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Indy council member: Amazon bidding war is 'race to the bottom'

March 22, 2018

An Indianapolis City-County Council member has signed onto a pact with two other council members from the cities of New York and Austin, Texas, to oppose the “tax-break bidding war that Amazon has begun at the expense of the public” as it hunts for the location of its future second headquarters.

EvansJared Evans

Jared Evans, a Democrat who represents District 22, on the west side of the city, said he wasn’t necessarily against Indianapolis’ bid to land the  massive Amazon HQ2 project, but he is against what he describes as a “race to the bottom.”

Amazon received proposals from more than 238 cities or areas across the country for its proposed second corporate seat, a project that's expected to cost more than $5 billion and create 50,000 high-paying jobs over the next 10 to 15 years. Indianapolis was named to the top 20 list of finalists in January, as were New York City and Austin.

Experts estimate it might take an incentive package worth as much as $1 billion to lure the project.

“I’m absolutely against this process that Amazon has created, and what from my perception looks like they want every city and state to basically hand over” massive tax breaks, Evans said.

Evans joined Brad Lander of the New York City-County Council and Greg Casar of the Austin City Council, in signing a “mutual non-aggression pact” initiated by urban studies professor Richard Florida, who works at the University of Toronto.

"Tax giveaways and business location incentives offered by local governments are often wasteful and counterproductive, according to a broad body of research," the petition says. "Such incentives do not alter business location decisions as much as is often claimed, and are less important than more fundamental location factors."

Nearly 100 academics, urbanists and policy experts signed the petition.

A letter promoting the petition from Casar, Lander and Evans calls for the 20 finalist locations to “refuse to authorize massive subsidies to Amazon for their second headquarters.”

“Instead of pressuring our cities to offer the biggest possible tax-break package, Amazon should make real commitments to our communities such as investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and living wage jobs,” the letter says.

Evans said his constituents are tired of government shelling out big tax breaks to corporations.

“I’m not sure if taxpayers are OK with this anymore,” Evans said. “How much are we really willing to put toward this when we don’t even have the appropriate funding for our infrastructure and our roads?”

Evans said he got a little push back from some fellow members of the Indianapolis City-County Council about promoting the petition.

He said he “didn’t really advocate” for other council members to sign.

“There are some councilors who [said], 'What are you doing?'” Evans said. “I’m speaking my mind. I want it to be known I’m not comfortable."
 

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