Watchdog group grades city C+ in dealing with business

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Efforts to court Boeing helped lower score

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A consumer watchdog group looked at how well Seattle and the state of Washington deal with corporations and handed the city a report card yesterday. Seattle’s average was a C-plus.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights rated the city on nine criteria, including the prevalence of brand names on buildings, such as KeyArena and Safeco Field, and released the report card at a press conference at the Seattle Labor Hall.

Seattle’s best scores came in the categories public recourse and privacy rights.

The city received near-failing marks — a D for each — in protection of community space and “pay to play,” the influence of corporations and their donations on politics.

“If a fourth-grader came home with a C-plus, you wouldn’t pat him on the back,” said Jamie Court, the group’s executive director. “You’d ask him to do better. Seattle needs to do better.”

The San Francisco-based non-profit surveyed six cities. San Francisco fared best and Los Angeles the worst.

Seattle’s C-plus landed it in third place, behind Portland. Also surveyed: Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Seattle received an A-minus for public recourse because of the relative ease with which voters can put initiatives and referenda on the ballot.

The group noted that the city has recalled two mayors: Hiram Gill in 1911 and Frank Edwards in 1931.

In explaining why the city merited a low mark in “pay to play,” Court talked about the recent effort to court The Boeing Co. and its 7E7 Dreamliner.

“Boeing is a classic example of a corporation that has taken advantage of a city,” he said.

Last month, the Legislature passed a package of incentives that dangle $3.2 billion in tax breaks over 20 years to Boeing.

Barbara Flye, the executive director of Washington Citizen Action, said that the highest estimates claim the 7E7 could result in 20,000 new jobs statewide. That means the state would pay $150,000 per job.

Overall, she said, the state has given more than 430 tax exemptions, costing the state $45 billion in tax revenue. These tax breaks, she said, “exist without significant legislation or legal recourse. We’re just giving away the money.”
P-I reporter Matthew Craft can be reached at 206-448-8126 or [email protected]

Consumer Watchdog
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