Amazon is not good for Baltimore

The gushing editorial in The Sun ("Port Covington is the right fit for Amazon HQ2," Sept. 8) demonstrates the contempt that the writer has for the city of Baltimore and continues The Sun's endorsement of the looting of our public treasury. The editorial praises the possibility that the new Amazon headquarters, which might employ 50,000 people, could be located at Port Covington, "where Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Development has already amassed land, secured the public approvals and started work."

The editorial neglects to mention that Amazon wants enormous "tax incentives" so the deal would probably cost Baltimore more than it would benefit us — and by "Baltimore," I mean those of us who live here, who use public services, who send our children to public schools. The editorial proclaims that Baltimore land is great for new development because "all of the potentially messy fights about public subsidies for infrastructure have already been resolved."


Yeah, they've been resolved by stripping Baltimore City of essential tax revenues so that whole areas of the city are desolate or abandoned and we look like a third-world country, with a Gold Coast and exclusive suburbs. Port Covington has received approval for $660 million in public support, and how has Baltimore improved?

Amazon has already sopped up various public subsidies around the country, totaling $613 million for 40 of the 77 warehouses, like the one on Broening Highway in Baltimore, it built between 2005-2014. According to a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, additional subsidies for Amazon data centers were about $147 million.


That's money that could be, and should be, spent on public services, not shifted to the private pockets of the enormously wealthy owners of the corporations.

The personal wealth of Amazon owner Jeff Bezos is estimated to be more than $83 billion—yes, billion — so he certainly needs and deserves public assistance. In comparison, Kevin Plank is a pauper, with a personal wealth of only $2.4 billion. See ya in the food stamp line, guys.

More importantly, the growth of Amazon in Seattle has devastated the city, with real estate prices soaring so high that "normal" people cannot afford to live there any longer. Is this what we want for Baltimore, which already has Gold Coast neighborhoods without affordable housing? As one significant response, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a new tax on income over $250,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a family to try to recover lost public income. This modest surcharge may even have motivated Amazon's executive to look around for greener pastures.

The consequences of these enormous corporate welfare schemes are obvious. In Baltimore, the school system faced a deficit of $129 million and threatened to lay off 1,000 teachers. Officials went begging to the state for more money, rather than tax the wealthy in a gesture of financial self-reliance, but this was not a City Council that supports our public school system.

Another story in The Sun, about racial covenants in Rodgers Forge ("Residents of Towson neighborhood confront racist legacy of covenants," Sept. 10) was significant because, repeatedly, new residents remark that they moved to the neighborhood because of good schools and because taxes are lower than in Baltimore City.

How many new residents move into Baltimore City because of the public school system?

How many move into Baltimore City because taxes are higher?

How many move into Baltimore City because of the decimated Parks and Rec department?

How many move into Baltimore City to pay for major sewer upgrades with hefty add-ons to our water bills?

How many move into Baltimore City because of our superb public transportation system?

How many of those 50,000 new Amazon workers in the area would want to live in Baltimore City?

Not many. Maybe none.


In fact, the city is losing population, isn't it? People "vote" with their feet, or with their moving vans.

How about we tax these rich moguls and their developments at the same rate of property tax that I pay for my private home? The trickle down theory of economics is not working.

Of course, shifting the economics of the city would require a whole new City Council and administration. The council members, always grateful for receiving campaign donations and other treats from the wealthy developers, will not challenge the inequalities and defend our children's right to an education, decent housing and recreation facilities.

Amazon — we can't afford you.

Bill Barry, Baltimore

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