When Steve Jobs appeared before the city of Cupertino to pitch Apple’s new HQ, one particular exchange with the city council caught our attention.Councilwoman Kris Wang asked, “Do we get free wifi or something like that?”
The audience laughed at her question, and Jobs responded with, “See, I’m a simpleton, and I’ve always had this view that we pay taxes and the city should do those things. That’s why we pay taxes. Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I’ll be glad to put up wifi.”
She then joked that maybe the city could use its tax revenue to buy everyone an iPad, and then Apple would give them free wifi.
Jobs then hinted that maybe he should just take Apple to Mountain View if she was unhappy. He added, “I think we bring a lot more than free wifi.”
It was a humorous, but awkward exchange, and Jay Bhatti, one of our regular contributors, decided to email the councilwoman. Some people on Twitter were mocking her, and saying her request was silly and representative of the problem with local government. He wanted to know why she did it.
Wang wrote back with a nice note explaining that she and Jobs have joked about wifi in the past privately. She was mostly just tossing softballs at Jobs hoping he’d say nice things about Cupertino.
Here’s her response in full:
Thanks for your email and taking the time to ask me about my question to Steve Jobs when he presented at the Cupertino City Council meeting the other night. I’ve had a chance to read through some of the public’s comments, and I think if I provided some context to the situation and explain what I actually intended to ask, it might help clear up some of the confusion. As I’m sure you know, Apple and the City of Cupertino have enjoyed a fruitful, long-term relationship for quite a while, and I’ve been lucky to have met Steve a number of times through his interactions with the city during my last 7 1/2 years of service on the council. It was just about 5 years ago when he first told us about Apple’s intentions to build a new campus in Cupertino (http://goo.gl/4O0Kc), and only a couple months ago that Mayor Gilbert Wong and I spent time with him privately discussing the company’s plans in further detail.
So, to be clear, I am certainly well aware of the tremendous benefits that Apple provides to our city as the largest tax payer, and I have always expressed my enthusiasm for Apple to choose to remain in Cupertino (http://goo.gl/0alV1, http://goo.gl/hD4e3).
My question about how residents can benefit from the new campus was primarily meant to be a softball question for Steve to talk more about Apple’s long-term relationship with Cupertino and its residents. I was hoping he would talk not only about the fact that they are the city’s largest tax payer, but also that Apple reciprocally enjoys calling Cupertino its home, as our city attracts phenomenally talented individuals and families with our vibrant and diverse community, safe neighborhoods, top-notch education districts, and extremely supportive business environment (as evidenced by numerous other tech companies that call Cupertino their home). Believe me, I know how much our residents benefit from having a $300B company in their backyard, but I was hoping to draw out more dialogue on Cupertino and Apple’s mutually beneficial relationship.
Steve, in his answer, joked about moving up to Mountain View – Google’s hometown where they provide the residents there with free wifi. For some background context, I’ve joked with Steve in previous conversations (unrelated to Apple’s new campus) about Apple doing the same for Cupertino. So, my follow-up was admittedly a flat attempt at going along with the same joke, and Steve replied the same way he did previously to me, which was he believes the city should provide those services. It was intended to be a joke and nothing more.
Regarding the iPads – again, another flat follow-up joke that if Apple pays its taxes, Cupertino can use those taxes to buy people free iPads, but they would then need free wifi from Apple to use them, so a win-win for all. Again, it was a joke, and I obviously wasn’t trying to ask Steve for free iPads for residents.
A long-winded response, but hopefully it clears up some of the situation. English is my third language, so I can tell from watching the clip again how viewers might have misunderstood what I said.
Thanks for taking the time to ask me about it.
If you haven’t seen it, here is Steve Jobs’ pitch as well as the video of him talking to Cupertino’s government.
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