be a victory march but could end up as a show of power to help change the tally and leave the mayor’s hands tied on the so-called Amazon tax. UPDATEx2: Durkan has released a statement saying she “cannot support” the legislation passed Friday. The full statement is below.

Seattle City Council members Lisa Herbold and Lorena Gonzalez were slated to be on Capitol Hill Friday morning to talk with small businesses about the proposed tax on large employers. But the deals may have already been cut on the plan to raise revenue to help pay for homelessness services and housing — before any further roundtables and before any marches on Amazon.

District 3 rep Kshama Sawant and supporters are now framing Seattle’s push for an employee tax on large companies as another historical moment for the city akin to the $15/hour minimum wage fight. “This is a key moment in Seattle’s history,” a statement from the Affordable Housing Alliance reads. “We have a chance to make the richest man in the world pay to build union-built, publicly-owned, affordable housing. This would be an inspiration to the rest of the country as cities offer tax incentive after tax incentive to attract Amazon’s HQ2. Let’s turn this race to the bottom into a race to the top.”

UPDATE: Herbold and Gonzalez Friday morning at Elliott Bay Book Co. in a meeting with Hill business representatives on the mayor’s tax proposal: “We’re looking forward to learning more about”

Gonzalez and Herbold’s meeting with Hill business constituents, meanwhile, comes before a key council committee meeting Friday and in the wake of a Mayor Durkan-fired shot across the bow of the veto-able raft of five council members said to support the $75 million employee tax legislation. Continue reading

Olympia’s approach to Seattle’s homelessness crisis is focus on land and the longterm

In the U District, YouthCare manages University Commons in The Marion West, 20 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless young adults. The future of Broadway and Pine could eventually be home to a similar project.

By Iman Mohamed, UW News Lab/Special to CHS

It has been years since Seattle declared homelessness a state of emergency. A state of emergency should cause a sense of urgency. That was the theme last week at the April Capitol Hill Community Council meeting with Speaker Frank Chopp at 12th Avenue Arts.

Community members on the night suggested many solutions for the city’s crisis. Chopp said that his focus is on creating long-term resources. The main resource for housing developments is from the state, he said, which is why Chopp works on acquiring these lands so the development of housing projects and services can begin.

“The state level focuses on generating funding rather than focusing on temporary solutions like mobile vans,” Chopp said. “The biggest landowner in Seattle is the State of Washington and we are going right after them with these state-level legislations.” Continue reading

Here’s how Seattle’s proposed tax on businesses to pay for homelessness services would work


With reporting by SCC Insight

The Seattle City Council’s proposed legislation to impose a new tax on businesses to help pay for homelessness services has finally seen the light of day and will begin its path through the council chambers with a committee meeting this week.

The proposal from the council’s Lorena Gonzalez and Lisa Herbold aims to raise at least $75 million annually to address the twin crises of affordable housing for the city’s most vulnerable people, and the increasing number of people living unsheltered. It comes in two parts: an ordinance that enacts the tax, and a resolution that lays out the spending plan. Continue reading

Seattle earmarks $1M for ’emergency’ homelessness services as Sawant holds ‘Tax Amazon’ town hall

With Seattle homelessness advocates continuing to debate short-term and immediate services vs. more permanent housing, the city’s Human Services Department has earmarked $1 million in bridge funding to providers of emergency shelter, hygiene services in the city.

Meanwhile, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant will hold a Tax Amazon Town Hall Tuesday night at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute to raise support for the proposed $75-million Seattle “employment tax” on businesses that is hoped will fund housing and homelessness services in Seattle.

The $1 million in “augmented” funding for Compass, LIHI – Urban Rest Stop, SHARE/WHEEL shelters, and the Seattle Indian Center comes from the city council’s decision to sell a $11 million South Lake Union property and use the proceeds, in part, to address the city’s homelessness and affordability crisis. Continue reading

With 5,000 to feed every week, Cherry Street Food Bank seeks new home

After 35 years operating out of their space on 8th Ave and Cherry, the Cherry Street Food Bank is being displaced to make room for a new 30-story condominium tower. They’ve got until March 1, 2019 to vacate, and Northwest Harvest is scrambling to find a new home for their flagship operation which serves an average of 5,000 people a week.

Northwest Harvest CEO Thomas Reynolds considers the Cherry Street Food Bank the “beating heart” of their operations.

“We deliver to others who provide food but Cherry Street is a direct line to our most important stakeholder group: people with lived experience of hunger.” The food bank provides bags of groceries as well as sandwiches and other ready-to-eat meals for people who have no kitchen in which to prepare meals. Continue reading

Here are the Capitol Hill and Central District owners joining ‘301 small businesses’ speaking out against Seattle ’employment tax’ recommendations

Dani Cone of Cone and Steiner — and Fuel — made the list… twice (Image: CHS)

With a task force recommending a $75 million a year Seattle business tax for housing and homelessness services, a collection of “301 small businesses from every part of the city and every sector of the economy” has sent a letter to the City Council asking them not to move forward with the recommendation.

Several Capitol Hill and Central District businesses, highlighted in bold by CHS below, appear on the roster in the effort touted as “a purely organic grass roots effort and not organized by any one business association or advocacy group.”

“Small businesses across the city are writing to you today to urge you to reconsider the recommendations from the Progressive Revenue Taskforce on the Employee Hours Tax and any consideration of a proposed Employee Hours Tax legislation on Seattle businesses,” the letter begins. “We are disappointed that once again small business leaders were never consulted for input, facts or information about the real challenges we face.” Continue reading

‘Real progress’ — Task force recommends $75M Seattle business tax for housing and homelessness services

Seattle’s Progressive Revenue Task Force has finalized a set of recommendations for a so-called “head tax” that could raise $75 million a year to help create housing and provide homelessness services. UPDATE: The final report (PDF) released March 9th pushes the amount the city should raise to an estimated $150 million — $75 million of which would come from the head tax.

The recommendations were finalized last week in advance of a deadline legislated last year as the City Council agreed to back away from an earlier plan to tax large businesses a per-employee tax that would have raised only around $25 million per year.

“We believe it is imperative to raise a substantial amount of revenue -– enough to make a measurable and significant impact on the crisis –- so that the community sees tangible results from this new investment,” the task force report reads. “People are tired of half-measures and want to see real progress.” Continue reading