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Paris proposal to name street for Steve Jobs sparks debate over his legacy

Steve Jobs Returning from a Visit to the New Factory. Fremont, California, 1987.

With the world’s largest startup campus opening soon in his neighborhood, the mayor of Paris’ 13th arrondissement had what seemed like a pretty benign idea: Rename the surrounding streets after famous digital figures.

At the top of Mayor Jérôme Coumet’s list: Steve Jobs.

But while Coumet may see Jobs as a digital pioneer, the local opposing Communist and Green parties begged to differ. They have criticized the choice, saying Jobs was a tax dodge and a bully who exploited cheep Chinese labor to rebuild his company.

“His legacy is the working conditions in contract factories,” the Communists wrote in a statement. “Apple’s suppliers in China are known to abuse inadequate wages and forced overtime. But the legacy of Steve Jobs is also in the massive illegal tax optimization practices, as revealed just three months ago by the very liberal European Commission. There are nearly 13 billion euros that Apple has to pay today to offset the outrageous tax rate of 0.005% in Ireland.”

They proposed replacing “Rue Steve Jobs” with Ada Lovelace, the software pioneer. The leftist groups noted that this would create a better gender balance with the three names proposed for surrounding streets: Alan Turing, Eugene Freyssinet, and Grace Murray.

The streets would surround Station F, the massive startup campus being funded by telecom entrepreneur Xavier Niel and set to open in April. Niel is renovating Halle Freyssinet, a historic train station designed by the engineer whose name it bears.

Coumet has defended the choice, saying Jobs may have been imperfect, but the he changed our daily lives by popularizing the personal computer and smartphone:

Still, Coumet also responded by saying that one of the nearby streets will indeed be named for Lovelace. Though it was unclear how that would change the overall mix of names.

The final names still have to be approved by a city of Paris committee.


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