Ex-mayor Rawlings-Blake takes paid job as adviser to Airbnb

Former Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has joined an Airbnb advisory board as the accommodation rental company continues to battle with the hotel industry over how it ought to be regulated.

Rawlings-Blake, who departed City Hall last year, joins former mayors of Rome and Houston who serve as paid members of a Mayoral Advisory Board at the company. She said she was excited to join the board so she could find ways for cities to benefit from Airbnb.

“In my six years as Mayor of the City of Baltimore, I saw firsthand the positive impact that tourism and visitors have on a community,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “While I have left office, promoting economic development that helps the middle class remains one of my top priorities.”

Rawlings-Blake will work on how Airbnb can help women and recruit more members of racial minorities become hosts on the company’s system.

The board, which the company originally announced last year, meets quarterly.

Like other companies in the so-called “sharing economy,” Airbnb has sometimes clashed with regulators and existing industries over taxation and rules as it has opened up new ways for people to find short-term rental accommodation.

The company says it accepts paying hotel taxes as long as they aren’t collected in a way it feels is too burdensome for its landlords, many of whom are not professional business people.

The Baltimore City Council proposed extending the city’s hotel tax to rooms and homes rented on Airbnb last year, but the measure failed. This year the council said it would consider an ordinance banning people from renting anything but their own home on the service and its competitors, a measure backed by the Maryland Hotel Lodging Association. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young withdrew the proposal before it was formally introduced.

And in Annapolis this year, the hotel industry mounted a push to more tightly regulate online rentals but legislators could not agree on a proposal.

Rawlings-Blake announced that she would not seek re-election in the months after rioting shook Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray. After leaving office she started consulting firm SRB & Associates.

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