We’ve just settled in here at City Hall as Seattle’s lawmakers prepare to set regulations that will legalize transportation startups like Lyft, UberX and Sidecar.
You can read more about today’s meeting in our report from earlier today, but here’s the low-down: Councilmembers plan to discuss and potentially vote to approve a revised ordinance that came out of a negotiation process organized by Mayor Ed Murray.
You’ll notice lots of orange shirts in attendance today at the Council Chamber, but those wearing them aren’t related to the TNC issue. Instead, there’s about 100 or so here in support of elephants suffering at Woodland Park Zoo.
Anyways, the TNC issue is up first on today’s agenda, so follow along with our live blog below:
Ah, good to be back, folks. I kind of missed live blogging these typically intense City Council meetings. I will be on the lookout for councilmembers eating cookies and using Windows 95.
OK, let’s be serious for a second. The mood in here is pretty light, and most people here are wearing orange shirts and supporting an elephant: http://www.freewpzelephants.com/urgent-send-watoto-to-a-sanctuary/
But there are some reps from Uber and the taxi industry. We’ll see who speaks at the public comment session. Here’s today’s agenda: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~scripts/nph-brs.exe?s1=full.comm.&S3=&s2=&s4=&Sect4=AND&l=20&Sect6=HITOFF&Sect5=AGEN1&Sect3=PLURON&d=AGEN&p=1&u=%2F~public%2Fagen1.htm&r=1&f=G
Here’s the revised TNC ordinance that the council will discuss: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/fullcouncil20140714_1.pdf
Looks like Cyrus Habib, a Democrat who represents the 48th district and sits on the state’s transportation committee, is here today. He told us back in March that he was against any kind of TNC cap — the council has since removed that from the proposed ordinance. Read his comments here: http://www.geekwire.com/2014/washington-state-rep-artificially-capping-rideshares-serves-absolutely-public-interest/
Apparently the elephant issue is not on the agenda. Councilmember Burgess notes that the public comment session is for issues related to agenda items. But he’s understanding of the elephant problem.
Habib was actually first up on the podium. He says that he’s convened a stakeholder group to address the issue of commercial insurance for TNC drivers. It’s a new category that the state has not addressed.
He asks the council to pass the ordinance today “without substantive change” to the insurance provisions to allow the state to establish new rules.
Here are the amendments to the ordinance: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/fullcouncil20140714_1b.pdf
Two for-hire managers really, really want the council to pass the ordinance as is today. If passed, the for-hire vehicles will have hailing rights — meaning they can pick up people on the street.
Man who says he is representing “app-based drivers” said he is losing money because there is no cap on the TNCs.
“I have not heard you talk about the drivers,” he said. “Please make a good decision for the drivers, not for the companies.”
Joseph Ayele from ridehail.com is mad that the City is “opening gates” for Uber. He says he left is home country to get away from companies and powerful people bending the law.
“Please refine your thinking,” he said. “You are failing the community that has been serving King County for some time.”
Brooke Steger, Uber Seattle GM, up next. She says Uber’s insurance policy is “second-to-none.”
Attorney who reps taxis up now. He says “this whole process has been a game.” He says with all the added amendments, “just send this back to the committee or enforce the existing law.”
Oh my. Elephant supporters are all getting up and saying “Sanctuary now. put us on agenda. Make it legitimate.”
Elephant supporters have filed out. Guess they got their message across. They want to be on the agenda. Now we move to TNC stuff.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien wants to send this back to the Taxi & For-Hire Committee.
“We haven’t had the chance to properly vet this,” he said.
Sally Clark, head of Taxi & For-Hire Committee, says it can be done today.
Motion fails. I think Licata and O’Brien voted yes to move it back to committee.
Sounds like the council wants to get this over with. O’Brien concerned with things like the removal of security cameras in taxicabs. “I don’t know if that’s a good or bad idea.”
Clark talking about this Consent Package: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/fullcouncil20140714_1a.pdf
21 amendments in that package.
No one seems to have any questions about the 21 CONSENT amendments. “This is going really well,” says Tim Burgess.
The consent amendments were adopted. They were more just clean-up amendments. Now we move to the more controversial amendments, here: http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/meetingrecords/2014/fullcouncil20140714_1b.pdf
There are a 11 amendments to go over. Seems complicated. Did all councilmembers thoroughly vet these?
Amendment A and B pass unanimously. More “inside baseball,” stuff, as Clark says.
Amendment C passes, which cleans up insurance language.
Amendment D and E pass.
Amendment F passes. No discussion yet on any of these. They seem to be clean-up. Clark just going over the amendments. Looks like H will be debated, though.
Amendment G passes.
By the way, there’s a woman who is alleging that she was raped by an Uber driver in Seattle earlier this week: http://www.komonews.com/news/crime/Woman-visiting-Seattle-says-she-was-raped-by-Uber-driver-267059081.html
Uber’s response to this allegation: “Rider safety is Uber’s #1 priority. We take reports like this seriously and are treating the matter with the utmost urgency and care. We stand ready to assist authorities in any investigation, but have not yet been contacted directly with regard to an incident in Seattle.”
Uber is apparently also saying they can’t find a ride during the time of the issue: http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/woman-claims-she-was-raped-uber-driver/ngfgJ/
Anyways, councilmembers talking about Amendment H, which deals with deadheading.
Bruce Harrell on Amendment H: “If you have the best service you should rise to the top.” Didn’t hear him say that in prior meetings.
Amendment H fails 6-3. Bagshaw, Harrell and O’Brien voted yes. Taxi drivers applaud. “That’s a bad applause,” Harrell said.
Amendment I is about repainting for-hire vehicles a certain color scheme.
Seems like some taxi drivers don’t want public getting confused that for-hire vehicles look like their yellow and orange cars. Harrell wants to allow them to retain existing colors for current and future cars.
Clark wishes that all taxis could be one color and all for-hire could be one color.
This obviously does not apply to TNCs, which have no color regulations.
Can’t believe I just wrote the phrase “color regulations.”
Harrell says the public doesn’t care about what color the vehicles are, they are going to take the ride regardless.
O’Brien says that this color discussion is why the council should send the entire ordinance back to a sub-committee.
Amendment I rejected, 6-3. Bagshaw, Harrell, O’Brien voted yes.
Back to O’Brien — he said that he agreed with what everyone was saying on Amendment I, and “yet I have to vote for one side or the other.” It’s an example of why he thinks there is too much confusion for the council to vote on the ordinance today, he says.
I still get the vibe that not everyone on the council totally understands this space, and particularly with insurance issues. It’s been that way for months now.
Granted it is complicated, but I see where O’Brien is coming from when he wants to take more time to really implement the right laws.
Others on the council seem keen on ending this confusion and setting some regulations for the TNCs. Last week, Bagshaw said, “I would like to signal to the industry that we are serious about a solution.”
Councilmembers still going back and forth on Amendment J, which is about the lottery system for new taxi licenses.
O’Brien again says that this is an example of how the council is not ready to vote.
O’Brien continues to push his point. I’d predict that he votes against approving the ordinance. He may have convinced a few others today to do the same. But I think a majority of the council wants to pass the legislation. We will find out.
Harrell now says he wants to withdraw Amendment J
“That makes absolutely no sense what you said,” Harrell to Sawant, who wants to do something I don’t understand.
The issue is allowing those that already own taxi licenses to obtain one of the 200 that will be added over the next four years.
Clark: “I would encourage us to move on.”
Amendment K, sponsored by O’Brien, is about insurance. It will add this line: “At all times while a driver is active on the TNC dispatch system, the TNCs insurance shall be exclusive.”
Wow.. O’Brien just went off on a five-minute sermon about his concerns with insurance gaps.
He doesn’t like that customers may be on the hook during accidents. He wants TNCs to exclusively provide insurance and not use the driver’s insurance.
He brought up the six-year-old dying in San Francisco last December. http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/uber-files-defense-in-sofia-liu-wrongful-death-lawsuit/Content?oid=2790574
The gap is when the driver is just looking for a ride vs. actually taking someone somewhere. O’Brien wants TNCs to cover at all times and make their insurance exclusive — meaning no personal insurance of the driver involved.
Bagshaw, Clark are against it. Harrell, Licata support it.
O’Brien received letters from insurance experts that support his amendment.
Again, amendment reads: “At all times while a driver is active on the TNC dispatch
system, the TNCs insurance shall be exclusive.”
Amendment DEFEATED 5-4
Bagshaw, Clark, Godden, Rasmussen and Burgess voted no.
Councilmembers providing last comments. Sawant talking about workers rights, again.
Bill PASSES 8-1. O’Brien voted no. There you have it folks, TNCs are officially legalized in Seattle.