As expected, Seattle City Council repeals head tax on 7-2 vote. Next steps uncertain.

The Seattle City Council voted to repeal the controversial head tax, after an hour of a rowdy public hearing. The Seattle Times reports,

In a stunning reversal without parallel in Seattle’s recent political history, the City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to repeal a controversial head tax on large employers like Amazon.

Mayor Jenny Durkan plans to sign the repeal into law.

The vote, ending a raucous special meeting called by Council President Bruce Harrell, came less than a month after the council voted 9-0 to approve the tax of $275 per employee, per year to help fund housing and services for homeless people.

The meeting was marked with chantings and sign-waving, with several speakers escorted from chambers for contempt. 

As the council members voted, they were drowned out by activists who chanted, “Housing is a human right.”

Councilmembers voting to repeal the tax said they still supported it, but felt they would not be able to prevail in a November referendum. And they pledged to continue to seek new revenues to fund homeless services.

…Councilmember Lisa Herbold said she felt like crying but would side with the majority of her colleagues because the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce had managed to persuade “the vast majority” of voters to oppose the tax.

Herbold said she lost hope over the weekend after seeing poll results and talking with advocates. Better to retreat now rather than see voters cancel the tax in November after a bitter, monthlong struggle, she said.

Seattle Met reports that the Chamber welcomes the repeal and will work constructively to identify workable strategies to address homelessness.

“The announcement from Mayor Durkan and the City Council is the breath of fresh air Seattle needs,” Chamber CEO Marilyn Strickland said. “Repealing the tax on jobs gives our region the chance to addresses homelessness in a productive, focused, and unified way.”

As the Times reports, advocates of the tax were angered, betrayed, and disappointed by the council’s reversal.

Anitra Freeman, whose Women in Black group pays respects to people who die on the streets while homeless, described herself as heartbroken Tuesday.

“I thought we had at least five courageous people on the City Council — and I was wrong,” she said at a rally withCouncilmember Kshama Sawant before the meeting.

Sawant and Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda were alone in voting against the repeal, which Sawant called a “cowardly betrayal.” She condemned the action as bowing down to big businesses and as coming with “lightning speed” and “zero accountability” to working people.

…Many remarks were impassioned, with some who went to the microphone attacking the council members as spineless and vowing to vote them out at the next opportunity.

Mayor Jenny Durkan says she’ll sign the bill.

Geek Wire reports on reactions from Amazon and other tech leaders.

“Today’s vote by the Seattle City Council to repeal the tax on job creation is the right decision for the region’s economic prosperity,” Amazon VP Drew Herdener said in the statement. “We are deeply committed to being part of the solution to end homelessness in Seattle and will continue to invest in local nonprofits like Mary’s Place and FareStart that are making a difference on this important issue.”

It’s the first time Amazon has publicly supported the City Council since it began discussing a tax of about $500 per employee, per year on companies with more than $20 million in annual revenue…

Scott Moore, founder and CEO of Ad Lightning and a member of the Clyde Hill City Council, said “the city’s political leadership needs a wake up call.”

“The tech industry is highly adaptable,” he went on. “If Seattle becomes inhospitable, businesses will relocate to friendlier locales. But I would like to see leadership on the homeless issue from the CEOs of major employers as well as from political leaders.”

More coverage of the vote in The Lens