So How Much Did We Pay For This?

The first I heard of the Amazon HQ2 scheme was a report that focused on the desperate hoops that cities were jumping through to land the deal. My first thought? We certainly won’t be bothering with this. Wrong again, because Amazon had deployed that magic word . . . JOBS!  Never mind that Amazon had long ago been exposed as a terrible place to work.

USA Today: “Amazon is Creating 100,000 U.S. jobs, but at what cost?”

Amazon has a troubling labor history, marred by lawsuits, picketing, grueling work conditions, complaints of management tactics and lower wages.

Salon: “Worse than Walmart: Amazon’s Sick Brutality . . .”

The New York Times: “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.”

Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

These reports have been around for a few years now — don’t our elected officials read newspapers? We don’t want them saying ‘yes’ to everything.  They are supposed to be using their experience and expertise in selecting only those projects worth spending their time and resources on. (I guess I forgot how easily the governor had been swayed by the alluring potential of those minimum-wage, seasonal, ballpark jobs.)

I knew that the Governor had been talking about the Amazon proposal, but I wasn’t going to bother thinking about it, because it was never going to happen. But then the Commerce Corporation released the artist’s renderings from our bid— including this one for Providence — and it could not pass without comment.

This plan is ridiculous! Stage One would be that gargantuan red thing aimed directly at our famously beautiful, architecturally significant, Stanford White-designed, Statehouse. The ensuing two stages, in blue, would hem it in completely, destroying the views of and from the building. These new structures are shown dwarfing all other existing buildings. The red thing is taller, and as long as, the mall.

The Providence Journal notes that three state buildings across Smith Street would have to go, despite all the practical advantages of having government buildings clustered together. And sorry if you are a citizen with business to conduct at the Statehouse, or a hearing to attend, because the public parking lot? Gone.

The Brown Daily Herald adds this interesting tidbit.

In its contribution to the Amazon proposal, the University helped develop the concept for an “Amazon Academy,” a direct response to Amazon’s request for an affiliated higher education program. Rhode Island’s universities would collaborate to develop special opportunities for Amazon employees.

Oh really? How about they do their own job training.

Nobody actually thinks Amazon is choosing Rhode Island . . . nobody, that is, except our deluded Pavlovian governor who heard the “jobs” bell and immediately started salivating.  Does Gina have any idea what makes Providence such a great place to live? We consistently make ‘Best of’ lists that always speak to the architectural fabric, the walk-ability, and the scale of the city. I have never heard anybody complain, If only Providence looked more like downtown Hartford.

Governor Raimondo and her “economic team” should have looked at the specs, looked at the list of other competing cities, and immediately set the whole thing aside. This woman used to run a private equity firm — and by all accounts was pretty good at it — what happened to her brain?  (Hear Gina’s pitch at the web page, “RI for Amazon.” “Rhode Island is a small pond in a big ocean . . .” ???)

Happily, John Oliver has just addressed this very issue, that is the financial race-to-the-bottom that states call economic development. I wish Governor Raimondo would watch “Economic Development” from the latest “Last Week Tonight” but I doubt she even knows who John Oliver is.

Forbes discusses the five cities they think will best match Amazon’s needs: We are not on the list. And under the category of be careful what you wish for, The Washington Post writes, “What would happen if Amazon brought 50,000 workers to your city? Ask Seattle.”

I’m not at all worried that this will come to pass, but I am very worried that our elected officials, and their so-called economic advisers, are exercising such poor judgment and wasting their time and our money on such a pointless proposal.


2 thoughts on “So How Much Did We Pay For This?”

  1. When I talk to outsiders (or event locals) about development in Providence, I usually make the point that if it weren’t for lack of funding in the 1960s … Providence would have looked like Hartford.

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