Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dallas City Council responds to outrage from citizens over UBER amendment

Let's hear it for the power of social media!

This past Sunday, Robert Wilonsky over at the DMN, reported that the Dallas City Council was scheduled to vote Wednesday on a substantial city code rewrite - aimed directly at luxury car service UBER - that would redefine everything from who can dispatch a car to who can drive a limo to the cost of a limousine’s off-the-lot sticker price (has to be more than $45,000).

And the city doesn’t want you to be able to order up a limo whenever you want: The rewrite, says the addendum, will “require limousine service to be prearranged at least 30 minutes before the service is provided” and establish “minimum limousine fares.”

Angry customers and fans of UBER's service took to their social channels to howl in protest, using the hastag #DallasNeedsUber.

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."
I published a post in protest myself yesterday and urged people to write to the Dallas City Council and voice their displeasure. I was very pleased to get a response today from Jennifer Staubach Gates. She writes:
"Dear Cynthia,

Thank you for your comments. Yesterday morning I requested the addendum item affecting the Uber app be pulled from the consent agenda for individual consideration. I agree with the convenience and reliable service Uber provides. I too have a Uber account. I also understand the rationale and reasons we have city ordinances and regulations governing limo and cab services. I believe the council deserves a briefing to better understand all the concerns regarding this issue. I appreciate your reaching out and sharing your support for this company. I am hopeful the city can come to an agreement with Uber and they can continue to provide the service the citizens of Dallas have been enjoying. 
Jennifer Staubach Gates
Dallas City Council
District 13 "
CultureMap reports today that "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."

Mayor Mike Rawlings also showed surprise via his twitter feed:

Who says you can't fight City Hall?!