Go on the Airbnb website and you feel like you’ve landed in a cool world with interesting people who could become your friends. “Book unique homes and experiences all over the world,” is the message greeting visitors to the company’s homepage.
The message to those who would stand in the path of the multibillion-dollar home-sharing juggernaut is considerably less inviting. “Mess with us at your peril” seem to be the watchwords.
Locally, it’s Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu who suddenly finds herself on the receiving end of that warning.
Her offense? Having the nerve to consider the impact Airbnb is having on Boston’s housing stock and to suggest that the city might want to impose guardrails on what has become a wild west of rentals in which apartments or even entire buildings have been turned into de facto hotels.
Wu has been the leading voice on the council pushing for greater oversight and regulation of home-sharing apps. She filed several amendments to Mayor Marty Walsh’s recently proposed ordinance, but the whole package has since been pulled to make revisions to it.
Airbnb isn’t waiting around, however, to see what happens next.
It blasted out an email yesterday, presumably to thousands of people in Boston, ripping Wu for being “aligned with big hotel interests against the interests of regular Bostonians.” One charge has Wu and her supporters particularly steamed — that she proposed a 30-day cap on Airbnb rentals. Wu proposed no such thing. She accused the company of spreading “fake news” and said it “doesn’t bode well” for the idea that Airbnb will be a credible partner with the city in fashioning reasonable regulations.
Airbnb clarified in an email to the Globe that it meant she proposed a 30-day cap on stays by an individual renter. But the company didn’t let up on its attack on Wu, calling her proposal “anti-tenant” and “anti-middle class,” in an emailed statement last night.
The kerfuffle over whether the company misrepresented her stand is, in many ways, the least significant part of the story. What’s really going on is here is the same mega-battle that has been waged by Uber and by other corporate behemoths at the vanguard of the so-called “gig economy.”
These firms, whose founders have become billionaires practically overnight, are arguing that regulators are standing in the way of freedom for the little guy — for people’s rights to drive their own car for hire or rent out their apartment as they wish. It’s part of the broader growth of “contingency” work that Mark Erlich writes about in the new issue of CommonWealth.
But what happens if that freedom to turn your apartment or group of apartments into hotel-like accommodations puts a further squeeze on a housing market that is already one of the costliest in the country? Accusing a city councilor who seems earnest about grappling with that issue of being a tool of the hotel industry is a pretty rich charge from company worth more than $30 billion. And judging from the online reaction, it doesn’t exactly look like the best way to win over the local crowd.
The popular local news and aggregation site Universal Hub made clear where it stood, headlining its piece on the showdown, “Airbnb tries to slime Boston city councilor instead of discussing its role in destroying entire neighborhoods.”
The Supreme Judicial Court rules that stun guns and tasers are protected under the Second Amendment and citizens are allowed to own them. (State House News)
A third of the funding in a proposed life sciences bill would go to the University of Massachusetts. (State House News)
The unlikely alliance of Insurance plans and reproductive freedom advocates combined to protect contraceptive coverage in Massachusetts, say Lora Pellegrini and Rebecca Hart Holder. (CommonWealth)
New payroll data that was not released when the controversy first surfaced shows that State Police troopers working at Logan Airport pocketed more than $3.4 million over the last four years in “per diem” payments they get simply for driving their cars to and from work, prompting some lawmakers to call for further scrutiny of the agency. (Boston Globe)
CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas talks about what the big criminal justice reform bill does — and what it left undone — on “The Take” with Sue O’Connell. (NECN)
A South Coast Today editorial worries about the urban landscape as the Archdiocese of Fall River goes through an evaluation process that is likely to decide churches need to close because of lack of attendance.
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch plans to introduce an ordinance banning construction vehicles from roads leading toward Long Island, the last move in the city’s battle to prevent Boston from rebuilding the bridge leading to the island. (Patriot Ledger)
The IRS’s online payment service experienced technical difficulties on Tuesday so officials are giving filers another day to submit their tax forms. (WBUR)
Members of the US Supreme Court raise plenty of concerns about a South Dakota appeal to allow taxation of internet sales. (Governing)
CIA director — and secretary of state nominee — Mike Pompeo met secretly with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (New York Times)
William Lantigua, the flashy and controversial former mayor of Lawrence, is preparing to mount another campaign for state rep. He is expected to face off against Marcos Devers, who he has tangled with six times over the last 12 years, for the seat being vacated by Juana Matias, who is running for Congress. (Eagle-Tribune)
Tram Nguyen, a staff attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, announced she plans to challenge conservative Rep. Jim Lyons of Andover. (Lowell Sun)
A Herald editorial says the push for a $15 minimum wage in Massachusetts is well-meaning (at least when it comes to the community groups and clergy backing it, not the unions) but misguided.
Starbucks plans to close 8,000 stores for an afternoon next month to provide racial-bias training to staffers. The move comes after staffers at a Philadelphia location called in police to deal with two black men who were sitting in the restaurant waiting for a third man to arrive. (Time)
The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau will reopen its search for a new leader after criticism that the first attempt landed only white finalists. (Boston Globe)
JetBlue flight attendants vote to unionize. (Boston Globe)
Some Lowell residents say the gas leaks that shut down the high school for three days last week are proof that plans to spend $300 million renovating the old building will ultimately be unsuccessful. (Lowell Sun)
The Worcester schools develop their first strategic plan in 25 years. (Telegram & Gazette)
Miriam Nelson, a public health researcher who spent 30 years at Tufts University, was named president of Hampshire College. (Boston Globe)
After considerable prodding, Bridgewater State University releases data on sexual harassment complaints filed at the school. (The Enterprise)
There is considerable confusion over the options available to Mt. Ida College students to complete their degrees at other schools. (Boston Globe)
Berkshire County is called a leader in the “age-friendly movement.” (Berkshire Eagle)
Out-of-state drivers owe the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about $15 million. Most of the money is likely to go uncollected because the drivers didn’t have transponders and don’t live in states that have reciprocity agreements with Massachusetts. (MassLive)
Attorney General Maura Healey ruled the MBTA must put North Quincy construction work out to bid, an approach the T didn’t think it needed to do because the work was part of a much larger private development. (Patriot Ledger)
Chunks of concrete fell from a state-owned bridge onto commuter rail tracks outside South Station, delaying trains and underscoring the distressed condition of transportation infrastructure. (Boston Herald)
The mayors of Medford and Northampton say the state needs to move much faster in shifting to electric buses. (CommonWealth)
Christian Hoepfner and Carlos Nouel outline the development and benefits of a modernized power grid. (CommonWealth)
The police chiefs in Somerset and a handful of other communities criticize the justice system and judges for letting criminals out of jail. The criticism followed the murder of Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon while serving a warrant on a man with a long record who had violated his probation. (Herald News)
David Scharfenberg writes that a greater rehabilitation focus on younger offenders is one remaining challenge for criminal justice reform. (Boston Globe)
Because of a court error, an Uber driver living in Quincy who was charged with raping a passenger was allowed to post bail and flee the country. He should have been forced to surrender his passport before being allowed out of jail. (Patriot Ledger)
Western Mass News plans to open a TV studio inside the MGM casino in Springfield, much like WGBH has a studio inside the Boston Public Library. Western Mass News, which consists of the ABC, CBS, and Fox affiliates in Springfield, is a partner of The Republican newspaper (and its online operation MassLive). Terms of the deal were not disclosed. (MassLive)
Barbara Bush, wife and mother to former US presidents, died at age 92. (New York Times)