Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess believes being home to Amazon HQ1 has been “a huge benefit to the community” but has some words of caution for the city that wins the company’s second headquarters.
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At an event in Seattle Tuesday, Ron Brownstein of The Atlantic asked Burgess whether he’s received any calls from mayors in other cities hoping to land Amazon HQ2. Burgess joked, “some have and of course on that topic, we don’t talk to them.”
Taking a more sober tone, he did offer some advice to the 238 cities vying for Amazon HQ2 and the 50,000 high-paying jobs it promises to bring. Burgess offered the following words of wisdom:
I would say to those other cities, it’s great if you win Amazon’s second headquarters but make sure you’re prepared to address the downsides of that. And the downsides are going to affect people who are traditionally marginalized anyway — or already — in our system. People living in poverty, people of color, immigrants and refugees. There are specific things you can do to help mitigate that. Maybe you can’t eliminate it in, just getting one company to come to your city, but you can start doing things to mitigate against that. I wish we had done that sooner in Seattle but no one expected that Amazon was going to explode this fast.
Burgess wishes, for example, that Seattle’s Mandatory Affordable Housing program that requires developers to build or fund units for low and middle-income residents, was in place 10 years ago.
Despite the words of warning, Burgess is still grateful Seattle is home to Amazon HQ1. The longtime city councilmember, who took over as mayor in the wake of Ed Murray’s resignation, is known to be more conciliatory toward Amazon than some of his colleagues.
“I’d much rather be in the position where we are today where we have economic growth and we’re thriving economically, than the opposite of that,” he said Tuesday. “Many more people would be suffering if we were in decline. What’s important for city government is to make sure that we are addressing the built-in injustices that happen when that economic growth happens because we know that some are left behind in that situation.”
That pro-growth attitude has made Burgess unpopular in some progressive circles. He addressed his critics during the event Tuesday.
“I was always accused of being a pro-business councilmember and my response to that was, ‘yes I love jobs,'” he said. “I bet folks in our audience here, most of them probably work and someone created that job that they could take. So I don’t think that we should deliberately try to cause harm to the business community. We need them as our partner to address and solve the challenges that we have.”
Burgess only has a couple more weeks in office before Mayor-elect Jenny Durkan takes over Nov. 28. During a debate, Durkan was asked what advice she would give HQ2 hopefuls.
“I saw they’ve got a map up on the wall now at Amazon of all the cities that want them, and part of it breaks my heart,” she said. “We’ve got these challenges, there’s no question Seattle has grown too fast.”
Durkan said that if city government addresses the challenges that have coincided with Amazon’s growth, “companies will still grow here, want to stay here, want to come here, because Seattle, in my view, still is the coolest city there is.”