Let the People Speak, Not Just Financial Capital

Over the past few months, city halls have been competing for the acquisition of the Amazon headquarters. Most prominent have been the tax incentives, with the city of Chicago offering a whopping $1.32 billion, which would mean the rise in rents in an already expensive city. Other areas, like Frisco, have made videos, attempting to entice Jeff Bezos with members of the community, and what amenities the city has to provide to demonstrate what a good choice the company would have made. Missing from this narrative is any discussion on whether the public has any real interest in the company that the cities are trying to persuade, and much of the backlash has been warranted.

No city official has given any indication that the review of Amazon’s treatment of its employees has been read. If a company treats its employees poorly, the cities who worked to absorb those entities will also absorb those bad reputations. In San Francisco, there are Twitter employees who live in their vehicles even though they make six figures. In the city of Austin, there has been a fierce discussion on sick days and company leave; the review of the company revealed that there were several people who were punished because of circumstances involving cancer. Anyone who has ever lived anywhere understands that communities attract the behavior that they wish to represent, and it would be prudent to understand that private entities have demonstrated a lack of interest in being responsible for their behavior.

AMD came to Austin several years back, and it is located in the southwest of town, accessible by one highway, and the neighborhood which surrounds it has no bus access.  For years, Dell received several tax incentives from the city of Austin, even though it is located in Round Rock and it is only accessible by car.  Amazon has offered no location information, and the city is still doing everything to bring it to town. Meanwhile, the rent and cost of living of all Austinites has increased, and all of this was done to bring AMD to town because of the “wonderful jobs” and the “amazing business collaboration.” Thus, the city of Austin considered it appropriate to captivate the attention of companies that not all its constituents can reach without driving, even though the city knows that offering incentives will cost money for those without a car.

Finally, the salaries of the workers has not been mentioned once, and all of the big cities looking to solicit Amazon have enormous problems with inequities. It takes little effort to do an internet search and read stories about how the salaries of the warehouse workers are nowhere near the salaries of the tech workers, yet Amazon enjoys a quality reputation based on its ability to quickly deliver quality items. Apple is also enjoying tax incentives while many of the people who work in its stores barely make enough to cover the cost of living. If a city is willing to invite a company that pays its workers so little, that eventually says more about the city than the company.

Overall, providing tax incentives to large companies demands much more accountability. If a city is interested in presenting packages, it should first host open forums throughout communities and ask what citizens think. The location of the company and the salaries which would be offered should be part of the presentation. If the residents cannot reach those private entities or afford to live in the city as a result, the companies  should not enjoy such excessive attention from people who are willing to marginalize their own constituents in favor of private entities.


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