The Seattle City Council may have passed the $275 per employee per year head tax on business, but as far as a growing group of residents and businesses are concerned, the fight isn’t over. Saul Spady, grandson of Dick’s Drive-In founder Dick Spady, is part of an effort to repeal Seattle’s head tax via a petition.
“It’s really a disappointing time, because I think the city just learned that the council isn’t willing to listen to their voice,” Spady told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “But on the other side, I think it’s a really exciting time.”
The movement “has not been led by big business,” according to Spady.
“When there’s 150,000 jobs at risk, everyone wakes up,” he said.
The $47 million head tax will be collected annually for five years. It is slated to combat the city’s homelessness crisis. But Spady does not believe that the money will actually help all that much.
“The city is telling us that for $50 million a year for five years, total, at the end of it, total, we’ll get 360 shelter beds and 500 housing units,” he said.
He pointed out that “encampments have increased every year for the past three years as spending has gone up.”
Saul Spady on Seattle’s homelessness problem
Spady believes that offering homeless people real, long-term solutions to return them to sobriety and work is the only way to get a handle on the homelessness crisis.
“We can’t reject these people that are in our community, but we need to give them fair and equitable options to get back on their feet,” he said. “And that includes temporary jobs, dorm-style housing, and that does include enforcement of the encampment laws that Seattle already has in place.”
If people reject these rehabilitation programs, then a strong enforcement of the laws against encampments is the only option, Spady said.
“We’re the only city of our size [in the nation] not enforcing encampment laws and we have the highest per capita homeless rate,” he said. “Those two things are correlated.”
Spady also noted that the city’s 2019 budget is predicted to fall $30 million short, which could mean that head tax money is used to fill budget gaps rather than fund new programs for the homeless.
Help the petition
The referendum needs 18,000 signatures by June 15. Volunteers are around Seattle with petitions. Anyone interested in downloading blank petition forms and participating can go to the No Seattle Head Tax Facebook page and learn more about how to get involved. All petitions must be printed on 11 x 17 sheets of paper. They have to use blue or black ink.
“We as a community need to stand up … This isn’t liberal or conservative, this isn’t progressive versus Republicans, this is a Seattle issue,” Spady said.