Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Debate over Uber cut short Wednesday at Dallas City Hall
Mayor Mike Rawlings will lead the investigation into crafting the Uber ordinance. And that was that.
DALLAS What had been expected to be a lengthy debate over The Uber Ordinance was cut short by a session behind closed doors and a vote that sends it to a council committee. Mayor Mike Rawlings also said he would oversee the investigation into how the item landed on the consent agenda.
“Thank you so much for coming down here,” says Rawlings to the packed house of would-be speakers. “Your input is extremely important to us. We will get to the bottom of this. … We will do the right things by the city of Dallas to make sure we live in a great city and it’s an easy place to get around and a safe place to get around,” he said.
And with that he asked the packed house to leave quietly.
Read a blow-by-blow, as long as it lasted, here.
Original item posted at 8:56 a.m.: Mayor Mike Rawlings has made it quite clear: He wants a proposed rewrite of the city’s limousine ordinance meant to restrict Uber kicked to the Transportation and Trinity River Committee before it goes to a vote in front of the entire council. Rawlings said that Monday — one day after discovering the Interim City Manager A.C. Gonzalez put the proposal on the council’s consent agenda, where it was intended to slip through without so much as a discussion.
But, of course, there’s been quite the discussion since Sunday, especially among users of the app-ordered car service who’ve taken to blogs and petitions and used hashtags and emails to voice their support of the company that has become the smartphone generation’s cab service — much to the chagrin of the cab companies trying to oust Uber from the city limits.
So far we’ve learned: Yellow Cab has contributed heavily to several council members’ campaigns, and had its lobbyists, The Reeds PRC, meet with assistant city managers about how Uber is skirting existing city code. And: The city used undercover vice officers, among others, to run sting operations that resulted in 31 Uber-certified drivers receiving 61 citations.
The city says drivers were not licensed or insured. Uber says otherwise, insisting, among other things, all of its drivers are contracted through limo companies that have been licensed by the city. Uber also says those companies carry $500,000 insurance policies, and that the San Francisco-based company carries an excess policy worth $5 million.
The company, via its local attorneys and management, is likely to speak to that. But they’re just a few men in a long parade of people expected to show up at 1500 Marilla to speak in favor of Uber; 105 people have told the city secretary they want to address the proposed ordinance, among them Yellow Cab owner Jack Bewley and #DallasNeedsUber creator Mike Orren (who works for Speakeasy, a Slingshot, LLC-Dallas Morning News joint). Also expect Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston, who helped pull the item off the consent agenda, to add something to the debate. Other council members will also get their 10 minutes. And, of course, the mayor will make his case for booting The Uber Ordinance to committee.
Before we begin, it’s worth noting: The city’s tussle with Uber dates back to November 2, 2012, when Uber received its cease-and-desist letter from Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers. According to sources, two months later Uber’s attorneys met with Bowers, Assistant City Manager Joey Zapata and others to explain its operations. That began a back-and-forth that sources say led to Uber being cited by the city in May. After that came the torrent of citations against the drivers; their cases are scheduled for hearings beginning in October.
See the live blog here.
Uber Dallas manager Leandre Johns said after Wednesday morning's session, “I honestly don’t know how to take it” when asked about the lack of debate concerning the proposed ordinance this morning. On the one hand, he says, he kind of expected it once the mayor made it clear he wanted it sent to committee.
On the other hand, he says, “We had a lot of people signed up to speak,” many of them Uber drivers, not to mention those customers and hashtag creators and start-up folk also on the city’s list of speakers.
“But this isn’t over,” says Johns. “This is the first step. We’ll be ready for what the next steps are.”
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