By Joseph W. Laskowski, Iowa City
In February, 2015, the Iowa City Council passed an ordinance that identified Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), like Uber, and allowed them to enter the local market. UBER chose at that time to not operate here because they considered our safety regulations arcane and cumbersome. In the meantime, Uber has drafted a new ordinance that would enable them to steal from local businesses while operating by a different set of rules. Consequently, Uber presented The City of Iowa City with an ultimatum: Approve this ordinance or Uber will leave.
Uber has seized on the public demand and the myopic public relations campaign put forth by their supporters. What would it say about the integrity of our City Council, who worked so hard to develop safety standards that the local transportation companies have willingly adopted, if they would now choose to throw those regulations aside because of an ultimatum from Uber?
Anyone who dares question this new ordinance is labeled “anti-competition” or “anti-innovation.” To the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention & Visitors’ Bureaus: ask the Marriott, The Hotel Vetro and the Sheraton what they do when guests ask about UBER. They professionally and unapologetically order their guests a safe, reliable and local cab. They don’t run around saying the sky is falling because we don’t have UBER.
Uber presented The City of Iowa City with an ultimatum: Approve this ordinance or UBER will leave.
I suggest we show our leadership with an innovative and untraditional solution to this worldwide problem, rather than giving in to an ultimatum. This is the only way to ensure a level playing field and to avoid an equal protection lawsuit. Let us adopt a separate, less cumbersome ordinance that simply recognizes and allows TNCs to operate and manage their apps in Iowa City. While also recognizing that those who may choose to drive for TNCs have to comply with all existing ride for hire regulations.
We have this opportunity to avoid repeating the problems other cities around the world have experienced. We can avoid further legal costs and learn from their mistakes, which have resulted in diminished safety standards, discrimination and price-gouging lawsuits, and accidents resulting in death, just to name a few. We, the people of Iowa City, can give Uber an ultimatum: Play by our rules. We’ve gotten along just fine without you.
We are a progressive city of innovation and creativity. We’ve arrived here through hard work and thoughtful regulation. Not by allowing a monopolizing, labor standards wrecking, discriminating, privacy invader write our local laws. Show some backbone. Don’t apologize. And don’t be fooled.
— Joseph W. Laskowski, Iowa City