Car Service Controversy
Battered by a surprisingly intense reaction, five City Council members have requested that a discussion on the controversial "Uber amendment" be given special attention at their meeting on August 28.
The amendment was originally slated for the council's consent agenda, where the topics are usually noncontroversial done deals. The council members' request reflects their awareness of the heightened interest in the topic. Consent Addendum Item No. 5, which seeks to regulate technology-based car services such as Uber, will now be subject to a separate discussion.
Uber's self-defined status as a technology service, as opposed to a limousine or taxicab company, means no current city code applies to the company.
Assistant city secretary Bilierae Johnson confirmed that council members Philip Kingston, Scott Griggs, Jennifer Staubach Gates, Sheffie Kadane and Sandy Greyson (in that order) all requested individual discussion of the Uber amendment. On Facebook, Griggs advised those wishing "to save Uber" to sign up and speak. "Tell your Council and Mayor not to outlaw Uber. Are we really scared of an app in 2013?" Griggs wrote.
Public reaction to the amendment seems to have been unexpected. Mayor Mike Rawlings expressed his surprise via twitter:
Surprised about Uber item this morning. Asking council to send back to trans for a review. Getting to the bottom of this.#DallasNeedsUber— Mayor Mike Rawlings (@Mike_Rawlings) August 26, 2013
Johnson said a dozen public speakers have already signed up to speak on the issue. "I believe the number could continue to grow," she said.
The deadline to sign up for the public forum is 5 pm Tuesday, August 27. Although the item has already been pulled from the consent agenda, it's possible it won't be voted on during the August 28 City Council meeting. Members may still postpone or defer an item on the day of the meeting.
Uber spokesperson Leandre Johns issued the following statement in response to the city's attempt at regulating the company:
Uber's growth in Dallas is a clear indication of both the consumer demand for better, more reliable transportation options and the positive economic impact Uber’s service has on the city’s livery drivers.
This proposal to revise existing limo ordnances outside the normal city council procedures is simply an orchestrated effort to limit competition for the taxi industry. The facts are simple: Uber is a technology company, not a transportation company. This proposal is akin to requiring Expedia to be licensed by the FAA.
The bottom line is that this proposal was added to the agenda at the last minute precisely because the anti-competitive interests it seeks to protect know that public opinion is not with them. These changes would not only limit consumer choice, but would reduce driver incomes and cut jobs from the for-hire industry.