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'All of us should be alarmed on either side': Both sides weigh in on head tax repeal

People in favor of the repeal of a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks that was intended to combat a growing homelessness crisis hold signs that read "No Tax on Jobs" as they wait for the start of a Seattle City Council meeting, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, at City Hall in Seattle. Members of the Council were expected to vote Tuesday on whether or not to repeal the tax. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

SEATTLE -- It's not so much the repeal vote itself, but the flip flop; the abrupt reversal of policy that has people on both sides of the debate concerned.

That includes Seattle's Erika Nagy, a Seattle mom-turned-anti-big-business-tax volunteer.

"I think it's alarming, I think all of us should be alarmed on either side of this conversation that they are flip flopping that much," she said. "Two weeks ago, they were utterly confident in their decision and two weeks later, they are trying to backpedal."

On the other hand, even Kailyn Nicholson, a member of the Socialist Alternative and staunch supporter of the tax on large employers set to raise nearly $50 million in a year, there was concern of the decision.

"This move, while it did shock me -- I've never seen a special meeting called in less than 24 hours to repeal a vote taken unanimously just a couple weeks before," she said. "It also doesn't shock me because it seems to be in keeping with interests I have seen the mayor and council represent in the past."

Now, neither feels they can trust the Seattle City Council.

"We'll be back!" chanted tax supporters after the 7-to-2 repeal vote inside council chambers Tuesday. About 300 people turned out for the repeal vote, which came as a surprise to many on Monday.

Nicholson said she has not trusted the council's plan to help the homeless and create affordable housing ever since the city's Navigation Team started shutting down unauthorized homeless encampments. The city estimates there are 400 unauthorized camps.

"Spending a huge chunk on sweeps on homeless encampments rather than actual housing shows they are not spending the money wisely," said Nicholson.

Both woman who differ on the tax give council failing grades so far, pointing out the city's homeless crisis has gotten worse -- not better since a state of emergency was declared in 2015.

"On both sides of the table even with folks on Sawant's side, we are in agreement that the city is not running things properly," said Nagy.

At a morning news conference, councilmember Kshama Sawant said 'Democratic' council members gave in to big corporations. Large employers would have been required to pay $275 per employee per year under the now repealed tax.

"It is a cowardly betrayal of our movement," said Sawant at her rally outside city hall.

On Monday, council president Bruce Harrell admitted council has work to do.

"Before you impose a tax, as significant as the employee hours tax, you have to convince the public that you are using the money wisely and I don't think that persuasion has been there," said Harrell.

When asked about trust concerns, council member Teresa Mosqueda admitted people are frustrated, but says the vote and the repeal have opened the community's eye to the homeless crisis and affordability issues.

Before the repeal, people like Steve Rubstello -- who was one the hundreds who showed up for the council meeting, wants council members on notice - insisting he and others will be watching and waiting.

"I think we can do a whole lot better than we are," he said.

Rubstello and those who addressed council during the public comment period made it clear: It comes down to what council does now.

Seven council members are up for re-election in 2019 -- Nagy said she knows how she's voting.

"I just think they need to resign," said Nagy.

POLL: Are you confident the council will find a new plan to fix the homeless crisis? Answer the poll below or click here.


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