The higher profile names jump off the list include Alison Eisinger, Executive Director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, former interim city council member Kirsten Harris-Talley (Harris-Talley was one of the original proponents of the employee head tax on the council), Downtown Emergency Services Center Director Daniel Malone, and John Burbank, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute—a local progressive think tank which has spearheaded efforts to establish a city income tax.
Still, there are longtime Seattleites who say it’s too little, too late. Take John Burbank, founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a liberal think tank. “While it has led to an economic boom in Seattle, that boom has primarily benefitted tech workers at the top and left everyone else with higher rents, higher property taxes, traffic congestion and a bitter taste in our mouths,” Burbank wrote in a blog post in September. “Amazon has been a sociopathic roommate, sucking up our resources and refusing to participate in daily upkeep.”
Burbank, founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a Seattle-based, left-of-center think tank, writes that, “While [Amazon] has led to an economic boom in Seattle, that boom has primarily benefitted tech workers at the top and left everyone else with higher rents, higher property taxes, traffic congestion and a bitter taste in our mouths. Amazon has been a sociopathic roommate, sucking up our resources and refusing to participate in daily upkeep.”
Unions make a difference. When university employers fall short, unions give academic researchers a tool to address sexual misconduct and unequal treatment. An empowered workforce can deter arbitrary treatment, and this can help ensure long-term career stability—particularly for women and non-binary employees.
Attorney Knoll Lowney, of the Seattle firm Smith & Lowney, rose for the Economic Opportunity Institute to argue that the statute doesn’t apply because “the city’s tax is not a tax on net income.” He added that “it’s an excise tax, not a property tax” to reinforce the contention that the city has the statutory authority to impose it.
Knoll Lowney of the EOI argued that the 1984 law’s tax provision should be ruled unconstitutional because, he argued, the clause on income was hidden inside “a nothing bill about a nothing topic,” specifically an obscure measure concerning the establishment of city-counties. Lawmakers at the time, he said, did not even debate the measure, proof that they didn’t know what they were approving.
“Poor and middle class people are being pushed out" while the city raises revenue with regressive taxes, Knoll Lowney, representing the Economic Opportunity Institute, said in court Friday. "This threatens to make Seattle a home only for the rich."
“We lack funds to address the homelessness crisis, we lack funds to implement our universal pre-k program, we have failing infrastructure and we're barely starting to address the potential of a serious earthquake or climate change, said Knoll Lowney, lawyer for the Economic Opportunity Institute.
Reporter’s Notebook: Yakima Chamber of Commerce keeps wary eye on Seattle City Council tax proposals
John Burbank emphasized that the organization’s focus is maintaining income tax in Seattle, and it isn’t working to pass a similar measure statewide. But he did note that a legal ruling in proponents’ favor could allow other cities to adopt a similar measure. Residents of various cities have also approached Burbank's organization to get traction on a local income tax.
“Yes, charity can definitely be window dressing,” says John Burbank. “To be honest, we shouldn’t expect corporations to put a lot of money into charitable contributions. That’s what we have taxes for. A lot of charity is to make a corporation look good while they’re skipping out on paying taxes. Amazon should be paying their fair share of taxes, so the public can enjoy more opportunity and economic security.”