The people who run our cities are awfully cautious about calling for controls on handguns. But oh, some of them love Aibnb
By Tim Redmond
JUNE 19, 2015 – I wasn’t expecting to be too excited by the US Conference of Mayors when I saw the list of the major sponsors: JP Morgan, Walmart, Uber, the American Beverage Association, AT&T, Well Fargo, Google, Salesforce … you get the idea.
But I go to these things anyway, because there’s usually a chance to ask a couple of questions. So there I was at the opening press conference, after walking through the metal detectors and getting searched and wanded (Obama was coming later in the day), and passing by the massive Salesforce booth, and about 20 mayors who make up the executive committee and leadership were lined up in front of the cameras.
Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, is the president, and he made some opening remarks about how important cities are to the future of America. There’s a report on this, which I actually read, and which pretty much confirms what Jane Jacobs has been saying for half a century or so: Cities are the nation’s economic heart, and its economic future.
The San Francisco-Oakland metro area, for example, has more gross economic product than 36 entire states.
Ok then, on to business.
After the introductions of the incoming president, Stephanie Rawlings Black of Baltimore, and the jokes about why Ed Lee wasn’t around (he was at the Warrior’s parade), Johnson asked for questions.
I was up first.
Given the recent tragic shooting in Charleston, I asked, will the conference be taking any sort of stand or doing anything around the issue of gun control?
Well, first I heard a lot about “gun safety.” That’s a very different question than the one I asked. A gun is a lot safer if it’s locked in a gun safe or has a trigger lock, and it’s less likely that some toddler will find it and kill himself or some teenager will accidentally shoot a friend.
But gun control is about saying that too many people have too many handguns – and gun-safety laws would do nothing about a man buying his deeply racist and deeply disturbed 21-year-old son a .45 pistol that he could take into a church and kill eight people.
I really thought this group would be more vocal; it’s a nonpartisan organization with Republican and Democratic mayors, but mayors (and police chiefs) don’t tend to like having nutcases with .45s running around town. But nobody stood up and spoke forcefully about taking guns off the streets.
Eventually Michael Nutter, the mayor of Philadelphia, said something useful. “We respect the Second Amendment,” he said. “But I also have a First Amendment right not to get shot.”
He pointed out that, for all the publicity that mass killings get, there are about 30 people murdered every day with guns in the US. “I would expect that there would be a significant amount of conversation,” he said.
The mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, Steven Benjamin, said he knew some of the people killed in the town not far from his, and referred to the shootings as “an act of racial terrorism.” Which is absolutely accurate. He talked about the need to “elevate the debate.”
All of which is fine, but it’s a strange time in America when nothing, no amount of horror and killing – of kids, or churchgoers – is enough to convince the country’s leaders that we need to have fewer handguns.
So after the gun discussion, and a couple of follow-up questions, they ended the press conference, and I tracked down Johnson in the crowd. I reminded him that one of the honored guests and speakers was the head of Airbnb – a company whose entire business model involves violating the laws of most of the cities represented in the room.
He doesn’t care. “As a 3.0 mayor, I believe in innovation and entrepreneurship, and what Airbnb is doing has been exceptional.”
Turning residential neighborhoods into hotels, causing massive displacement, making the housing crisis worse …. Exceptional.
I can’t wait for the tour of Uber.