by William Needham Finley IV™

My First City Council Meeting: To Airbnb or not to be?

in ITBNN by

As part of my duty to Raleigh, I attended my first ever City Council meeting Tuesday night. The City Council was planning to vote on placing regulations on Airbnb in Raleigh, which has become quite a divisive issue. If you’re unfamiliar with Airbnb, it’s like a hotel, a house, and the internet all got together and made a baby. It’s the Uber of Bed and Breakfasts.

There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few years over whether Raleigh should allow homeowners to rent out rooms in their homes using Airbnb. Despite having no regulations or rules in place, citizens have managed to use Airbnb without any mass murder occurring. Due to a few complaints, regulations had been proposed and were to be voted on by the City Council during this meeting.

While most people view Airbnb as a way to host outsiders and make some extra money, I see it as a huge opportunity for Raleigh. Many people are able to actually pay off their mortgages using income from Airbnb renters. While I can’t stand outsiders coming in to Raleigh and causing long lines at Rise Biscuits, Airbnb allows our citizens to take advantage of these wildlings in order to pay off all of our mortgage debt. Why do I care about Raleigh citizens paying off their mortgage debt? First, who owns Raleigh’s mortgage debt? Banks. And where are banks located? Charlotte. That’s right, paying off all of Raleigh’s mortgage debt means Charlotte won’t make any interest off of us, which would cripple their economy. This is a no brainer.

Also, once our citizens don’t have to pay a mortgage they’ll be able to spend all their disposable income at Raleigh based businesses. That’s just Economics 101. Not only will we cripple Charlotte, but we’ll be so wealthy that we won’t have to rely on making a quick buck from hosting out of town events like the Ironman or Rock n’ Roll Marathon. To speed this process up, I propose that Airbnb owners band together and start price fixing their rentals so that we can be entirely debt free by 2020. The new regulations should be, “Thou shalt never rent for anything less than triple fair market value”. You know people would follow it since it’s written like a commandment.

I decided to attend the meeting and possibly propose my price fixing regulation to the City Council.

My Mom taught me to always bring a gift, so I just went with some myrrh for Bonner.

This was the scene as I approached.

Police and Firefighters

Police and firefighters were outside the building protesting for higher pay. I awkwardly took this picture like I was some sort of reporter and then walked in like I owned the place, when I actually had no clue where I was going. I eventually stumbled into the hallowed chamber.
Chamber

I didn’t want my Twitter account to get hacked like the NFL’s did earlier this week, so I asked Bonner for the secure wifi password. He was backstage and too busy to respond.

The room was so packed that an overflow area was set up outside. The City Council finally walked out and took their seats to huge applause. Kidding, no one clapped and it was actually pretty intense because the room was full of police and firefighters who were NOT very happy. Bonner made eye contact with me as he took his seat.

I won’t go into all the details of the meeting because that’s what the Raleigh Public Record is for. I’ll just hit the highlights.

The police and firefighters spoke first about how they deserved to be paid more. I didn’t even realize this was a problem in Raleigh and I agree they should get raises. I’m not just saying this to get out of future speeding tickets and mansion arson charges. 

After about half an hour of hearing from the police and firefighter groups, the Mayor asked that people who were finished speaking exit the chamber so that people in the overflow area could enter. A seat had opened up next to me and I didn’t want anyone to take it because I don’t like strangers. I wanted to start yelling, “HOLD THE DOOR! HOL THE DOOR! HOLTHDOR! HOLDOR! HODOR! HODOR!….” but I also didn’t want to get kicked out.

It was 7:54 pm by now and I was starving. I hadn’t seen a single waiter or waitress all night.

I could not believe this. We didn’t get dinner or complimentary beverage service. What do my parents’ tax dollars pay for? I was so parched that I’d even consider drinking the City Council’s water that’s stored in those gross pitchers that look like they were last used during the O.J. trial. I started to get lightheaded and couldn’t pay attention.

It was in my darkest hour that a stroke of genius hit.

Finally, we reached the Airbnb part of the meeting. Some guy from the city read a bunch of rules that I didn’t understand and the floor was open for comments.

The supporters were up first. They all wore bright yellow shirts that said “Share Raleigh” followed by the statistics on Airbnb usage in Raleigh, 13,000 renters, 500 homes, 7 complaints, and “Why mess with this?” at the bottom. Personally, I would’ve gone with something like “Sharing is Caring” or “To Airbnb or not to be? That shouldn’t even be a question.” but what do I know.

A self-described “transplant from Cali” explained how important Airbnb was for innovation, which was a pretty weak argument. That type of buzzword usage is to be expected from the innovation crowd, who is always looking to #leverage synergies to maximize engagement of pivot, pivot…..pivot….PIVOT…PIVOT!!!! PIVOT!!!! See, once you start going with those buzzwords you can’t stop yourself.

Even though this next guy was a supporter, he still needs to be taught the basic principles of the universe, namely, that we’re the center of it.

This girl’s story was somewhat awkward…

The best line of the night came from an older gentleman…

Then finally, what we’d all been waiting for. The original Airbnb supporter, Gregg Stebben, rose from his seat and walked to the podium.

Gregg talked about how he had great experiences with Airbnb and highlighted the lack of complaints compared to the high number of renters over the last few years.

Up next came the whiners. A lady from North Raleigh claimed she canvassed her neighborhood and spoke with 85 people, 61 of which signed a petition against Airbnb. So if my OTB to ITB math is correct, carry the one, take the square root, and that 61 people equals 22 ITB people, which isn’t even a full classroom at Broughton. Your opinion is invalid.

It was 10:07 pm and I was exhausted at this point, so I asked Bonner to put us out of our misery.

That’s right when things started to heat up. The public comment period had ended and Russ Stephenson moved to accept the new rules. Bonner was not having any of it. His reply, “I have a major issue with this.”

The City Council kept using words I didn’t understand and then there were some votes and revotes and who knows what was happening.

One councilor decided to turn this into an ITB vs. OTB issue. 

After all the discussion and voting, we arrived at…..

Nowhere. There are no rules for Airbnb. It still isn’t legal, but the city doesn’t care if you do it. I didn’t get a chance to introduce my price fixing proposal, but I plan to reach out to all Airbnbs in Raleigh to get everyone on board.

Finally, thanks to the City Council for not kicking me out. They all deserve a lot of credit for sitting in a room for almost four hours listening to people yell at them. Then again, people in the crowd would have been a lot happier with at least a 3 course meal and complimentary beverage service.

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