Arts and culture

Reduce city subsidies pledged to billionaire Paul Allen.

Reduce the hundreds of millions in corporate welfare the city has pledged (with no public vote) to billionaire Paul Allen's projects in South Lake Union.


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  1. Comment
    Community Member

    Agreed! I recall how the city council squandered $24 million in tax funds on subsidizing construction of the South Lake Union streetcar line. That money could have been used for citywide needs and services instead of being wasted on another vanity project (Experience Music Project, anyone?) for one billionaire who doesn't live in the city and doesn't need or deserve more corporate welfare.

  2. Comment
    Community Member

    Definitely Allen and his Vulcan Corporation don't warrant or deserve more public funding. Since getting about $300 million from state and local residents to build Seahawks Stadium, Vulcan has reneged on its agreement to open the stadium finances for public inspection. Also it hoodwinked the city of Portland by establishing a subsidiary company that declared bankruptcy rather than keep its end of a public-private agreement to help improve the Portland Trailblazers neighborhood.

  3. Comment
    Community Member

    Google "The $12 billion education of Paul Allen" and read the 2004 Business Week article by that title. Other than owning a fortune in Microsoft stock, Allen's business legacy seems to be one of failure.

  4. Comment
    Community Member

    Allen's PR staff makes a big deal out of praising him as a visionary business leader and contributor to the common good. I think his legacy will be one of taking and wasting taxpayer resources every chance he gets.

  5. Comment
    Community Member

    The Seattle Weekly ran a big article about all the public welfare to Vulcan for Seahawks Stadium, but the article appears to have been scrubbed from both the Weekly archives and the whole internet. I encourage going to for a half-hour interview with the article's writer. The search term for viewing the interview is "How Paul Allen Sacked Seattle."

  6. Comment
    Community Member

    The Seattle Weekly ran a big article about all the public welfare to Vulcan for Seahawks Stadium, but the article appears to have been scrubbed from both the Weekly archives and the whole internet. I encourage going to for a half-hour interview with the article's writer. The search term for viewing the interview is "How Paul Allen Sacked Seattle."

  7. Comment
    Community Member

    The Seattle Weekly ran a big article about all the public welfare to Vulcan for Seahawks Stadium, but the article appears to have been scrubbed from both the Weekly archives and the whole internet. I encourage going to for a half-hour interview with the article's writer. The search term for viewing the interview is "How Paul Allen Sacked Seattle."

  8. Comment
    Community Member

    Sorry for the accidental triple post of my above comment. I hate when that happens.

  9. Comment
    Community Member

    Allen gave to the public by funding the UW's Allen Library in memory of his father. He's also pledged that whatever is left of his fortune might go to charity after he dies.

  10. Comment
    Community Member

    Good for Allen if he does any charitable deeds with his fortune, but that doesn't mean Vulcan is entitled to keep hundreds of millions in promised city subsidies while basic services face the chopping block.

  11. Comment
    Community Member

    Last I heard the total public subsidies for Vulcan in South Lake Union amount to half a billion. It presumably includes the reconfiguring of Mercer Street for Vulcan, but not the building of a promised cover over Aurora Avenue between SLU and the Seattle Center section of Vulcan land holdings. The costs of the Aurora cover are piggybacked on the waterfront tunnel cost estimates.

  12. Comment
    Community Member

    I'd like reducing the Vulcan subsidies enough that it threatens to sue for the whole schmeer of subsidies and sweetheart deals promised to it by elected officials. I think Vulcan would balk rather than have the details become public knowledge.

  13. Comment
    Community Member

    I guess it's possible that Vulcan is behind the refuses-to-die push for a downtown waterfront tunnel. It would help to explain why the tunnel proposal doesn't even include a connection to the downtown business core near the waterfront, yet it does entail an Aurora makeover that would inordinately benefit Vulcan real estate on the NON-waterfront end of the Battery Street tunnel. What a surprise.

  14. Comment
    Community Member

    The "How Paul Allen Sacked Seattle" article mentioned in the triple-posted comment above (and the interview posted on youtube) is still in the archive. For search purposes, the article's title is "After Further Review -- The public-private deal with Paul Allen to build Seahawks Stadium was a lose-win situation. Guess who won."

  15. Comment
    Community Member

    10-13-10 reader comment by Alvis at

    "I'd like to hear the City Council budget committee defend its failure to propose budget cuts in the neighborhood of South Lake Union, where Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and his Vulcan Corporation own over 50 acres of land and are sitting pretty with a private-public partnership that's worth half a billion (with a B) in city subsidies for their private business developments, infrastructure upgrades, exemptions from zoning restrictions, plus the reconfiguration of Mercer Street.

    Meanwhile, West Seattle and other neighborhoods are having to defend themselves against the proposed city reductions in basic services and maintenance."

  16. Comment
    Community Member

    Yowza. That 2004 Business Week article sure doesn't mince words about Allen's business failings:

    "Like much of billionaire Paul Allen's empire, the Portland Trailblazer have burned through mountains of cash. The NBA team team lost an astonishing $100 million last season, more than any other sports team in history... All the while, Allen seemed to be in denial."

  17. Comment
    Community Member

    I've attended some council hearings where the public had a chance to testify for or against mulitmillion dollar giveaways to Vulcan projects on South Lake Union. The speakers who argued against the subsidies looked and talked like average citizens, while those who argued for the subsidies all wore suits and talked like movie actors.

  18. Comment
    Community Member

    Some of the pro-subsidy speakers are architects or construction union reps that stand to get a cut of the South Lake Union projects. Some pro-subsidy speakers are corporate shills for Vulcan. And some pro-subsidy speakers are ordinary citizens who happen to dress and talk above average.

    What's more worrisome is how Vulcan has hired former city employees to lobby city hall on behalf of the South Lake Union subsidies. The other neighborhoods don't have that kind of money and advantage, plus the city keeps proposing to cut or eliminate the department of other neighborhoods from the city budget.

  19. Comment
    Community Member

    The 2011-2012 budget proposes to cut half of the neighborhood service centers in Seattle. No cuts are proposed in the subsidies to Paul Allen.

  20. Comment
    Community Member

    Forbes magazine reported just last month that Paul Allen is worth $13.7 billion. Let's imagine the city subsidy of him in South Lake Union really does amount to $500 million and it were completely cancelled. Allen could absorb the budget cut twenty (20) times over and he's still be a multi-billionaire!

    Its Allen's fortune to spend or waste as he likes. He doesn't owe the public any gifts or donations, but why the hell can't he pay for his own South Lake Union projects and quit taking from the rest of the community? And why can't the city council at least suggest cutting something from the city welfare going to South Lake Union?

  21. Comment
    Community Member

    Good phrase. "Taking from the community" sums up a mayor and city council protecting the giveaways for a billionaire, yet proposing service cuts and fee increases for the non-wealthy.

  22. Comment
    Community Member

    Objectively, cutting or withdrawing city subsidy of Allen's projects is not justified by the fact/assumption that Allen could pay it himself 20 times over and still be a multi-billionaire. But I would agree that the city council will be malfeasant and unfit for re-election if it makes no good faith effort to cut its subsidies of South Lake Union at the same time it proposes the necessity of service cuts and job losses and fee increases for other city neighborhoods.

  23. Comment
    Community Member

    The runner up in last year's mayoral election had gone on record as opposing the cost of a Mercer Street rebuild. Vulcan and construction union then helped pay for robo-calls against his campaign.

  24. Comment
    Community Member

    I will be surprised if the mayor or council propose any reduction of city subsidies to billionaire Paul Allen's South Lake Union projects.

  25. Comment
    Community Member

    I think it will be in everybody's better interests, particularly Vulcan public relations, if the South Lake Union subsidies are reduced at least the same percentage as the rest of the city budget is reduced.

  26. Comment
    Community Member

    FWIW, the Vulcan subsidiary that filed bankruptcy in Portland was Oregon Arena Corporation. The Vulcan subsidiary that's connected with the South Lake Union projects is called City Investors.

  27. Comment
    Community Member

    From "The Billion-Dollar Neighborhood" by George Howland Jr. (June 2004):

    "The [Seattle] City Council has had to slash a host of things in recent years, including help for the homeless, important basic services like library staffing, parks programs, and police training. Any new resources that are generated by economic development in the city should go to restoring basic services, to say nothing of dealing with the backlog of unfunded human needs and basic infrastructure improvements throughout the city. Any contribution from the city's general fund for streetcars and fancy boulevards in South Lake Union doesn't even merit discussion, much less funding."


  28. Comment
    Community Member

    From "201 million later, the Mercer Mess will still be a mess" by Ted Van Dyk at (May 2008):

    "The Vulcanization of Seattle elected officials was emphatically confirmed Tuesday, May 27, when the City Council approved a $93 million bond issue that will raise $43 million to begin work on the so-called Mercer Mess makeover in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

    "Council member Nick Licata cast the sole vote against this important step in the $201 million project undertaken at behest of Vulcan, the Paul Allen-owned company which has more than 60 acres of a commercial development in the area. This follows direct and indirect city subsidies, estimated in the hundreds of million, for Vulcan projects and construction ot the running-near-empty Allentown streetcar from Westlake Center to South Lake Union at a cost of some $50 million. The trolley monies came, in part, from cutbacks in bus service in outlying [Seattle] neighborhoods."


  29. Comment
    Community Member

    Comment by Erik at Sound Politics, April 20, 2006:

    "On one side of the [South Lake Union] negotiations you have the billionaire moocher Paul Allen, Washington's own diamond studded welfare queen, second only to Boeing. On the other side, negotiating on behalf of the taxpaying citizens, you have thieves in public office with free access to lots and lots of your money. What do you expect? That they will act in your best interest instead of their own?"


  30. Comment
    Community Member

    these subsidies must be stopped to Vulcan (Paul Allen) or what the city employee's call it "Vulcan Fast Forward"... Vulcan is being given millions of City tax dollars, most of which are swept under the carpet (not disclosed)... Rerouting water mains, repaving city streets near Vulcan, building new parks near Vulcan (when we cant even take care of the parks we have)... the list actually goes on.. Look what we are doing now making the Mercer Mess 2 way street again, dont they remember... More then half the transportation department wasn't even born when it was two ways previously... Vulcan just wants the Multi Million dollar face lift done past all their buildings along Mercer.. The total tab on that could carry this city very far.. for many years... there is so much more but i have to head to work here..

  31. Comment
    Community Member

    From comments posted at "Belt-tightening time for the Mercer Mess?" by Ted Van Dyk (Crosscut, October 1, 2008):

    1. "The Allentown trolley was not built to provide transportation to Seattleites going to or from their homes or businesses. It is, rather, a curiosity meant to make Vulcan's South Lake Union area attractive to tourists who see it as a mini-San Francisco cable car ('Look...isn't it cute?'). The costs of the trolley resulted in reduction of funds for bus service, and a subsequent cutback in service, in Seattle neighborhoods where ordinary people depend on such service for vital trips."

    2. "Let's look at effects on people and businesses: I do business in the South Lake Union area at least twice weekly. The small businesses which I patronize are up in arms. They first were taxed to pay for the trolley and, now, are having their rents increased astronomically because of the supposed benefits brought to them by the trolley and the Vulcan development. Yet they tell me that business has fallen off during the period of trolley and other construction and they expect it to fall even further as and when the Mercer Project begins. They feel they may have to close."

  32. Comment
    Community Member

    Monday, June 21, 2010 at


    Former deputy mayor Phil Fujii, who left Mayor Mike McGinn's administration after just four and a half months, citing health problems, is returning to Vulcan, where he was director of community relations.

    Vulcan spokesman David Postman says Fujii will be coming back to Vulcan on a six-month assignment. Postman says he'll be "working with stakeholder groups on issues like urban design, mobility planning, and pending construction projects including the North Portal & Mercer West."

    He says Vulcan will ensure Fujii's work doesn't violate city restrictions against former city employees lobbying for the city.


  33. Comment
    Community Member

    I don't follow the council's public approval ratings, but my bet is that its chances for re-election would rise substantially if next month's news headlines included "Vulcan projects share in city council's proposed budget cuts."

    Dream on, all you Seattle residents and voters.