Last night before I went to bed I watched this video, as many of you did, where Steve Jobs personally presented the plans for Apple’s new headquarters to the Cupertino City Council. I, like everyone else who immediately pushed their thoughts off their Mac-enabled devices and into the iCloud, enjoyed Jobs’s humble, highly-personal presentation. I, along with most of the design community, was glad that he came in person to make the presentation himself. But why this was news to anyone, I do not know. The man has basically made a career out of doing presentations. He has a presentation catchphrase!
This actually wasn’t the first time Jobs went to the Cupertino City Council. Check out this video from 2006 (pardon the bad syncing):
Notice anything? Besides the outfit—which we all know is ALWAYS the same—Jobs gives almost the exact same presentation. The “I’m touching my head and thinking about what I’m going to say” before he starts, deep roots in Cupertino, Apple’s growing pains, renting of “millions” of buildings to house his employees, concentric circles, we need to build a new campus, apricot orchards, yada yada yada.
But something else is the same here, something far more disturbing: The same fawning, starry-eyed behavior from the city council members (many of whom have seen this shtick twice!).
I have to say I listen to a lot of Santa Monica City Council meetings on KCRW—it’s part of their public service to broadcast them—and I honestly find the meetings fascinating. When the councilmembers reprimand an architect about a building code violation they’re so Judge Judy bad ass that I imagine their spit landing on the foreheads of their constituents. And don’t even get them started on the traffic! I would honestly be terrified to see one of the Santa Monica City Councilmembers on the street. I would cower in fear. And I would go home and take down my illegal fencing, pay extra taxes, and never BYOB again.
Compare that to the deplorable behavior from elected officials that we have witnessed in Cupertino. It’s like instead of preparing questions to ask him about the biggest construction project in Cupertino EVER, by one of the most powerful companies EVER, they rehearsed what they would say to him in the mirror while they were brushing their teeth. “Um, well, golly, we sure do love having you here, Steve.” I swear, I thought the fanboy mayor who giggled and waved his uncooperative iPad 2 in front of him to prove his Apple allegiance was about to leap over the desk and ask Jobs to sign it. IN BLOOD.
I’m not saying that Apple won’t design a beautiful campus. But after hearing the hard hitting questions that the Cupertino City Council asked last night—Are you giving us free wi-fi? What about an Apple Store? I love you, will you go out with me?—I understand how box stores the size of Delaware and faux-marble chain restaurants get built. Like this.
Maybe they just couldn’t come up with any questions. So here are a few: Can you confirm that the architect of the building is Norman Foster, like everyone’s reporting? Is Apple going to make the grounds open to the public so they can enjoy the fifty billion trees that he’ll be planting? Will there be any kind of programming in the new auditorium that can expose the next generation to careers in technology and science? Could you share your awesome private transit system with the public? Would you be willing to help us with our own energy issues by teaching us how you’re making your own renewable power plant? What is Apple doing to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals used in its products? Are any of those being tested on site? Can you talk a little about how you’re creating better working conditions in your factories? Does Apple have a plan to make their parts more easily recyclable and repairable?
Or maybe that’s too much to ask of the biggest taxpayer in the city.