Is Amazon’s message to Seattle City Council a wake-up call? Whom will it awaken?

The Seattle Times writes that Amazon’s response to the Seattle City Council’s  proposed head tax will resonate nationally. Noting the company’s decision to suspend development plans in the city pending the resolution of the head tax controversy, the Times reports local reaction,

Jon Scholes, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, which works closely with Amazon on city issues, said the company’s workforce of software developers is more mobile than manufacturing-company employees or Boeing engineers.

“I don’t think this is a company that bluffs,” he said.

Other cities are taking notes.

Amazon’s blowback also echoes a note it sounded in announcing a search for a second headquarters: the importance it places on a stable, business-friendly climate.

Sam Bailey, a vice president of greater Denver’s economic-development body, has been following the head-tax debate in Seattle. Amazon’s move, he said, didn’t come as a surprise.

“Communities that are competing for HQ2 are sensitive to the fact that Amazon wants some certainty,” Bailey said.

We suspect that’s the right lens with which to view the current flap. Amazon is not unusual in wanting a stable business climate. A consultant with Anderson Economic Group puts the concern in context.

I wonder whether it is the actual cost of the employee head tax or whether it’s more of having a predictable and business-friendly environment to operate their business in,” Jason Horwitz, a senior consultant at Anderson. The more important factor, he said, “might be the latter.”

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wonders whether the message can penetrate the “civic skull.”

We need to get it through our sappy heads: Our relationship is a cold business calculation for them. Our leaders need to start treating it like one, too, instead of an ideological crusade.

Speaking of our leaders: Thank you, Amazon, for highlighting that Seattle doesn’t have any right now. The most revealing part about this story is that City Hall was startled to learn the town’s largest employer doesn’t like a policy proposal that was a year in the works.

That’s governing negligence.

And the Times editorial board agrees the council is headed in the wrong direction.

City Hall is finally hearing, loud and clear, that the community has lost patience with its ideological tax crusades and lost faith in its ability to manage the homeless crisis…

There is no middle ground or clever policy fix available this time. [Mayor Jenny] Durkan must veto the head tax if it passes the council.

This extraordinarily large and punitive jobs tax, coming on top of Seattle’s existing heavy taxation of business and a series of anti-business policy moves, is now a line in the sand. The problem is not just the tax itself but overall uncertainty about whether Seattle is a reasonable and predictable place to do business.

The editorial concludes with the wry observation that if Amazon stops growing in Seattle, tax revenues and employment will shrink.

City Hall won’t be able to continue spending on social services, pensions and discretionary programs at their current levels, at which point council members will truly have reason to clutch their chests.

Politicians who make such a bad choice will probably lose their jobs — and there will be less opportunity to find another one in Seattle.