Chiu and his allies ramp up their rhetoric, warning of a "war" on techies

David Chiu addressed the Share conference this morning.
Tim Daw

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and his campaign for the California Assembly aggressively courted votes and support from the technology community this morning [Wed/14] at the two-day Share conference, accusing opponent David Campos and his progressive allies of “calling for a war on you.”

Chiu spoke at the Opening Plenary session, the only elected official invited to address this $795 per person conference on the “sharing economy,” the term adopted by Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Yerdle, Uber, and the rapidly growing list of companies that facilitate peer-to-peer online economic transactions.

Also speaking at that session was venture capitalist Ron Conway, a key funding source of many of these companies and Mayor Ed Lee’s political ambitions — and someone whose household just funded a nasty independent expenditure mailer attacking Campos for his vote last year against removing Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi from office.

Conway called on attendees to lobby their supervisors to support current legislation by Chiu to legalize and regulate Airbnb’s business model in San Francisco. “This legislation by David Chiu is crucial, legislation the whole country will be watching,” Conway said. “David Chiu needs your help. This would not pass if it came to a vote today.”

While it’s unclear how much support the measure has, it is true that there’s a lot riding on this for Airbnb, which has been valued at $10 billion by Wall Street as it moves toward an initial public stock offering, even though the short-term rentals it facilitates are illegal in its home city of San Francisco.

Chiu spent more than a year crafting his Airbnb legislation, which was greeted with mixed reactions last month, including being slammed by a coalition that has pledged to put a rival measure on the November ballot, a campaign that Chiu today implied Campos was  part of (Campos told us he has not taken a position on either the Chiu legislation or the proposed ballot measure).

“I thought it was a reasonable solution, but two weeks later there was a press conference attacking it,” Chiu told Share attendees, ramping his rhetoric in describing “people throwing rocks at Google commuter shuttles” and other alleged local hostilities directed at the tech industry.

“They are calling for a war on you, even though they don’t realize that what you are doing is helping to make sure we’re addressing our income inequality, we’re empowering everyday people by building community and using technology,” Chiu said.

Before the session began, a Chiu campaign worker stood outside the conferene entrance at the Marine Memorial Building handing out photocopies of an anonymous May 11 hit piece on the new blog called SF Techies Who Vote entitled “3 Things Every Tech Worker Should Know about Supervisor David Campos.”

Campos told the Guardian that the attacks, including the Conway-funded mailer that just hit mailboxes today, shows that Chiu and his supporters are desperate with just 20 days until the primary election, but that Chiu’s tone belies his claims to focus on civility and getting past the divisive political rhetoric of old.

“For someone who says he tries to bring people together, David Chiu is trying to scare people into thinking there’s a war going on. I don’t know where that comes from,” Campos said. “The idea that we have a war on the techies and the tech industry is ridiculous.”

Instead, Campos said that he and his progressive allies have been trying to address the eviction and displacement crisis that is connected to the tax breaks and other special treatment that Chiu, Mayor Ed Lee, Conway, and their allies have given to big technology companies.

“Asking that they pay their fair share doesn’t mean we’re against them,” Campos said, noting how overtly Chiu has recently been casting his political fortunes with Lee, Conway, and their economic policies. “It seems that David Chiu and Ron Conway are joined at the hip.”  

We at the Guardian will have much more coverage for the Share conference and its claims to be the “new economy” that will change everything — including some revealing interviews that I did at last night’s reception at the Airbnb headquarters — in next week’s Bay Guardian.