I’ve been fairly vocal in my support of the repeal of the Head Tax on social networks like Nextdoor; the first step is to get a referendum on the ballot in November.

I think giving the people a chance to repeal the Head Tax is the right idea. Our City Council has gone off the rails with this and it’s time we send a signal.

A neighbor on Nextdoor asked a great question of me today:  could I take the other side, and help better explain the arguments FOR the Head Tax (at least as I understand them?)

That’s a totally reasonable question.  In fact, it’s not only reasonable, but it’s an important exercise in thinking through where you come down on this issue.  I’ve always felt, and tried to impart to my kids, that we don’t really fully understand an issue or controversy until we can articulate the other side’s point of view honestly.

Easy solutions where everyone agrees don’t become controversies.

By the time something becomes a major controversy, there are usually honest, intelligent and well-intentioned people on each side of this issue.

I’ve posted the SEIU “Decline To Sign” Flyer on the Head Tax above, which I think has many inaccuracies, which I’ll get to in a future post.

But most honest champions of the Head Tax will make their case by saying:

(a) we must have affordable housing in any solution, far more than we currently have, and it’s expensive. And their underlying that view is generally that

(b) the funds for it must come from new sources, not existing ones. They will say that since

(c) Seattle has a highly regressive tax structure,

(d) asking businesses to contribute funding for this need is appropriate and less regressive, because

(e) business growth has been a primary driver of housing prices and

(f) thus homelessness. Many will also concede that

(g) our solutions tried thus far haven’t worked but that this approach is a new one that is likely to have better results. Since the petition basically says “let the citizens have a direct say,” some others may point out that

(h) we elected this City Council, they voted 9-0 and the Mayor has signed it, so let them do their job in representing us.

I think (a)-(h) each have valid challenges to the assumptions made, and over time I’ll address how valid each assumption is.


Steve's career has included leadership and entrepreneurship in consumer apps, online travel, games, relational databases, consulting and telecommunications. Steve founded BigOven, the first recipe app for iPhone, now with more than 13 million downloads, which was purchased in 2018. Steve served as Chairman of Escapia Inc., the leading SaaS solution for the US vacation rental industry, now part of Expedia. Steve was co-founder, President, CEO and Chairman of VacationSpot, a pioneer in the online reservation of vacation rentals, bought by Expedia in January 2000. At Expedia, Steve was Vice President of Vacation Packages, leading the vacation package and destination services teams, helping to create two patents on the first-ever dynamic vacation packaging system on the Internet, which now represents billions in annual transactions for Expedia. Steve has keynoted on several occasions at the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) and taught a course on the management of innovation at the University of Washington Graduate Business School in Seattle, Washington. Steve worked for Microsoft from 1991 to 1997 in a variety of senior marketing and executive positions, and led the creation of the internet games group, helping develop several products and patents related to online multiplayer gaming. He helped launch Microsoft Access and was involved in the acquisition of Fox Software by Microsoft in 1993. He's worked for IBM, Booz-Allen Hamilton and Bell Communications Research. Steve holds an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University in Symbolic and Heuristic Computation (AI), an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he was named a George F. Baker Scholar (awarded to top 5% of graduating class), and a dual BS in Applied Mathematics / Computer Science and Industrial Management from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) with University Honors. Steve volunteers when time allows with Habitat for Humanity, University District Food Bank, YMCA Seattle, Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and SPEAK OUT Seattle, among other groups.

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