So far, the Transactional Politics era that kicked off with the selection of Mayor Ed Lee seems to be up and running. The latest example is the much-hyped tax break given to Twitter (ahem, businesses that locate in mid-Market) announced by Mayor Lee, and Supervisors Chiu and Kim.
This all came about after folks at Twitter suggested they might move to Brisbane (!) if it didn’t get something form the cash-strapped city government. However, skeptics in the business news media wondered aloud if that was ever going to happen, or if it was just a public negotiating tactic.
Now, let’s be clear: I enjoy using Twitter’s services, and have no problem helping startups and the like cut through red tape and start new and innovative businesses. After all, it’s part of what makes living here so much fun, right?
That said, I am surprised, what with all the Ivy League graduates we have serving on the Board and such, it never occurred to anyone to ask a few questions before rushing to the podium and feeding the media a “story” that will end up on some junk mail the people in question will be sending us the next time they run for office. (Now, to be fair, you can read a witty argument in favor of Twitter’s deal at my friend Elaine’s blog, Court and Snark (and I highly suggest you do).)
Here’s a few:
– Twitter’s valuation is on paper only – it is not a public company, nor does it make a profit. There’s no indication that it will even exist in a couple of years, or not. Wouldn’t we have learned from Dot Com Bust I that betting on what Internet company will be around in the future is riskier than betting on a “hard six” at the craps table? (See: FOX purchase of MySpace as an example of how betting on social media companies can work out).
– By their own admission, 25% of Twitter’s employees ride a bike to work. Twitter places a tremendous value on its talented workforce and has always worked to create not just a great product, but a great place to work so they get the best out of their people every day. A move to Brisbane (which is cut off from SF via any decent transit, etc.) would be a significant disruption for these folks, and, well, it’s Brisbane.
I used to work in South San Francisco, and trust me, working in suburbia can really suck if you’re from SF and there’s no decent transit connection. You have to drive to work and spend a lot on commuting, and you’re cut off from anything going on in SF. (That said, when I worked in Lafayette, it wasn’t so bad, just a lonnnnng ride on BART and then a mile walk to the office. Time consuming, but at least no car!)
Part of the allure of locating in a place like San Francisco is that you don’t have far to commute, and you’re still in a vibrant city, not sitting around in some office park where you have to drive 30 minutes to find a decent burrito.
– Also, in this economy, it’s not like office space costs nearly as much as it used to, certainly not like it was back at the peak of Dot Com Bust I. Perhaps Mr. Brown doesn’t realize that the country is in a depression, and it’s not boom times (with lots o’ dollars to give to pals) like back in the day.
These are just a few thoughts. I think, however the lesson that should be learned is that we don’t need Supervisors rushing around, lurching from faux crisis to faux crisis, just to accommodate a few businesses that suggest in public they “might” be moving. As it stands, our City has made it clear that all one has to do is make a threat, and they’ll jump.
A more reasonable response would be to create a better set of regulations that make sense, and make it easy for people to try new ideas and start new businesses with a minimum of NIMBYism and BS in the first place. This way, all thriving businesses, Twitter or not, wouldn’t even think of leaving a place that’s affordable, liveable, and fun to be in, no matter what you do for a living.
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