Puget Sound Business Journal
Seattle politicians to Amazon: ‘We would like to hit the refresh
Oct 16, 2017, 2:52pm PDT Updated: Oct 17, 2017, 11:52am PDT
A group of Seattle politicians including city council members, state
lawmakers and Port of Seattle commissioners sent a letter to
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and real estate chief John Schoettler asking
to “hit the refresh button” and create a new, more collaborative
Amazon in September announced a request for proposals for a
second headquarters that would be equal to the facilities it has in
“We understand there are many reasons for your decision to
potentially site HQ2 in a different city,” begins the letter, obtained by
the Business Journal. “To the extent that this decision was based on Amazon feeling unwelcome in Seattle,
or not being included in some of our regional decisions, we would like to hit the refresh button.”
The politicians proposed creating a joint task force including Amazon, other small and large businesses
and governments to improve the region’s challenges including transportation, freight mobility, safety,
public health investments and educational opportunities.
The following Seattle politicians signed on to the letter:
Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw
Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell
Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold
Seattle City Council member Lorena Gonzalez
Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson
Washington State Sen. Reuven Carlyle
Washington State Rep. Judy Clibborn
Washington State Sen. Guy Palumbo
Washington State Sen. Jamie Pedersen
Washington State Rep. Javier Valdez
King County Council member Rod Dembowski
King County Council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles
King County Council Chairman Joe McDermott
Port of Seattle Commissioner Tom Albro
Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman
Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton
Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire
“Those of us who are signing onto this letter want you to know we have heard you. We also want you to
stay with us and grow with us, both in Seattle and with our sister cities across the state,” the letter said.
Noticeably missing from the letter are council members Kshama Sawant, Mike O’Brien, Kirsten Harris-
Talley and Debora Juarez. O’Brien and Harris-Talley last week proposed a new per-employee tax on Seattle
employers who bring in more than $5 million in gross revenue. Amazon would pay about $4 million a year
under the new tax.
“I would love a break from (Amazon’s) growth to create a little more diversity,” O’Brien told the Business
Journal when asked about the company’s HQ2 plans.
Amazon gave an Oct. 19 deadline for North American cities to submit responses to the RFP. Many
Washington cities and counties plan to submit bids.
Read the full letter:
Dear Mr. Bezos and Mr. Schoettler,
We understand there are many reasons for your decision to potentially site HQ2 in a different
city. To the extent that this decision was based on Amazon feeling unwelcome in Seattle, or not
being included in some of our regional decisions, we would like to hit the refresh button.
You have heard mixed messages from our community, whether it stems from comments in our
local newspapers or comments from elected officials who have differing views and positions that
are less than collaborative.
This does not leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth.
Those of us who are signing onto this letter want you to know we have heard you. We also want
you to stay with us and grow with us, both in Seattle and with our sister cities across the state.
To begin a new relationship, we want to form a true partnership, and realign how we live and
work with you in our community. We can do this by targeting identified needs and agree on
solutions that are achievable within a defined schedule.
As a first step, let’s create a joint task force that will use data to drive results on topics such as
transportation, freight mobility, safety, public health investments, educational opportunities and
more. We invite you to join us as partners. We will include other businesses large and small, as
well colleagues from our schools, labor, and other governments in our region. We should invite
neighborhood and community leaders too. Here’s what we propose and we welcome you to add
to the list below:
1. Transportation: Getting to and from South Lake Union and Downtown is congested and
getting worse. We suggest creating a tactical group that includes Metro, Sound Transit, SDOT,
WSDOT and IT innovators such as the TASKAR group at the University of Washington School of
Engineering. The city can also dedicate planners to work on the project. Let’s work together to
map out the current commute patterns of your employees and identify potential infrastructure
and transit solutions. Let’s mine the data, target decisions about bus and bike routes, make sure
our drivers and pedestrians have safe connections through innovative solutions, and move
everyone to and through the corridor predictably and swiftly.
2. Freight Mobility: We are relying on package deliveries more than ever in our city. We know that
problems arise for delivery trucks in the last 50 feet and that improving dwell time is critical. We
propose including Amazon drivers, UPS, Fed Ex and other freight leaders to creatively solve
these issues. We can look to our IT innovators to help with apps to schedule delivery times and
reserve spaces on our streets. Much data has already been collected; your involvement and that
of other experts will lead us to faster solutions across the city and region.
3. Public Safety: In a 24/7 economy, public safety is an around the clock concern. We propose to
convene a work group that includes your employees, neighborhood residents and workers, your
security staff and the West Precinct leadership to address daytime and nighttime safety
concerns. Let’s develop a plan that increases security through CPTED principles (Crime
Prevention Through Environmental Design), and increases positive activation on the sidewalks
and streets. We already do this in other neighborhoods; we can do this in South Lake Union too.
4. The Gig Economy: The gig economy is proliferating and more of our workforce is made up of
employees who are contract workers. Amazon is a visionary leading the evolution of this new
model of work, and we would like to be on the forefront of helping this new workforce thrive in
Seattle and beyond. An estimated 33% of workers now are in non-standard employment, and
contract workers do not have the same rights nor are they protected by many of our labor
laws. We would like to work with you, other employers, employees and contract workers to
establish new policies around fair work, schedules, and livable wages.
5. Public Education: We agree with Jeff Wilke’s recent statements about a recognized need for
local communities to promote the STEM fields in middle and high school. We have already
reached out to Seattle Public Schools Superintendent and Board members and invited them to
the table. We would like you to join us to develop curricula and internship programs that open
doors for generations of Seattle children — whether they are born here, they have immigrated
here, or English is their second language. We want to expand access across our city to science,
technology, and the arts. We can build on models such as the Dual System in Germany that
provide options for every student to gain the skills to go to work and be productive whether on
the factory floor, in an office, or in a college or university.
We want to build and align these opportunities for apprenticeship programs, internships, and
certificate programs through Seattle Public Schools and our local colleges and university. We
want to work with you, our students, and other interested partners from business, labor, industry,
colleges and universities and more. We can create opportunities for every student to maximize
his or her earning power right out of high school. What we need is determined leadership within
our community and some deadlines.
These ideas are just the beginning. We want to be your partners and reset the creative and
economic environment in South Lake Union as well as for neighborhoods across our city and
region. Our ears are wide open and we look forward to hearing from you.
We wish you all the best.
Puget Sound Business Journal