By the Editorial Board
On the face of it, it sounds ridiculous—giving nearly $3 billion in deals to one of the richest companies in the world.
If you judge this book by its cover—as many progressive Democrats already have done—it is easy to conclude that this is a bad deal for the people. We’ve seen these takes fly around social media: people calling for this $3 billion to be spent on the subways, or on relieving student debt.
These are noble ideas. There are real concerns, being echoed from Seattle to the City Council chambers. The problem is that they are coming from an assumption that Amazon is already screwing over the city and the state. It is not. And it won’t if elected officials who are up in arms start playing a more strategic game.
It starts with those officials’ coming up with their Amazon wish list.
At this week’s press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Amazon will bring in $13.5 billion in tax revenue over the next 25 years. Instead of complaining about being shut out of the process, City Council members should start spending that money. If you want to provide college graduates with student debt relief, work it into next-year’s budget. If you want better subways, put forth a 10-year plan that spends the incoming revenue from the expanded tax base and economic impact of Amazon and its employees. You want Amazon to hire local talent and provide mentorship programs within and throughout the local and ethnically diverse neighborhoods of western Queens? Then make it easier for the company to do so by giving it specifics about how to go about it—and make it clear you will blast it publicly if it doesn’t.
Opposing Amazon outright increasingly seems like a lost cause, considering the lengths the governor and mayor have gone to win the company and circumvent the normal practices of state and city government. Many of the city’s politicians seem to have come to this same conclusion, falling back on the general idea that they are upset about the lack of transparency and worried about Amazon’s history of treating its workers poorly.
This is a fight they can’t win. So if they want to win the larger battle against corporate subsidies, they should start thinking a few steps ahead.
We suggest the first step should be developing an Amazon wish list for the next decade. Over the next several months, the Tribune will be working to create a platform for community, government and business interests to discuss the best pathway forward.