Apple is building a $5 billion new campus in Cupertino, California and is the largest employer in the city. So you’d expect Cupertino’s mayor, Barry Chang, to have a close relationship with the company.
But they’re barely on speaking terms, according to a report by Nellie Bowles in The Guardian.
In fact, the last time that Chang decided to pay an impromptu visit to Apple’s campus, while he was a city councilmember, before he was mayor, security escorted him off campus. “They said ‘You cannot come in, you’re not invited’,” Chang told The Guardian.
The city council these days usually votes with Apple, because, as Chang said, “Apple talks to them, and they won’t vote against Apple.” Chang links Apple’s reticence to work with him to taxes: he wants Apple to pay more, including $100 million to improve infrastructure that was voted down.
According to the most recent statistics cited by Bowles, Apple paid $9.2 million in tax revenue between 2012 and 2013. That year Apple made $156.5 billion in sales.
But Chang’s decision to speak out is the latest sign that residents in Silicon Valley, where Apple is rapidly expanding — its parking lots are overflowing, according to the New York Times — may want the tech giant to be a better neighbour.
Apple has not commented on Mayor Chang’s comments.
“We pay taxes”
There’s no doubt that Apple’s considerable employee footprint puts stresses on Santa Clara county infrastructure.
Traffic around Apple’s giant “spaceship” construction project can get hairy at times, and Cupertino has a continually updated webpage with details about road closures and traffic for that project, specifically.
Apple’s burgeoning and secretive car project has neighbours complaining about loud noises in neighbouring Sunnyvale.
Apple’s penchant for secrecy can also be at odds with government policies that emphasise transparency. California assembly member Evan Low, who represents Silicon Valley, organised a technology caucus trip to Apple last month to discuss “key issues.” A Low spokesperson told me that Apple PR had told her that she could not share the Apple employees that elected officials met with.
Apple’s $5 billion campus is expected to be completed later this year, with Apple employees moving in next year.
When then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed the project in 2011, a city councilmember pressed Jobs on what benefits that Apple’s construction project could provide the community, like the free public Wi-Fi network Google has implemented near some of its campuses.
Jobs threatened to move the project to neighbouring Mountain View.
“I’m a simpleton. I’ve always had this view that we pay taxes, and the city should do those things,” Jobs said. “I think we bring a lot more [to Cupertino] than free Wi-Fi.”