Steve Jobs - Mayor of Cupertino

By 2006, Steve’s company was worth more than his wife’s old boss, Goldman Sachs.[1] Steve needed more room for his exploding population of engineers. He needed to buy more land to build a larger campus. 

On April 18th, 2006, he stood up at a Cupertino Council meeting to talk about a bigger boat to carry all his pirates. 

This small event in Steve’s calendar was one of the finest examples of Steve in the ‘zone’.  Although his audience was neither staff nor customers, and the hall was practically empty, he was still Mister Charisma. Council member, Dolly Sandoval introduced him, “We purposely set a very light agenda tonight just to highlight your presentation”. There were some knowing chuckles from the small gathering. His reputation had preceded him as a long-winded sales-man. Citizens are given three minutes to make their case. Steve took seven. He approached the microphone playing the role of the humble citizen. However, everybody recognised the man in the black turtleneck was a far cry from their humblest voter. Steve wasn’t there to ask permission from the council. He simply told them what was going to happen. He told them:
(1) He has been a Cupertino businessman for thirty years.
(2) His business has grown into a twenty billion dollar company.
(3) He is going to expand his business site, because he has already bought the property, and that’s that.
(4) They should feel lucky that he chose Cupertino because it’s cheaper to build on the land of the council next door.
(5) They should feel happy because he is their biggest tax-payer.
It could be argued that since Apple is so similar to a religion, shouldn't the company be tax-exempt like churches?

Considering the council’s delighted applause, he needn’t have pitched the ball so hard. The doe-eyed Councilwomen were especially happy for Cupertino’s favourite pin-up boy. Vice Mayor, Kris Wang fumbled an awkward analogy comparing buying property to educating a child. She just couldn’t think straight in front of Steve. He is now the largest landowner in Cupertino.[2]
Five years later, Steve had to drag his ass back into City Hall once again to talk about his proposed new campus – possibly his swan-song. This time it was an effort to stay on his A-game considering that his immune system had almost ground to a halt. By now he may be wracked with fever, chills and chronic lower back pain.

From the opening few words, one can’t help but feel a little misty-eyed at the inner strength of this outwardly frail man who made a such a palpable effort to go through the bureaucratic protocols. Rather than the “congrats and looking forward”, that he received last time from City Hall, the ill CEO had to cop some attitude from the Clueless Councillors. Luckily, the room was packed this time with posse of fan-boys who applauded as he stepped up to the mike.

He was armed this time with a well-orchestrated slide-show. The mayor tried to be helpful by advising him he can use a light-pointer. The presentation maestro brushed off the youngster and said, “I don’t really need to draw on the screen, it’s okay. You can see it clearly.”

Steve’s gallery of images revealed the most wondrous office that could ever be constructed. In fact, it wasn’t an office so much as a utopian vista.

For almost twenty years, Apple’s current campus has been surrounded by a circuit called The Infinite Loop. It was named after a computer program that repeats itself without end. It may also be interpreted as a metaphor for Steve’s constant recreation of himself, the self-reflexive ouroboros serpent eating its own tail, or perhaps a lab-rat on a wheel. In 1999, Michael Malone felt that The Infinite Loop was an apt title for his well-received book about Apple Inc.[3]

His proposed new campus adhered to the same curvilinear theme. The building is a perfect circle.

His illustrations reveal a curvaceous oasis of glass and foliage among an urban sprawl of asphalt. His plan is to boost the tree population by 60% and strip the land of its ugly asphalt by 90%. It’s an appropriate design considering that Steve is often critiqued for building a walled garden out of Apple. Now, he literally is building one. Steve said, “Apple’s grown like a weed.” - a weed, indeed.

On a darker note, one is reminded that his Silicon Valley Eden stands in stark contrast to the bleak and overcrowded dorms in the Chinese sweatshops that manufacture his product.

Steve explained why he selected that particular piece of land by way of a heartfelt story that will surely become part of Silicon Valley folklore:

This land is kind of special, to me. When I was thirteen, I think, I called up – Hewlett and Packard were my idols – and I called up Bill Hewlett, ’cause he lived in Palo Alto and there were no unlisted numbers in the phone book, which gives you a clue to my age (laughter). And he picked up the phone and I talked to him and I asked him if he’d give me some spare parts for something I was building called a frequency counter, and he did, but in addition that, he gave me something way more important. He gave me a job that summer. A summer job at Hewlett-Packard, right here on - in Santa Clara - right here off 280, the division that built frequency counters, and I was in heaven. Well, right around that exact moment in time, Hewlett and Packard themselves were walking on some property over here in Cupertino, in Pruneridge, and they ended up buying it. And they built their computer systems division there. And as Hewlett-Packard has been shrinking lately, they decided to sell that property and we bought it. We bought that and we bought some adjacent property that all used to be apricot trees.”

Steve continued to explain that he’s hired the senior arborist from Stanford University to replant the area once again with thousands of apricot trees.

His painfully careful presentation took twice as long as the last time he stood before the council. He said approximately the same things:

(1) He has been a Cupertino businessman for thirty-five years.
(2) He is going to build another campus, because he has already bought the property, and that’s that.
(3) Regarding power consumption, we don’t need your power supply, we’ll make our own - and cleaner. We’ll use your filthy grid as back-up.

(4) They should feel lucky that he chose Cupertino rather than the council next door.
(5) They should feel happy because he is their biggest tax-payer

This should have been an open-and-shut case. Unfortunately, Steve made the fatal mistake of asking, “I would love to answer any questions, if you have any”. 

Introducing, Cupertino’s Council of The Three Stooges: Chang, Wang, and Wong:

Council Member Kris Wang was Steve’s doe-eyed cheerleader at the last meeting - not this time, however. Perhaps she’s a little bitter because she got bumped down from the Vice Mayor job in the interim. "How will this benefit the people of Cupertino?", she asks. How will this benefit the people of Cupertino?!!  Let us expand on this phenomenally stupid question. This woman is asking how further business expansion and environmentally-conscious property development by their biggest tax-payer will benefit the people of Cupertino. It’s difficult to imagine a dumber question, but Kris managed to procure one nonetheless. She wanted him to be more “pacific” as to how Cupertino could benefit, for example, will he provide free Wi-Fi for the city’s entire ten square miles? “Yeah, no,” was Steve’s bored response.

Kris was flamed across the twitterverse for her faux-funny demand for Wi-Fi. Business Insider offered Kris a right of reply. Her emailed explanation was even more hilarious. After wading through all the self-promotion that she copied and pasted from her curriculum vitae, the reason for her asinine question can be summarized by saying that she assumes some kind of camaraderie with Steve and claims the question was a long-running private joke.[4] Steve didn’t seem to get the joke. Perhaps the rapport she claims to have with Steve exists only in her imagination. Perhaps Kris pretends she is cosy with Steve when she is dropping names at Rotary luncheons. Steve could buy City Hall three times over and then forget all the names of the councilors he sent into early retirement.

Councillor Barry Chang is apparently a long time Cupertino businessman. In theory, he should know something about running a business. However, his puerile question makes one suspect his business was no more complicated than the local laundry. Numbnut Chang asked Steve if he had considered the safety and fire regulations. Steve almost sighed. It’s safe to assume that safety may have come up somewhere in the planning considering Apple has spent a small nation’s budget hiring British architect legend, Norman Foster, to draw up the plans.[5] He’s the guy who designed London’s iconic “gherkin”, so he’s no slouch.

Mayor Gilbert Wong, is a drooling fanboy who looks and sounds like Lloyd from Entourage (and just as lame). He proceeded to whip out his iPad only to demonstrate how he can’t even use the “slide to unlock” properly.  Despite his apparent  love for the company, he introduced Steve as the CEO of Apple Computer. Apple Inc hasn’t been called Apple Computer since 2007. 

He then asked Steve for an Apple Store in Cupertino. Steve’s tired response felt like he was explaining to a country child that building a Disney World in his little hometown is probably a dumb idea. If Gilbert wants to visit the Church of Apple, the nearest Store is Los Gatos – a mere fifteen-minute drive from Cupertino City Hall. Perhaps that’s still too far away for Dilbert, I mean Gilbert. 

Apple made Cupertino. Its council getting all “gimme” with Steve is like the Columbian Government touching up Pablo Escobar for more money than they’re already getting. Local governments like Cupertino are forever broke and regularly extort “favors” from businesses looking to expand. However, these thinly-veiled mercenary tactics don’t usually receive almost two million hits on YouTube.You have to admire Steve's spiritual tenacity to stand up to the Council despite his physical pain. Philip Elmer-Dewitt observed that Steve "could serve as a lesson to CEOs around the world in how to bend a local government to your will." [6]

When he wasn’t answering stupid questions, Steve was forced to repeat the math of his proposal to the councilors who were having trouble following probably the simplest presentation in Steve’s stage history. This may have a lot to do with the fact that some of the council is made up of those to whom English is a second language.The only old white guy on the council waited toward the end to offer some gentlemanly words of encouragement. His name was Orrin Mahoney and he worked some thirty-five years for HP.

Among the audience were teenaged volunteers from the Organization of Special Needs Families and some fifth graders from Portal Elementary. They had arrived to receive rewards for their community work. One wonders how these young people reacted to watching the icon who brought them the toys they play Angry Birds upon.[7]

This final fact was reported by one of only two members of the press in the room, local lady, Ruby Elbogen. After Steve’s speech, she spotted him by the refreshments table: A familiar looking man was standing there, all alone, facing the coffee pot.”[8] - All alone.

This author hopes Steve is still around to see the last pane of German-engineered glass slide into place by 2015.

[1] Elkind, P. (2008 March 5) The Trouble With Steve Jobs. Fortune Magazine.
[2] International Business Times (2010, November 26) Apple Buys HP Campus, Becomes Biggest Landowner In Cupertino. Retrieved from
[3] Malone, M. (1999) Infinite Loop. Doubleday Business: New York.

[4] Yarrow, J. (2011, June 10) Cupertino Councilwoman: Here's Why I Asked Steve Jobs For Free Wifi. Retrieved from:

[5] Elmer-DeWitt, P. (2010, December 6) Norman Foster to build 'City of Apple' [Blog] From Apple 2.0. Retrieved from:

[6] Elmer-DeWitt, P. (2011, June 8) Video: Steve Jobs' pitch to build a 'spaceship' in Cupertino [blog]. Apple 2.0. CNNMoney. Retrieved from:

[7] Elbogen, R (2010, June 6) Steve Jobs Shows Up At City Council To Introduce Apple’s New Campus. The Cupertino News. Retrieved from:

[8] Elbogen, R (2010, June 6) Steve Jobs Is In The Building Part Deux – The Rest of The Reveal. .The Cupertino News. Retrieved from: 

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