Posts from Politics

Some Thoughts On Airbnb’s Struggles In New York State

As many readers likely know, this week New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill called S6340A/A8704C, which will levy heavy fines on individuals who advertise short-term rentals of residential multiple dwelling units in New York. This ends an effort that lasted several months to convince the Governor to veto this bill which was passed by both legislative bodies in Albany earlier this year.

Airbnb promptly filed a federal lawsuit as the New York Times reported. The Times piece states that:

In its lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in Federal District Court in the Southern District of New York, the company contends that the law violates the company’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process, as well as the protection it is afforded under the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that says websites cannot be held accountable for content published by their users.

It is possible that this matter will be settled by the courts.

But it is my hope that, instead, calmer heads will prevail and New York State will pass sensible legislation that allows short term rentals when the tenant or owner is not present.

Airbnb has proposed a five point plan that attempts to address many of the issues that New Yorkers have with short term rentals.

This proposal is similar to legislation that has been adopted in large urban cities like Chicago.

There are many reasons why the current situation is not ideal for anyone. Most people living in apartment buildings don’t like the idea of an Airbnb in their building. It is also problematic when landlords to take apartments off the rental market and create illegal hotels. And landlords need a way to enforce the rules outlined in their leases.

On the other hand, many New Yorkers use income from short term rentals to allow them to afford an apartment in NYC when they have jobs that require them to travel extensively. There are also many New Yorkers who rent their homes during busy periods to make some extra income.

An outright ban on short term rentals is a bad thing for many New Yorkers.

I am certain there is middle ground to find a compromise that addresses the legitimate issues while allowing short term rentals to continue. And I am hopeful that will eventually happen.

Both sides are to blame for where we are right now. Airbnb allowed the NY short term rental market to emerge over the past seven years without sufficient concern over the negative impacts of unregulated short term rentals. It took way too long to engage in a real and substantive discussion with legislators and regulators and when it did, there was a lot of bad blood between both sides.

On the other hand, the hotel unions and the real estate industry have used their significant clout in Albany to push for a law that is overly restrictive and hurts many New Yorkers. And they got the legislature and the Governor to support it. It shines a bright light on the kind of back room dealing that voters are sick and tired of, in Albany and all around the US.

I would urge the Governor to provide some leadership here now that he has satisfied the legislature by signing their deeply flawed bill. There is a proposal on the table from Airbnb to regulate short term rentals sensibly. The Governor and the legislature should engage with that proposal. And the real estate industry should engage as well. Short term rentals can be a good thing for them too.

I am confident that we have not seen the end of Airbnb and short term rentals in NY State. If calmer heads prevail we can get short term rentals that make sense for NY State and NY City. And that is what we should do.

How About A City Instead Of A Wall?

Sometimes the best answer to a challenging issue is the exact opposite of what the conventional wisdom is.

We just spent a week in Mexico City and, as I always do when we travel to Mexico, I came away impressed with the character and work ethic of the Mexican people. They are entrepreneurial and hard working and always have a smile on their face. I have great respect for the people and culture of Mexico.

So when I read this piece on a proposal to build a “binational border city” instead of a wall between the US and Mexico, it got my attention.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has proposed a new city be built between New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. and Chihuahua in Mexico. It would look like this from the sky.


I like the contrarian thinking. Instead of restricting trade and cross border economy between the US and Mexico, expand it.

It is my strong belief that globalization is a reality and we can’t put the genie back in the bottle. We should accept it and figure out how to work with it to everyone’s advantage.

USV Endorses Hillary Clinton For President

From the USV blog this morning:

Hillary Clinton for President

This is the fourth presidential election during the existence of Union Square Ventures and the first one in which we as a firm feel compelled to endorse a candidate: Hillary Clinton.

As investors in technology companies, we believe that technology and innovation create broad opportunity and improve lives. But we also know that, to date, the benefits of technology and globalization have not been evenly distributed. People with access to education and capital have prospered while many others have seen good jobs lost to automation or offshoring. We understand why people whose lives have been upended are frustrated by politicians who squabble for partisan advantage instead of developing consensus solutions. We are not surprised that many feel the urge to reboot the whole system.

We agree that more of the same is not the answer. In the next few years, we need to make the necessary smart policy adjustments to ensure that the benefits of technology and innovation are shared by society as a whole.

Shutting out the world is not an option. We don’t think it’s desirable, or even possible, to return to an earlier era when America was less diverse, or the economy was less global. There is no wall big enough to protect us from a changing climate or the unintended consequences of new technologies like artificial intelligence or DNA manipulation. Now, more than ever, we must work together. We cannot unilaterally set the rules for the other seven billion people on the planet. The only way forward is through an open, respectful, and rational dialogue grounded in science.

Of the two major party candidates, we believe that only Hillary Clinton has the temperament and experience to lead us at home and represent us abroad.

We hope that everyone, no matter how frustrated with our current politics, will get out and vote. We applaud the movement to give employees extra time off on election day. If you’re not registered and don’t see the point, we hope you will reconsider and register here orhere.  This is an important election and we need to make a choice among the two leading candidates — we believe that a protest vote is a wasted vote — and for us the clear choice is Hillary Clinton.


If I think back to all the Presidents I’ve known in my lifetime; LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton, Bush Junior, and Obama, the one thing they all had in common was a Presidential temperament. Putting aside all of their differences, they were solid, steady, measured, calm, and collected, at least in their public presences.

Last night in the first Presidential Debate we saw an incredible contrast in temperament.

Hillary Clinton, a difficult candidate to love, passes this presidential temperament test in spades. Think about the pressure she was under last night. I don’t think I could have even gotten up there with the stakes so high on the singular goal of her life. And yet she delivered a masterful performance.

Donald Trump is, for many, an easier candidate to love. He’s a character. He’s a successful entrepreneur and businessman who brings a different, and, at times, refreshing perspective to our political discourse. But on the temperament issue, he is  a non-starter. He’s immature, impetuous, angry, hostile, and given to bouts of rambling like a mad person.

I don’t think last night’s debate settled this election. This race is close and may well go down to the wire. But it settled something for me. Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be President and Hillary Clinton does. She is by far the better choice to lead our country for the next four years. If there was any question on this issue, let me settle it once and for all. I am with her.

How To Watch Tonight’s Debate On Twitter

I wrote about this on Friday. I think Twitter is going to be a great way to watch the debate tonight.

Here’s how you can get Twitter on your big screen and watch the debate on Twitter:

  1. if you have a “fourth generation” AppleTV, you can add the Twitter app to it using the AppleTV app store
  2. if you have an older AppleTV, you can mirror your phone to your TV and watch the debate on your phone’s Twitter app
  3. if you have an Xbox One, you can add the Twitter app to it
  4. if you have an Amazon Fire, you can add the Twitter app to it
  5. if you have an iPad, you can watch on the Twitter app on your iPad

The debate video will be front and center in the Twitter TV apps.

On the Twitter smartphone app, you can go to the Moments tab and the live video of the debate will be there.

For an event as important as this one is, I think having Twitter side by side with the live video is the way to go.

Fun Friday: How Will You Watch Monday’s Presidential Debate

I am super excited to watch the Presidential Debates on Twitter. I wrote this yesterday afternoon:

I know the Bloomberg Politics team. John Heilemann is a good friend of mine. They have two excellent TV shows, With All Due Respect which runs on Bloomberg TV every day after the market closes, and The Circus on Showtime on Sunday Nights. They understand this presidential race as well as anyone, they know the candidates, the issues, the campaigns, the pundits, and the people as well as anyone. I am really looking forward to how they do “Twitter play by play” during the debate.

So I tweeted out this poll today.

How do you plan to watch the debate?

Elephant Chart

I came across this chart today. Maybe all of you have seen it, but I hadn’t.

elephant chart

It is called “the elephant chart” because the shape of the chart looks like an elephant.

It was created by Christoph Lakner and Bruno Milanovic for their book, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization.

It charts the change in income by the absolute value of income on a global basis. So we see how someone in Africa living on a dollar a day compares to someone living in the developed world at $100 a day.

Bruno Milanovic discusses this chart in this blog post. It is short and well worth reading for some context.

For me, the story this chart tells is the movement of low cost labor from the developed world to the developing world over the past 25 years. This movement has allowed the “global middle class” to raise their incomes 60-80% while the middle class in the developed world has been stalled out.

But globalization doesn’t stop, nor does automation. And what one would expect over the next 25 years is the global “middle class” will similarly stall out and we will see increases at the far left (the 0-30% range).

The small group of people that are immune to this trend are those that make their money on capital, not labor. They are on the far right of this chart and they have done very well over the last 25 years and, if this story continues to play out as it has, should continue to do so.

There’s a question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The least developed parts of the world are developing rapidly. And very few people are experiencing absolute declines in income.

But whether or not this is a good thing at the global level, this redistribution of income growth creates political issues locally and we are certainly seeing them play out this year. And I would expect these issues will become more pronounced in the coming years.

Trapped In A System 

A book that has really stayed with me since I read it is The Prize, the story of the attempt to reform the Newark public school system.

And there is a particular scene in that book that really sums it up for me.

The author is at an anti-charter school protest and meets a woman who had spent that morning trying to get her son into a new charter school that had opened in Newark. The author asks the woman how it is possible that on the same day she would spend the morning trying to get her son into a charter school and the afternoon at an anti-charter protest.

The woman explains that most of her family are employed in good paying union jobs in the district schools and that the growth of charters is a threat to those jobs.

As I read that story I was struck by how rational the woman was acting. She was helping to preserve a system that provided an economic foundation for her family and at the same time opting her son out of it. 

In some ways that story is a microcosm of what is happening in the economy right now. Many people in the US (and around the world) are employed by (and trapped in) a system that no longer works very well. And although they realize the system is broken, they fight to support it because it underpins their economic security.

My partner Albert argues for a universal basic income to replace the old and broken system so we as a society can free ourselves from outdated approaches that don’t work anymore and move to adopt new and better systems. 

I think it is worth a shot to be honest.

Reason For Reform

Like all impassioned political debates, there is a reason to be on both sides of the immigration divide.

If you are against immigration, you are likely afraid of what these new people might bring to the US. They could bring lower cost labor and cause you to lose your job. They could bring crime or worse. They could bring additional votes that would cause your political party to lose more of its power and weight.

But if you are for immigration, you are excited about what these new people will bring.

And I am most decidedly on the pro-immigration side, even though I understand the anti-immigration arguments.

The reasons I want to reform our immigration laws have mostly to do with opportunity, innovation, and our economy.

Let’s look at NY State.

Immigrants now account for 23 percent of all residents of New York State. More strikingly, they make up more than a quarter of all STEM workers. A third of all entrepreneurs in the state are immigrants and their businesses alone employ just shy of 500,000 people. And this is only the private companies. New York is additionally home to 55 large Fortune 500 companies, more than half of which were started by immigrants or their children.

Since the earliest days of the US, immigrants have been coming to our country and building things, often businesses that employ our citizens.

The tech sector is pro-immigration because it benefits from immigration and because it was created, at least in part, by immigrants. Unlike some sectors of our society, tech has not forgotten where it came from.

If you too have reasons to support pro-immigration reform, then you might want to participate in a “day of action” today called Reason For Reform.

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s (NAE) Reason for Reform campaign is a way to put a face on our current immigration system which is badly in need of reform.  NAE is gathering stories and videos in every single congressional district across the country showing how immigration benefits the local community and why reform is so necessary.  They’re getting business leaders, farmers, entrepreneurs, students, faith leaders, and others to record their #ReasonForReform on cell phones or computers, which will then be sent to members of Congress and shared through social media.

If this is for you, visit Reason For Reform to tell Congress and America what immigration means to you. And you can check out what’s going on in your state here.

Video Of The Week: Khizr Khan’s Speech

The most moving and powerful speech I saw in the past two weeks, which have been full of speeches, was Khizr Khan’s speech on Thursday night.

Of course it was political and an attack on Donald Trump. But on this issue, religious and ethnic tolerance, Trump deserves the attack. And Khizr did it wonderfully.