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uberxsaveThe marketing folks at UberX are once again revving up their engines with a crucial vote looming Monday afternoon in Seattle.

The Seattle City Council is expected to approve a regulation that would limit the number of drivers that transportation companies like UberX, Sidecar and Lyft can each have on the road at once at 150. UberX, along with Lyft, has repeatedly said that any sort of cap will effectively halt its operations in Seattle.

UberX has not been shy with its marketing tactics and once again the company is on a mission to drum up community support in hopes of convincing city leaders to let its service function without caps in Seattle.

Uber singled out councilmember Sally Clark in its latest marketing email.
Uber singled out Seattle Councilmember Sally Clark in its latest marketing email.

A mass email penned by Uber’s Seattle team and Travis Kalanick, the company’s CEO, was sent to all Uber riders — including those that use luxury UberBlack and UberSUV options — on Monday morning with a link to “Save UberX in Seattle” petition that has attracted more than 10,000 signatures in the last few hours.

“It was hard for us to believe that an elected body would choose to limit availability of the lowest cost ground transportation service in the city while putting almost 1000 drivers out of work — but the goal is essentially to protect a taxi industry that has significant experience in influencing local politicians,” the email reads. “They want to make sure there is no viable alternative to a taxi in Seattle, and so today, the Seattle City Council is going to formalize that principle into law.”

The email also lists contact information for councilmembers and directly calls out Sally Clark, who chairs the Committee on Taxi, For-Hire and Limousine Regulations.

“Councilwoman Clark runs the transportation committee and was the driving force behind this legislation,” notes the email. “She has been convinced by the taxi industry that protectionism is good. Call her and let her know that this legislation is unacceptable — Seattle citizens over taxi cronies! Innovation over Protectionism! Do not pass the Ridesharing Ordinance!”

Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger also plans to speak during the public comment period at Monday’s meeting and note how “the City has not followed the rules.” While Seattle’s leaders have deemed companies like UberX and Lyft illegal since they are providing a transportation service and accepting money in exchange without any sort of regulation from city government, now it looks like Uber wants to turn the tables.

Uber’s beef is that the City did not post its full Council agenda for Monday’s meeting until March 14. The Council maintains that it posts agendas online at least two business days in advance of the meeting date.

Here’s Uber’s argument in full:

First, the Council’s own General Rules and Procedures require the Council to take “all reasonable efforts” to provide fair notice of impending action. We understand that the Council’s Rules require, for example, that the Council to provide fair notice of its full Council agenda at least two business days prior to the meeting.

In this case, the Council did not follow the spirit of its own rules mandating openness and fair notice.

  • The bill now before the Council was not available for the public’s review on the city’s website until Friday – one business day prior to today’s meeting. Until then, the Council’s website provided drivers, riders, and the public with only an obsolete and inaccurate version of this measure.
  • The Council waited until late last week to post key revisions to the legislation – including the revision that converted it from a temporary, pilot program to a permanent regulatory scheme.
  • The Council also waited until late last week to post more than two dozen amendments – some of which propose substantial changes.

The old version of the bill, which was posted until late last week contained a sunset provision and the Council’s fiscal note calculating costs assumes that it is a temporary program. In fact, the legislation still repeatedly refers to its scheme as a “pilot” program – even in the title of the measure.

Second, the amendments substantially alter the effect and scope of the proposed ordinance.  Again, it converts a temporary program into a permanent regulatory scheme. But, its title and text still repeatedly describe it as an “ordinance . . . to create a pilot program for transportation network companies.” This inconsistency violates the Seattle City Charter, which requires that ordinances be clearly titled.

The Council should follow its own Rules and Procedures.  It should deliberate and allow for further public comment on the version of the rules posted to the Council’s website on March 14.

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