Today's front page headline story in the Times is about Amazon, "a virtual no-show in hometown philanthropy."
The story points out that while it even took the Gates Foundation awhile to start opening its vast pockets, Amazon still hasn't. Their model?
"Our core business activities are probably the most important thing we do to contribute, as well as our employment in the area," Bezos told The Times.
In a 2010 interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, Bezos expressed doubt that philanthropy was the best way to solve social problems.
"I'm convinced that in many cases, for-profit models improve the world more than philanthropy models, if they can be made to work."
For example, he thinks inventing the Kindle brings more reading opportunities to people worldwide. Discuss that statement.
But frankly, I guess if Amazon continues to grow, employ and be good employers, that is a good thing for our city.
From the story:
In 2009, the construction of Amazon's South Lake Union headquarters was considered a pivotal event in Seattle's history. Amazon not only would change the physical face of the neighborhood, said then-Mayor Greg Nickels, but it also represented a new economic hope for the city in the midst of the Great Recession.
The official groundbreaking ceremony, on a bright April morning, drew the mayor and the governor. Notably missing were Bezos or any other Amazon executives.
It wasn't the first or last time that people in the community would be left wondering: Where is Amazon?
It would seem that Amazon is feeling the pressure as this was also in the story:
In the past year — as The Seattle Times began looking into its charitable giving and shortly after Drago questioned Bezos at the company's annual shareholder meeting — Amazon reached out to more than 30 local nonprofits, offering volunteers, in-kind donations and small, often unsolicited, cash contributions.
Amazon gave between $1,000 and $10,000 to a wide array of local nonprofits, from the Pike Place Market Foundation to the Rainier Valley Food Bank.
Of course, it is easy and cheap to hand out out $1,000-10,000 here and there but I'm sure those groups absolutely appreciated it.
So why do I bring this up?
Because I'm pretty sure that Amazon, along with the Paul Allen company, Vulcan, are responsible for the pressure the district seems to be getting for a South Lake Union elementary school.
You may recall that I reported that two City officials came to the BEX Oversight Committee meeting two months ago with graphs and maps and why they need a school. (It did come out to be a chicken or egg type thing; if you build it, will there be enough students to fill and how long would that take?)
Now don't get me wrong - I think someday soon, we will need a downtown elementary (or K-8/middle school) and a high school. Vancouver, B.C. has at least one elementary downtown. It's a swell idea.
But it is NOT part of our problem of capacity management and the district has no business setting aside $32M in the BEX IV budget for a downtown elementary. It's in every single scenario of the BEX IV preliminary plans.
We have way too many other REAL problems to address and that means EXISTING schools with many facilities AND capacity management problems.
So I read this article and think, so it's the district job to jump when these big businesses snap their fingers? It is not and I certainly hope that if the Mayor and City Council are hearing this from those businesses, then THEY can get together and figure it out.
If Amazon and Vulcan need a school to help keep the best talent, then THEY can set aside a couple of floors in one of their new buildings and lease it cheaply to the district. Then I have no problem with the district setting up the infrastructure for a new school.
But the district does not have the need, the time nor the money to find land, build an elementary and run it for South Lake Union. It would be a slap in the face to every single crowded school or run-down school in our district.