Editorials

Amazon still isn’t coming to Missouri as long as we’re a state that discriminates

Mayor Sly James hopes Amazon will take notice of Kansas City

Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James, is hoping to grab the attention of Amazon by leaving product reviews. The hope is that the reviews will attract Amazon to build the company's second headquarters in Kansas City.
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Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James, is hoping to grab the attention of Amazon by leaving product reviews. The hope is that the reviews will attract Amazon to build the company's second headquarters in Kansas City.

In response to the news that Amazon would not be locating its HQ2 in New York City after all, some of us thought the Bronx cheer from Queens was just what the planet’s most valuable public company deserved. After raising the hopes of so many cities across the country that really needed the boost, and then choosing the not-exactly-underdeveloped New York City and Crystal City, Virginia, outside D.C., who could feel sorry for them?

While we were putting the “ha” in schadenfreude, though, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was waving and yoohooing at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter.

“Unfortunate that NY politicians are unable to see the economic boost that would come from 25,000 new jobs,” he tweeted. “@amazon, if/when you begin a search for a good home for the new HQ2 — just know that Missouri is open for business!”

What some New Yorkers did see that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not is that $3 billion in sweeteners — oh, and a private helipad — was an absurd bribe to a company worth $797 billion. Especially, as New York Magazine put it, “in a global capital like New York, where 25,000 jobs would be a rounding error.”

That’s not the case here, obviously. But doesn’t the fact that Amazon picked New York and a D.C. suburb in the first place tell you anything, Governor Parson?

If not, we will be the ones break it to you: The chances that Amazon or any other major tech company would locate a headquarters in a state where you can still be fired for being gay aren’t good.

“Open for business” used to mean a place with lower taxes and less regulation. But more and more, tolerance and diversity are not just highly valued by businesses, but mandatory.

State Rep. Greg Razer, the openly gay Kansas City Democrat who tried unsuccessfully to add LGBT protections to Missouri House rules last month, argued that “it’s almost 2020. Let’s just say hey, how about not fire the gay guy?” Other measures adding basic discrimination protections for LGBT Missourians to state law have failed year after year in the legislature.

In December, Parson said in an interview with The Star that he’s open to the idea of extending discrimination protections to LGBT Missourians. But when will lawmakers come to see that as both a moral and material necessity?

Meanwhile, we’re left pulling stunts in an attempt to woo Amazon and other sought-after companies.

Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, one of the 11 candidates running to succeed Mayor Sly James, laughed at the painful memory of the mayor’s idea that we’d try to beat out the other 229 cities competing for Amazon’s attention by leaving five-star reviews talking up Kansas City on 1,000 random Amazon purchases.

“You look desperate,” doing that — or sending Amazon a giant cactus, as Tucson did, Wagner said in an interview. Just as in offering over-the-top incentives, “you’re shortchanging what it is that makes you a good place to locate.” Like, say, making Missouri a place where all are welcome and protected from discrimination.

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