Open Letter — Business Leaders Speak Out On the Seattle “Head Tax”

Over the weekend an organic movement arose amongst greater Seattle technology and innovation leaders. While they appreciate efforts by others, including the WTIA and Seattle Chamber, to have their voices heard on Seattle City Council’s proposed head tax, they felt it was important to publicly weigh in. This group represents tens of thousands of Seattle jobs and is diverse in many ways. Women and men. CEO’s, investors, and other leaders in the innovation ecosystem. Leaders working for smaller companies (that would not be impacted by the tax) and larger ones. From a broad mix of ethnic and economic backgrounds. And, from a broad mix of political perspectives.
Since the list includes several Madrona portfolio CEO’s, I was asked to publish the full letter and list of signatories here. Thanks for reading and considering the issues raised by this letter signed by over 100 business leaders. And, I hope it is productive to the discussions moving forward.
To the citizens and Councilmembers of the City of Seattle,
As CEOs, leaders, and investors in our region’s growing economy, from businesses small and large, the undersigned are opposed to the Seattle City Council’s proposed “head tax.” We all care deeply about the issues facing the city, and many of us already play an active role in helping. We oppose this tax and recommend an alternate approach.
Seattle is among the fastest growing cities in the U.S., thanks to our culture of innovation and collaboration, our welcoming approach to newcomers, and our profound natural beauty. We all proudly appreciate the benefits of this growth including a 3.1% unemployment rate which is well below Seattle’s 5.4% long term average. We also recognize its challenges. Our city’s infrastructure and public services must expand to support a growing population that expanded by 64,000 in 2016, and rising housing costs and homelessness affect our entire community. These problems won’t solve themselves. It will take collaboration and dialogue to come up with innovative solutions to maintain a thriving economy in our wonderful city.
The City Council’s proposal for a “head tax” is not a solution. Instead of a strategic plan to address growth, the Council has proposed to tax only 3% of our city’s largest business, charging them a flat rate per worker they hire, making businesses pay a price for creating jobs. This is like telling a classroom that the students who do the most homework will be singled out for detention.
We oppose this approach, because of the message it sends to every business: if you are investing in growth, if you create too many jobs in Seattle, you will be punished. Sending this message to entrepreneurs, investors, and job creators will cause far greater damage to Seattle’s growth prospects than the direct impact on the businesses being taxed. Not all of the undersigned are directly impacted by this tax, yet we all agree it is a bad idea.
A proper approach would combine evaluating the need for additional expenditures beyond the city’s 17.4% increase the past 3 years, tax revenue increases based on an optimal mix of taxes, a prioritized spending plan to address both housing and infrastructure, as well as new zoning and related policies to reduce the costs of housing and construction.
We are all aware of the challenges our city faces. As leaders in Seattle’s business community, it is our shared responsibility to offer solutions, not just criticism. We ask the City Council to set aside the misguided “head tax,” and to engage us in more dialogue. We will gladly help convene our city’s business leaders, labor leaders, and Council members, to collectively design a plan that works for all groups. We can also learn from how other cities have succeeded or failed to manage similar growth. We are not the first city to cope with hyper-growth; let’s learn from the best ideas of those before us.
Our city is stronger when we work together to find solutions that meet everybody’s needs. Let’s join forces to make a plan that sustains the growth our city is proud of, while also addressing the problems of housing, homelessness and infrastructure. That is what great cities do — let’s show our community and the world what Seattle can do together!
Signed,
Aaron Bird, Bizible, Founder & CEO
 Aaron Easterly, Rover.com
 CEOAdam Selipsky, Tableau, CEO
 Adam Wray, AstrumU, CEO
 Andy Dale, Montlake Capital, Managing Partner
 Andy Liu, Unlock Venture Partners, Partner
 Andy Sack, Founders Co-op, Co-founder
 Arif Kareem, Extrahop, CEO
 Barry Crist, Chef Software, CEO
 Ben Slivka, Dreambox, Founder
 Bill McAleer, Managing Director, Voyager Capital
 Bill Owens, Red Bison LLC, Co-founder
 Bill Richter, Qumulo, CEO
 Bob Kelly, Ignition Partners, Managing Partner
 Bob Nelsen, Arch Venture Partners, Managing Director
 Bob Ratliffe, Silver Creek Capital, President
 Brad C Kleinfelder, Plateau Software, Inc., Founder
 Brad Jackson, Slalom Consulting, CEO
 Brad Silverberg, Fuel Capital, Co-founder
 Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines, CEO
 Brent Frei, Smartsheet & TerraClear, Founder
 Bryan Trussel, Glympse, Founder & Chairman
 Chad Robins, Adaptive Biotechnologies, Founder & CEO
 Chia Chin Lee, BigBox VR, Inc., CEO
 Chris Ackerley, Ackerley Partners, Partner
 Chris DeVore ,Founders’ Co-op, Managing Partner
 Chris Jostol, Mechanical Sales, Inc., President
 Christopher Young, ChefSteps, Co-founder & CEO
 Clayton Lewis, Arivale, CEO
 Dan Lewis, Convoy, CEO
 Dan Sheeran, Healthslate, CEO
 Dan Todd, Influence Mobile, CEO
 Daryn Nakhuda, Mighty AI, CEO
 Dave Cotter, MessageYes, CEO
 Dave Parker, DKParker, LLC, Managing Partner
 David Naffziger, BrandVerity, Inc., CEO
 Dawn LePore, Drugstore.com, Former CEO
 Dhiren Fonseca, Centares, Partner
 Doug Ray, HarborTech Mobility Inc., Founder & President
 Doug Sackville, Commercial Office Interiors, President
 Dylan Dias, Neal Analytics, CEO & Managing Consultant
 Ed Lazowska, University of Washington CSE, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair
 Eric Anderson, Planetary Holdings, Chairman
 Ethan Caldwell, Marchex, Co-founder
 François Locoh-Donou, F5 Networks, CEO
 Galen Smith, Redbox, CEO
 Grant Canary, DroneSeed, CEO
 Grant Ries, LiveRamp B2B, CEO
 Greg Gottesman, Pioneer Square Labs, Co-Founder
 Hadi Partovi, Code.org, Founder & CEO
 Hans Bjordahl, Culture Foundry, CEO
 Heather Redman, Flying Fish Partners, Co-Founder & Managing Director
 J Scott Codespoti, Paradoxes, Inc., Founder & CEO
 Jason LaBaw, Bonsai Media Group, CEO
 Jason Leekeenan, TraceMe, CEO
 Jay Reitz, Axon, Seattle Office Lead
 Jeff Hussey, Tempered Networks, Inc., CEO
 Jeff Malek, Code Fellows, CEO
 Jesse Proudman, Strix Leviathan, CEO
 Jim Gaherity, Coinstar, CEO
 Jim O’Brien, O’Brien Business GRP, CEO
 Joe Heitzeberg, CrowdCow, CEO
 John Connors, Ignition Partners, Managing Partner
 John Gabbert, Pitchbook, CEO
 John Maffei, Matcherino, CEO
 John Stanton, Trilogy Partners, Founder
 Jon Matsuo, Koverse, CEO
 Jon Roskill, Acumatica, CEO
 Jonathan Sposato, PicMonkey, Founder & Chairman
 Kendall Kunz, Forms On Fire, Inc., Founder & CEO
 Kevin Gemeroy, Dynamic Computing, CEO
 Kiran Bhageshpur, Igneous, CEO
 Kirby Winfield, Ascend.vc, Managing Member
 Kristen Hamilton, Koru, Co-founder & CEO
 Kurt Shintaffer, Apptio, CFO
 Lauren Neiswender, Blue Nile, General Counsel
 Manny Medina, Outreach, CEO
 Mark Britton, Avvo, Founder & CEO
 Mark Hadland, Level 11, CEO
 Mark Liffmann, Omnidian, Inc., CEO
 Mark Okerstrom, Expedia, CEO
 Mark W. Meyer, CodeSmart, Inc., President
 Mary Snyder, Seattle Luxury Homes, Founding Partner
 Matt McIlwain, Madrona Venture Group, Managing Director
 Michael Schutzler, WTIA, CEO
 Mike Howell, Dolly, CEO
 Mike Metzger, Payscale, CEO
 Nancy Heen, Axelerate, LLC, CEO
 Nick Huzar, OfferUp, CEO
 Nikesh Parekh, Suplari, CEO & Co-Founder
 Oren Etzioni, Allen Institute for AI, CEO
 Paula Reynolds, Prefer West, CEO
 Peder Schmitz, Columbia Pacific Wealth Management, Co-founder
 Penny Milliken, HeR Interactive, CEO
 Pete Christothoulou, Inspo Network, Co-founder & CEO
 Peter Hamilton, TUNE, CEO
 Peter Neupert, Adaptive Biotech, Fred Hutch, LabCorp, Board Director
 Rahul Sood, Unikrn, CEO
 Raj Singh, Accolade, CEO
 Raja Narayana, Aditi, CEO
 Rob Eleveld, Whitepages, Inc., CEO
 Rob Glaser, RealNetworks, Chairman & CEO
 Rob Lilleness, SmartLabs, CEO
 Robbie Cape, 98point6, Co-founder & CEO
 Robert Lehr, Evergreen ID Systems, President
 Robert Nelsen, Arch Venture Partners, Managing Director
 Rudy Gadre, Founders Co-op, General Partner
 Sean Muller, iSpot.tv, CEO
 Sethu Kalavakur, Tavour, CEO
 Shauna Swerland Youssefnia, Fuel Talent, CEO
 Sheila Gulatti, Tola Capital, Managing Director
 Spyro Kourtis, The Hacker Group, CEO
 Sridhar Chandrashekar, Optio3, Inc., Co-founder & CEO
 Srikant Vemparala, 9Logic Technologies, President
 Stead Burwell, Swisslog Healthcare, EVP
 Steinar Sande, Raima Incorporated, CEO
 Steve Banfield , ReachNow, CEO
 Steve Murch, BigOven, CEO
 Steve Shivers, Doxo, CEO
 Steve Singh, Docker, Chairman & CEO
 Sujal Patel, Isilon Systems & Ignite Bio, Founder & CEO
 Sunny Gupta, Apptio, CEO
 Ted Ackerley, Ackerley Partners, Managing Partner
 Terry Drayton, Livible, Founder & CEO
 Thomas Gobeille, NCA , President & CEO
 Thor Culverhouse, Skytap, CEO
 Tim Sooter, Legal+Plus Software Group, Inc., CEO
 Todd Hooper, Vreal, Inc., Founder & CEO
 Todd Owens, Azuqua, CEO
 Tom Alberg, Madrona Venture Group, Managing Director
 Tom Serry, RealSelf, Founder & CEO
 Tom Taft, Laurel Group, Managing Partner

Media coverage of this letter

King5 — Alaska Airlines, Expedia denounce head tax in letter to Seattle Council

Geekwire — 130 tech leaders warn Seattle officials new tax sends dangerous message: ‘If you create too many jobs … you will be punished’

Bloomberg — Seattle Executives Join Opposition to New Tax to Fund Housing

Seattle Times — Wide range of Seattle businesses speak out against head tax proposal

MyNorthwest — 130 Seattle executives sign letter opposing head tax

KIRO — Local businesses oppose head tax in letter to City Council

KUOW — 131 businesses — but not Amazon — sign letter opposing head tax

Seattle PI — Connelly: Employee head tax is brainless policy, Chamber sponsored analysis

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