City Attorney Tom Carpenter advised the Little Rock Board today on what would be necessary to add an emergency clause to the ordinance that permits Uber to operate its car service in the city. It might prove difficult.
Last Tuesday, the Board voted 6-2, with Doris Wright present, Ken Richardson absent and the mayor not voting, to approve an emergency clause ordinance setting out rules for “transportation network companies” such as Uber that dispatch and pay through a smartphone app. Eight votes were needed to adopt the emergency clause.
The meeting was recessed, rather than adjourned, so it could continue at the Board’s normal agenda meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday. An amendment is expected on a point of confusion related to insurance provisions in the ordinance. But directors also wanted to know whether a motion could be made to reconsider the emergency clause. Carpenter’s opinion said the motion could only be made by one of those who prevailed on the earlier vote — the two opponents, Joan Adcock and Erma Hendrix. Wright’s present vote does not count as a prevailing vote, Carpenter said, though it had the effect of a no vote.
I expect Adcock to remain fixed in opposition. Erma Hendrix is always a wild card, though once fixed on a position, she’s hard to move. Snark: Maybe Uber’s proponents could get the city to back off bike lanes to bring Hendrix into their camp. But Uber is as popular with elites as bike lanes, a sore point with Hendrix.
Without an emergency clause, the ordinance doesn’t take effect for 30 days after adoption. Uber has been operating in the city anyway, under the artifice that riders aren’t being charged, though Uber is paying its drivers. It is operating a car service, charge or no charge. Uber has said it will continue this operation at least through Tuesday to see what happens on the emergency clause vote.
UPDATE: A taxicab lobby group has sent a prepared statement on news reports about Uber executives threats to go after journalists who write critical stories:
“Uber recently admitted it will be hiring researchers to ‘weaponize’ facts against the taxicab industry. The truth needs no ‘weaponizing’. If Uber would simply acknowledge it’s an operator in the for-hire transportation business—and duly invest in protecting the public as licensed taxicab companies do every day—then we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But as things stand, speaking the truth about Uber’s greedy avoidance of public responsibility probably seems like an attack to them.”
—Dave Sutton, spokesperson, ‘Who’s Driving You?’