Willie Brown's "friends" at airbnb

Treasurer Jose Cisneros is under fire

San Francisco's treasurer, Jose Cisneros, usually operates out of the limelight, and he likes it that way. Most of what he does is about making sure the city's money comes in propertly and doesn't go out where it isn't supposed to. But now he's in the middle of a political battle not of his making, and he's taking some undeserved hits, including from the Mayor's Office.

The issue is whether a company financed by Mayor Ed Lee's buddy Ron Conway should have to pay hotel taxes. It seems pretty simple on the surface: Airbnb, which mediates arrangements where San Francisco residents rent out their homes to tourists as an alternative to hotel rooms, doesn't want to be responsible for paying the 14 percent tax that all the hotels in town have to cough up. Cisneros, following the law, says the company isn't exempt and has to pay taxes just like anyone else in the hotel industry.

But airbnb is closely connected to Lee and his idea of the "sharing economy," and the Mayor's Office has gone so far as to say in public that Cisneros is abusing his discretion and should let the tax bill slide.

That's crazy -- tax enforcement is not under the "discretion" of the treasurer. It's a policy matter for the mayor and the supervisors. And if the mayor wants to ask the supes to exempt a billionaire's pet startup from taxes, go ahead: Find someone to introduce that legislation. But Cisneros is only doing his job -- and that includes forcing even hip young startups to pay taxes.

Oh, but it gets jucier. Willie Brown, who like Lee has close ties to Conway, is now tweaking Cisneros in his Chronicle column:

While we're at it, an alert to city Treasurer Jose Cisneros: Former Mayor Art Agnos threw an air mattress on the floor for Ross Mirkarimi when a judge barred the suspended sheriff from being with his family. Mr. Treasurer, equal protection under the law says you should send Agnos a notice if you're going after all these other people.

I think there's a difference between letting an old friend sleep in your place (or even renting him a room for a few months) and running a business that portrays itself as a service for tourists. And I wonder: Does Brown represent airbnb, or is he invested in the startup? No way to tell -- he has complete freedom to hype anyone or trash anyone, despite even clear conflicts of interest that would get any other columnist at the Chron fired. I called him to ask if he has any connections to the company, but as usual, he hasn't called back.



exchange student is nothing like providing full services to well-heeled tourists and convention goers. I've sublet rooms many times to European visitors and it never occured to me that I was acting as a hotelier, and I certainly would vehemently object to being taxed like Hyatt or Marriot.

And if the city really thinks it is entitled to this revenue, then they should do what the IRS does, and invite those homeowners to declare the income and penalize them if they do not. Trying to get an intermediary to pay that tax on the assumption that it's reasonable is as outrageous as the attempts to get Amazon to collect sales tax revenue.

Hey, I have no issue with this Treasurer trying to collect taxes that he thinks he is entitled to. The issue is how he is trying to get companies to collect the tax on his behalf. Lee is correct on this one.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

"Foreign visitor or exchange student"?

That's outdated. Such a visitor or student is called an international visitor or international exchange student. "Foreign" = pejorative, which is likely why you used it since that's what trolls do.

But for others who are interested:

For example, "google" the International Exchange Students' program at Santa Clara University.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

The PC police are in the house. Now I have heard it all.

Posted by D. native on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:37 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

Great, you directed me to a sub-standard wikipedia entry. Thanks so much. Still not sure of your point.

Posted by Dnative on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 6:40 am

"Still not sure of your point."

Why am I not surprised? I can draw you a picture if you'd like, but then, why bother? You won't get that either, deliberately so.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 2:09 pm
Posted by Dnative on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

If he finds that word offensive, I'd guess about half the English language is off limits for him.

The days must be long on his planet.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 6:44 am

Just call them aliens.

Children, that's NOT COOL. You don't make fun of somebody because of their ethnicity


You don't?


But Chef, YOU just ripped on Chinese people.


No, no, no, no, no, that's different. I made fun of them because they are FROM China. You see, it's NOT okay to make fun of an American because they're black or brown or whatever, but it IS okay to make fun of foreigners because they're from another country.



Posted by guest on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 7:41 am

gyp you. They can be niggardly that way.

Posted by Chromefields on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 10:18 am