City Council: Stand by safety, bye Uber

city-hallAfter months of talks, the city council today unanimously passed a rewrite of its vehicle-for-hire laws – regulations that Uber has said will drive it from the city.

Mayor Sly James said Uber did not negotiate in good faith, or even at all.

The app ride service company was “basically just jerking our chain,” he said, while it supports a bill in Jefferson City that would preempt cities from regulating it.

“Uber is choosing to leave because we will not give in and give them everything they want,” James said.

The city reduced driver fees from over $300 to $100 but still insists on things like background checks, chauffeur licenses, business licenses and a physical.

Uber even refused an offer to do its own background checks and make results available to the city, James said.

“We will protect our citizens even if they dislike us for doing it,” he said.

Councilman Russ Johnson said, “Safety has to come first; Promoting business is important but it cannot trump promoting safety.”

Uber wanted to delay the rewrite again, James said, but the council would not.

“We’re not negociating,” James said of the process,  “we’re talking to ourselves.”

He noted that the whole matter started about nine months ago after the app service Lyft started operating in the city without approval. The city negotiated a deal with Lyft, James said, but no deal was possible with Uber.

Updated April 10 with Uber response

Before the vote, Uber drivers marched on city hall to object to the proposed ordinance, which Uber says mandates excessive regulations for drivers that drive down the supply of potential drivers.

“We’re very disappointed with the City’s decision. This anti-technology ordinance eliminates more than 1,000 jobs in Kansas City and creates nearly a dozen barriers to entry for small businesses,” Uber said in a statement after the vote.

“By trying to squeeze ridesharing into antiquated regulations, the City Council has effectively eliminated a safe and reliable transportation option, making Kansas City one of the few cities left in the nation without Uber.”

Updated April 10 4:25 p.m. 

Mayor Sly James has released the video of his remarks during the Uber discussion:
The ordinance, 150203, can be found here:

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