Checks and Balances Project reported last December on New York City Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s October 2016 trip to Toronto at the behest of Fairbnb, “a coalition effort that brings together groups from the regulated hotel and B&B industry with property owners, property renters.”
At the time, we raised specific questions about whether New York City taxpayers or the hotel lobby-backed coalition paid for Ms. Rosenthal’s travel.
Based on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) records we obtained, a statement from Council Member Rosenthal’s office, communications we had with Metro News Toronto reporter May Warren, and the president of UNITE HERE Local 75 who serves as the chair of Fairbnb.ca Coalition, we learned Ms. Rosenthal paid for her own travel to share her experiences and ideas about homesharing with Fairbnb and the citizens of Toronto.
Council Member Rosenthal is an outspoken opponent of home sharing. She is also aligned with groups funded by the hotel lobby, such as FairBnb and ShareBetter, which is how her Toronto trip came to our attention.
In a story published while Ms. Rosenthal was in Toronto titled, “What Toronto can learn from New York and Santa Monica about Airbnb,” Warren wrote,
“The Fairbnb coalition flew representatives from the two cities to Toronto Wednesday to present at the city’s executive committee.”
UNITE HERE Local 75 Corrects Reporter
After we reached out to Ms. Warren and Fairbnb representative Thorben Wieditz of UNITE HERE Local 75 to obtain clarity about this issue, the president of UNITE HERE Local 75 and chair of the Fairbnb.ca Coalition, Lis Pimentel, informed us that Council Member Rosenthal paid for the trip out of her own pocket. The next day, Ms. Warren corrected her article.
For seven years, the focus of C&BP has been to bring accountability to lobbyists and their friends in government who block the growth of a sustainable economy. We believe climate change is real and that home sharing can help to address the decarbonization of our environment by reducing the need to build, heat and cool new hotel rooms, which sit empty an average of 35% of the time. As such, we will continue reporting on the efforts of the hotel lobby, as well as its allies and fellow travelers, who hinder the growth of home sharing and other sustainability technologies.
Nevertheless, we want to recognize elected officials, such as Helen Rosenthal, who is a full-time member of the New York City Council, when they demonstrate integrity and uphold the public trust.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and donors.