LR City Board unhappy with Uber, but won't crack down | Arkansas Blog

Monday, November 10, 2014

LR City Board unhappy with Uber, but won't crack down

Posted By on Mon, Nov 10, 2014 at 6:41 PM

Uber, the app-driven car service, apparently has faced down the Little Rock City Board of Directors and will get a vote next week on a regulatory ordinance. It will operate unbothered by city regulation in the meanwhile.

As you'll recall, the company started operating last week without a permit, under a system in which a customer's first 10  rides were free. In that it had been Uber's request for a delay in consideration last week — and some directors aren't happy with the company's aversion to regulation to begin with — some directors were sore and several expressed in an interest in filing an injunction against the company.

At an agenda meeting tonight, directors grumped, Benji Hardy reports, but they didn't take any punitive action and they put an ordinance on the Board agenda for next week. In addition to rolling under for the legally dubious Uber operation, will the directors cave in on Uber's demands on the shape of the ordinance, particularly as to insurance? We'll see. I wouldn't bet against them.

From Benji Hardy:

They've added the ordinance to the agenda for the next board meeting, so basically moving  forward with legitimizing Uber despite everyone being annoyed. Directors Joan Adcock and Doris Wright Lance Hines were unhappy. Adcock said that the city was allowing a company to operate illegally. She wanted an injunction. Mayor Mark Stodola said the votes weren't there for an injunction and so Adcock didn't force a vote.

Rationalization from Directors Brad Cazort and Lance Hines was that Uber was offering free rides right now and so they really don't fall under the existing code about taxis. 

If they offer rides beyond the free limit, they most certainly are. But nobody seems inclined to check. Note that Uber updated its free ride offer from five to 10. But I note that the website offer of free rides is only good through Nov. 14. The City Board won't meet again until Nov. 18. I'm just being picky. Uber has bagged this one. City Board rolled again.

Uber is operating in Fayetteville without a permit and paying for tickets that have been issued.

You wonder what will happen if the city passes an ordinance they don't like. Will they obey it. Or again dare the City Board to do something about it? The tenor of the debate indicated few with backbone except Adcock:

"Are you asking us to allow a company to operate in our city for another week?" she asked. She cited public safety concerns and said Uber had brought in cars from out of state with plates from Kentucky, Georgia and other states. She said no one has checked to see if these out-of-state drivers' have police records or if their vehicles have been inspected and properly insured. Adcock asked City Attorney Tom Carpenter, "do we have any liability allowing our citizens to get in these cars?"

Carpenter said that he believes city bears no liability in this instance.

Cazort said Adcock's concerns were valid, but added "I'm of the opinion that if they're offering free rides, they are not for hire at this point and not covered by our transportation code."

Others said they were displeased but ready to swallow their pride and move on. Hines complained of "hubris" on the part of the company, but said "from the standpoint of constituents I've heard, 'when are we getting it, when are we getting it.'" He said that Uber offering free rides was similar to a transaction via craigslist, and therefore outside the regulatory authority of the city. 

If the City Board is in the business of doing things because people want it, my question is simple: When will the City Board clear the way for Sunday beer sales, which are legal under state law if only they'd act?

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