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June 2020

News In Brief

June 5, 2020

  • A measure to tax the wealthiest residents and the biggest businesses in Portland to raise $2.5 billion over a decade to address homelessness sailed to victory as final ballots were tallied last month, even as the state faces crippling revenue losses and record-high unemployment due to the coronavirus according to a report published in the Seattle Times. Nearly 60% of voters in the three counties that make up the greater Portland region approved the tax amid the greatest economic turmoil in years, a sign of just how intractable the homeless problem has become in the Pacific Northwest city. The measure envisions a regional approach to solving the homeless crisis.  The ballot measure had been planned before the pandemic reduced the U.S. economy to tatters. Proponents, including the powerful Portland Business Alliance and major institutions like the NBA's Trail Blazers, argued that the taxes are needed more than ever as unemployment in Oregon hits 14% and state revenue forecasts plummet by $2.7 billion in the biennium. The measure's passage puts in place a 1% marginal income tax on the wealthiest residents and a 1% tax on gross profits for the region's biggest businesses. Roughly 90% of residents and 94% of businesses will be exempt from the tax, supporters say. The tax will apply to individual filers with a taxable income of more than $125,000 or joint filers with taxable income of more than $200,000. Joint filers making $215,000 a year, for example, would be taxed 1% on $15,000, or $150 a year. The measure has a 10-year sunset clause and was expected to generate $2.5 billion before the economic fallout from the pandemic, but the recession's impact on those estimates is unclear. The first taxes would not be collected until 2021 and the money will be distributed to the three counties based on their percentage of the region's overall population.


  • Population data for 2019 released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the city of Seattle recorded its slowest growth rate of the decade last year as reported by the Seattle Times. From July 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, Seattle had a net gain of about 11,400 people, reaching a total population of 753,700. That pencils out to a 1.5% growth rate, a far cry from the peak year of 2016 when we grew by 3.2%, and added more than 22,000 residents. After six consecutive years in the top 2 for growth among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities - that includes a No. 1 showing in 2013 - Seattle dropped to sixth place in 2019. Seattle is not the only city to see things cool off a bit in 2019. Census data shows that overall, growth is down sharply among major U.S. cities over the past couple years. This slowdown is evident in most of Seattle's peer cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Denver, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas. In 2019, Mesa, Arizona (population 518,000) ranked No. 1 for growth among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities, for the first time. It grew by 2%, which is a modest number compared with the top-ranking cities of previous years. In fact, Mesa is the slowest No. 1 of the decade. In terms of numeric growth, another Arizona city holds the top spot: Phoenix, with a net increase of about 26,300 people. That brings the city's total population to 1.68 million. The nation's largest city, New York (population 8.34 million), had the biggest numeric decline in 2019, shrinking by 53,300. Even if Seattle's population growth last year was slightly anemic, we still amassed a net increase of 145,000 people over the course of the decade. That adds up to a remarkable 23.8% growth rate. And with that, it's official: Seattle ranks as the fastest-growing major city of the 2010s. We handily beat two Texas cities for that distinction - Fort Worth and Austin - which tied for second with 22.1% growth for the decade. Seattle remains the 18th most-populous U.S. city, behind Indianapolis and ahead of Denver. While Seattle's growth is cooling off, Redmond's is not. Last year, Microsoft's hometown grew by a whopping 6.7%. That ranks Redmond as the 10th fastest-growing city in the country for 2019, among those with a population of 50,000 or higher. Washington has 25 cities with a population of at least 50,000. Only three lost population last year, and all are in King County: Federal Way, Auburn and Burien. Like Seattle, Bellevue's rate of growth has slowed down recently. At just 0.7%, last year was just the first time this decade that King County's second-largest city dipped below a 1% growth rate. Bellevue's population stands at 148,200.


  • A new study by Withings, a company selling electronic health devices and services, anonymously analyzed data from more than 2 million users. The study takes a look at how activity, weight and sleep habits have changed during self-isolation for people in the United States and around the globe. The study found that Seattle residents have, on average, only gained 0.41 pounds. The study also shows that locals have only reduced their daily steps by 11%, and are sleeping an average of 10 minutes more each night during quarantine.


  • When it comes to value and overall customer satisfaction, T-Mobile is the top-rated national wireless company again this year in the new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report. T-Mobile scored 76 out of 100 points, 3 points ahead of the industry average. The country's largest wireless company, Verizon (74), came in second again this year. AT&T (73) was third, followed by U.S. Cellular (71) and Sprint (66). Even though it had a 2 percent increase in satisfaction from last year, AT&T stayed at the bottom of the pack - 10 points lower than T-Mobile. Customers rated Sprint last for network quality. Consumer Cellular, which piggybacks on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, had the highest score of any cell phone company, with an 83 out of 100. The ACSI results are based on interviews with more than 27,300 mobile customers.