Posts Tagged ‘Amazon HQ2’

How Those With Power Use It

March 17, 2019

A recent edition of George Collinet’s Afropop Worldwide covered Quelbe, the traditional music native to St. Croix (the US Virgin Islands). Recent hurricanes Irma and Maria left St. Croix the same as Puerto Rico – neglected, underserved and quickly dismissed and forgotten. Residents of both islands opt to leave for the mainland (as US citizens). Some opt to return which was the case with one woman interviewed on the show. An educator of traditional Croixian culture, she said something to the effect that the hope of the future for the local culture to continue is for the economy to improve. Would an improved economy have that effect on the sustenance and continuance of the native traditions and culture? We are all aware of the Harlem Renaissance but is contemporary gentrification of Harlem having the same effect? And what of Appalachian culture with the exploitation of natural resources boom/bust cycles? Native American culture and casinos? And downtown Newark itself (was there ever a downtown Newark culture)? The list is endless, and international. Following it would result in an anecdotal analysis. How about a theoretic one based on the news of current events and situations? It is history, the rejection of Amazon by the Queens neighborhood of NYC. Business Insider reports Rent in Queens fell after Amazon backed out of plans to build its HQ2 there (Gina Heeb, 3-15-19). “There was a shift in the rental market following Amazon’s February 14 announcement that it was cancelling plans to build its second headquarters in Long Island City, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Inc. and the author of the report.” Does the maintenance, sustainability and predictability of the neighborhood have anything to do with the continuance and sustainability of local culture? 3-16-19 Washington Post headlines Arlington County Board approves $23 million incentives package for Amazon (Patricia Sullivan and Robert McCartney). “The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $23 million incentives package for Amazon to build a headquarters facility in Crystal City at a raucous meeting Saturday repeatedly disrupted by protesters who shouted “shame” and twice forced the board members to briefly leave the room.” “The 5-0 vote was the final action granting local and state subsidies to the online retail giant as part of its much-publicized plan to create at least 25,000 jobs over 12 years in the Northern Virginia suburb.” Analysis would like to say it sounds a lot like Licking County only here the Commissioners are met by raucous silence (OK, occasional Z’s). “In the public hearing, backers argued for the value of the jobs and economic boost they expect Amazon to bring to the county and region. Charles Wagner, a supporter, argued the company would “grow our economy, expand our tax base and diversify our economy away from the federal government.”” The standard trope of the economy “improving” everything heard at countless LC Commissioners meetings. Would that include an “improvement” of local culture? What of continuance and sustenance? “Opponents said Amazon didn’t need or deserve public subsidies, that its arrival would displace low-income communities, and that it had not engaged well with the community. When Kinsey Fabrizio, a member of the Consumer Technology Association, praised Amazon’s outreach to the community, Amazon opponents in the crowd laughed raucously, drawing a rebuke from [Democrat Board Chair Christian] Dorsey. Resident Ibby Han told the board that by supporting Amazon, “You’re just repeating Virginia’s history of prioritizing elites over working people.”” Something completely missing from LC Commissioners meetings. The exchange, that is, not the corporate subsidy. Does traditional local culture spring from the “working people” or from the colonizing “elites”? Obviously economy has a bearing on the environment that fosters culture. The massive upheaval and disruption produced by gentrification results in a definite reconfiguration of that environment, to one maybe even unrecognizable to the original, the “origin” of the traditions grounding the local culture. The multi-story high rises of the Short North have displaced the “creatives” that originated its aura to their new digs in Franklinton (which in turn, as with the Short North, is beginning to displace the marginalized poor that had inhabited there). From whence does culture spring? And what exactly is going on when mega bucks “investors” like Amazon move in? Completely unrelated to economy but pertinent to our inquiry was this news item from the past week: Activist who confronted Chelsea Clinton: She ‘hurt our fight against white supremacy’ (John Bowden for The Hill, 3-16-19) The gist of the story swirled around “In a BuzzFeed op-ed posted Saturday, Rose Asaf and Leen Dweik argued that they spoke to Clinton in a now-viral video clip because they “saw an opportunity to have her ear and confront her on her false charge of anti-Semitism against our only Black, Muslim, Somali, and refugee member of Congress.” Omar is the first member of Congress to wear a headscarf on the House floor, and came to America as a refugee from her home country of Somalia in 1995.” Yet a quote from that op-ed speaks succinctly to our inquiry as to whether an improved economy helps or hurts a traditional local culture: “”To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists. This is not about left and right. This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it.””

What A Concept!

February 24, 2019

In the past year plus, Amazon had courted a vast number of American locations for establishment of its HQ2. When the dust had settled, it announced two HQ2’s – one in the greater DC area, and one in NYC, the borough of Queens to be specific. This came as more than a double whammy to those urban centers who earnestly offered to give all (and more) to have the mega giant’s home (away from home) office in their neighborhood. Popular discontent with the prospect of thousands of more employees, commuters, urban upheaval and displacement due to real estate values rising, gentrification, etc. while infrastructure costs, schools, and medical care, emergency services would receive no commercial Amazon support, created a popular uprising. Amazon withdrew its 2 HQ2 vision (and had to settle for just one). Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her followers were credited (or blamed) for the erasure of the dream (or scheme). Many critiqued the outcome on the usual suspects attributed to “growth” in Licking County by Newark’s GOP mayor, the GOP county commissioners and (the GOP) Grow Licking County – “Jobs!” would bring wealth into the hood and revitalize the neglected economy. In Queens, it isn’t exactly vacant farm fields that would get transformed but the populace recognized early on that their rents would go up, along with their taxes and commute times (even for groceries). Real estate values going up is great for those who own it to make a financial killing (investment), terrible for those who depend on it to stay alive (for their livelihood or as a place to live). Analysis can only find that the folks in Queens could discern the difference. On the other side of the Atlantic an analogous situation exists with the slow motion train wreck called “Brexit.” London has been the traditional financial equivalent of Wall Street (indeed, many Newark consumers have their loan and credit card interest rates tied to the LIBOR rate which finds its home in, you guessed it, London). The various global banks and commercial entities which had their HQ1 (or 2) in London are now exiting. “Which City Is Winning the Race to Be Europe’s Next Finance Hub? None” by Sophia Akram appeared in Ozy (2-24-19). Seems no single European city will take in the financial refugees. Cities like Frankfurt, Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Milan, Amsterdam, etc. have suitors and potential mates but each only a few. No city wants them all. The usual suspects (covered by the AOC confrontation in Queens) are listed: “These growing pains — overpopulated cities, purpose-built towns and spillover into neighboring areas as well as soaring rents and property prices — aren’t surprising, says O’Malley [Eoin O’Malley, associate professor of politics at Dublin City University]. And how governments deal with them could determine whether these cities can truly cash in on the opportunity presented by Brexit, he adds. “Whenever you’re bringing in relatively high-paid jobs, it’s probably displacing the people living in those areas to the outskirts of the city,” says O’Malley. “There’s a lot of pressure on the government to build more social housing, and that’s probably the big issue in Irish politics at the moment.”” Gasp! Government build more housing? What a concept! Try selling THAT to Tim Bubb, Nate Strum or Jeff Hall. “And it will take time for the cities bidding to replace London to be able to fully absorb the incoming demand from foreign firms and professionals. O’Malley says Dublin, for instance, currently lacks adequate affordable housing, transport infrastructure and non-Catholic schooling.” “[Paris] is preparing for what O’Malley warned would become the gentrification that pushes residents from the city to its suburbs. The city, meanwhile, is expanding the Paris metro system to cover a “Greater Paris” metropolitan area.” Double gasp! Metro system expansion? What a concept! Grow Licking County prefers good ole self reliance, thank you (“Nate Strum, economic director of Grow Licking County and the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, said a new effort will focus on unemployed in neighboring counties with higher unemployment.” Mallett, Advocate: Employers thinking outside box on job recruitment, retention, training 2-22-19). The good folks in Queens heeded the USPS motto; “If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.” But the real concept camouflaged in all this (but staring us right in the face) is the dispersion of wealth. Since Occupy back in 2010/11, the public consciousness has grown with regards to wealth distribution and income inequality in the U S and abroad. Most are cognizant and articulate with the 1%, 99%  concept. Locating all the wealth within one sector seems to have been actually undermined by the likes of AOC and the Queens resistance to Amazon’s HQ2. And Brexit, no matter how it turns out, has likewise created a rupture in the concentration of wealth within a limited geographic location. It is a crack, indeed a relatively minor one, but Analysis does find that it makes factual the redistribution and dispersion of wealth, affecting more than just an exceptional few. Triple gasp! Wealth redistribution? What a concept!