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Amazon’s second headquarters faces new roadblocks in Virginia funding vote

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Amazon.com Inc’s plan to set up a second headquarters in northern Virginia, after being rebuffed in New York, will face its first test when local officials vote on Saturday on a proposed financial package worth an estimated $51 million.

Amazon in November picked National Landing, a site jointly owned by Arlington County and the City of Alexandria, just outside of Washington, along with New York for its so-called HQ2 or second headquarters.

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That followed a year-long search in which hundreds of municipalities, ranging from Newark, New Jersey, to Indianapolis, competed for the coveted tax-dollars and high-wage jobs the project promises.

Amazon in February abruptly scrapped plans to build part of its second headquarters in New York after opposition from local leaders, who were upset by incentives promised by state and city politicians.

While opposition in Arlington is still nascent, the vote has become a political flashpoint between the project’s supporters and activist opponents. It has given local activists the chance to push for a delay so that the county’s proposal can be reviewed and debated further.

A five-member panel of the Arlington County Board will vote on whether Amazon will receive the estimated $51 million, a fraction of the $481 million promised by the county. Only 5 percent of the incentives are direct.

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Amazon has also been offered a $750 million package by the state that the Virginia General Assembly approved with little opposition.

The scene at Saturday’s vote is likely to be different. At least 100 members from local activist groups are expected to attend.

Protests are expected to begin at least an hour before the vote comes up for hearing at 1 pm EST, Reuters has learnt from labor groups.

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The $51 million includes a controversial direct financial incentive or cash grant of $23 million to Amazon over 15 years, which will be collected from taxes on Arlington hotel rooms. The grant is contingent upon Amazon occupying six million square feet of office space over the first 16 years.

Arlington has also offered to invest about $28 million over 10 years of future property tax revenue in onsite infrastructure and open space at the headquarters site.

A filing on the county board’s website says the $23 million grant and the $28 million in strategic public infrastructure investments were “instrumental in Amazon choosing Arlington for its headquarters.”

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A county spokesman declined to comment.

Arlington County Chair Christian Dorsey has stated publicly he had “no interest” in postponing the vote, had heard no suggestions to do so from other board members, and expected the measure to pass.

Amazon’s 25,000 new jobs will help offset the more than 34,000 jobs Arlington has lost since 2003 due to federal agency closures and other factors, and help diversify the local economy, company spokeswoman Jill Kerr said. “Our investment of $2.5 billion will generate more than $3.2 billion in tax revenue which can be used for public services.”

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Activists from For Us, Not Amazon, a coalition of nine labor groups and grassroots organizations working in areas such as minority advocacy, are not convinced.

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Roshan Abraham, an organizer from Our Revolution Arlington, a coalition member, said his group wants Amazon to engage with the community more, hold public hearings on the company’s investments, address rising housing costs, displacement of low-income families near the proposed site and donate to affordable housing funds.

“What we are very concerned about is Amazon has met behind close doors, at invitation events, but haven’t met with the community in a public, accessible way,” he said.

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Amazon said it has met with many community leaders and residents, including local businesses, nonprofits, and community and civic associations and will continue to engage with them as it expands its presence in Arlington.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang

 


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Trump: Bolivia leader’s resignation sign to ‘illegitimate regimes’

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US President Donald Trump on Monday hailed the resignation of Bolivia's leftist leader Evo Morales as a sign to "illegitimate" regimes and praised the role of the country's military.

"These events send a strong signal to the illegitimate regimes in Venezuela and Nicaragua that democracy and the will of the people will always prevail," Trump said, referring to two other leftist Latin American nations targeted by his administration.

Trump said that the resignation of Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous leader who was seeking a fourth term despite a constitutional prohibition, was a "significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere."

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Mexico arrests suspects in Mormon massacre

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Mexico has arrested multiple suspects in the murder of nine Mormon women and children last week, the security minister said Monday, without giving further details.

"Suspects have been arrested, but we cannot provide any further information, because the investigation is being handled by the federal and Sonora (state) prosecutors' offices," Security Minister Alfonso Durazo told journalists.

Neither office immediately responded to AFP requests for further details.

The massacre of the three women and six children caused shock in both Mexico and the United States, where their families had dual nationality.

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Trump’s lie about ‘doctored’ impeachment transcripts debunked by impeachment witnesses’ lawyers

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President Donald Trump on Monday falsely accused Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) of releasing "doctored" transcripts of impeachment inquiry witnesses and then bizarrely suggested that Republicans release their own versions of the transcripts.

"Shifty Adam Schiff will only release doctored transcripts," the president wrote on Twitter. "We haven’t even seen the documents and are restricted from (get this) having a lawyer."

Trump presented no evidence to back up his claim that Schiff had done something to alter the transcripts, which show that multiple administration officials testified that the Trump administration was withholding aid to Ukraine until its government agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

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