Cupertino Councilwoman Brushes Off “Free WiFi” Question as Joke

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When Councilwoman Kris Wang asked Apple CEO Steve Jobs for free WiFi for her city, it gave cause to Internet pundits and critics far and wide to blast the attempt as feeble, silly, and awkward. BusinessInsider asked Ms. Wang why she had asked the question, and in a detailed response she said that while it clearly fell flat, she was merely joking with Mr. Jobs in an attempt to draw from him more positive comments about her city.

Artist's rendition of Apple's proposed campus

Artist’s rendition of Apple’s proposed campus

The exchange came when Mr. Jobs presented the Cupertino city council with a proposal for a massive circular, spaceship-like office building (see the image above) the Mac maker wants to build in Cupertino. After he was finished with his (masterful) presentation, members of the city council, including mayor Gilbert Wong and Councilwoman Kris Wang, asked him questions about the company’s plans.

In our own coverage of the meeting, we wrote:

The second thing we’ll note is that the entire city council appeared to be made up of massive Apple fanboys and fangirls. They did their best to ask a couple of softball questions, but Mr. Jobs was more than their match in every conceivable fashion.

For instance, when one councilwoman [Kris Wang] asked Mr. Jobs if Apple would provide the city of Cupertino with a free WiFi network, like Google did for the city of Mountain View. Mr. Jobs flat out said no, noting that his company is the largest tax payer in Cupertino.

“I’m a simpleton,” he said, putting on his most folksy moment. “I’ve always had the 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 a WiFi network.”

It was exactly the right thing to say, and the council members and audience laughed and smiled. More importantly, the point was almost immediately conceded, and it was clear that not only would Apple not be building said network, but that it was not necessary for Apple to do so to get fast track approval for its plans.

According to Ms. Wang, her question was indeed intended to be a softball question, but her intent was to draw Mr. Jobs into a broader discussion about how great Cupertino is.

“I was hoping he would talk not only about the fact that they are the city’s largest tax payer,” she wrote, “but also that Apple reciprocally enjoys calling Cupertino its home. […] I was hoping to draw out more dialogue on Cupertino and Apple’s mutually beneficial relationship.”

She added, “I’ve joked with Steve in previous conversations (unrelated to Apple’s new campus) about Apple doing the same thing for Cupertino [that Google did for Mountain View]. So, my follow-up was admittedly a flat attempt at going along with the same joke.”

In other words, she was hoping that by extending a private joke, she could draw out more from Apple’s iconic chief executive.

As one of the sites that was critical of the exchange (privately, TMO staff members had remarked that she asked the question knowing the answer would be “No,” and that Mr. Jobs was merely accommodating that expectation), it seemed only fair to present her side. Live TV cameras can be harsh in their treatment of most people’s actions, unless you’re Steve Jobs.

In the meanwhile, in case you missed it, you can view the the full meeting below. We also published detailed coverage of the meeting that includes all the main slides, facts, and images of the proposed office building. You can read her full response at BusinessInsider.

Steve Jobs presents Apple’s plans for an amazing office building in Cupertino, CA

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13 Comments Leave Your Own

Will

I figured she was being funny. Better that, at least, than everyone sitting dopey and just rubber stamping.

dhp

Did people really think she was serious? I mean, no, it wasn’t funny, but of course she was joking.

prl53

You have to remember Ms. Wang lives in the Bay Area of California, a free and easy part of the country, not in the stuffed-shirt midwest and east coast. This presentation was a formality, not something Mr. Jobs really had to worry about. Of course Cupertino isn’t going to stand in the way of Apple building a huge complex that will bring jobs and tax income to the city. The best thing for Cupertino and the state of California is Apple didn’t decide to build this complex next to the data center in North Carolina.

Dorje Sylas

“Free” Wifi and networking is in Googles business interest favor. The more people that Google gets online, gets on their search engine, the more ad revenue they pull in. Google is a data business, the more data (about you) the more money they make.

I would agree with Jobs, as long as Apple is not trying to dodge the taxes with iffy technicalities then, they are contributing. It is up to the government in question to apply that contribution. I’m going to guess that most of those taxes are going toward more basic services such fire and police.

If Google choses to go above and beyond obligations then good for them. If I we’re a city councilman and had to decided between awarding a site to other Apple or Google it would quite possibly go to Google if there is a steady track record of Google contributing more the communities it’s in then just it’s tax obligations.

Could Apple go beyond? Yes, it would make them look cooler. I don’t want to sound like and Apple apologist, but they don’t have to.

Charlie

Kris Wang is the dimmest bulb on the Cupertino city council. However, her Mandarin is better than her English, which is the   critical factor in Cupertino’s politics.

Ion_Quest

Will the Wheel slowly rotate so each exec gets his/her time in the sun?

lh

Typical greedy politician doing a Jessie Jackson shake down.

Bryan Chaffin

Typical greedy politician doing a Jessie Jackson shake down.

On every level, that is one of the most profoundly ignorant statements I’ve read in some time.

Stan Winstone

What’s dumber than a city councilman? One with a sense of humor.

Nitpicky Grammarian

In the next to last paragraph, the proper grammar is “unless you’re Steve Jobs”.  The possessive “your” is wrong.

John Dingler, artist

Hello Bryan,
Yes, I read the story on another site and saw the video of Jobs’
presentation, then re-reading it here. It’s an engaging news item for us Apple watchers.

I guess that Jobs had the space craft designed for the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey in mind, the craft being reminiscent of a wagon wheel with spokes. We see the seemingly sole occupant slowly walk on the circular path where there are no straight horizontal lines except for the doors, and everything seems white and indescript, when he called the new bldg. a space ship.

A circle is basic form, a Platonic ideal of sorts, irreducible and perfect, but it can also feel fascist in that individuality is minimized and a sameness in the interior and exterior is adhered to.

Let’s just hope that the incessant glass and never-ending curvilinear forms are not allowed to trump spiritual and psychological comfort and creativity leading to disgruntlement, further impersonality, and a general feeling of being inside a camera-filled ant farm where the Jobs monitors all.

RGKahn

My take is that it was not meant to be a joke per se but to float a trial balloon to see which way the Apple wind was blowing. A lure on the fishing line so to speak. See if Steve goes for the lure or just shrugs it off. I guess that it did not work. No foul, no penalty. No harm trying.

Bryan Chaffin

In the next to last paragraph, the proper grammar is ?unless you?re Steve Jobs?.? The possessive ?your? is wrong.

Thanks, Nitpicky. I read over that several times without catching it! It’s been corrected now. smile

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