Democracy in Austin

Proposition 1 was on the ballot in a special election held yesterday in Austin. The adoption of Prop 1 would have left background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers in the hands of the companies. But it was hard to tell what Prop 1 meant because of the contorted language concocted by the anti-Uber/Lyft majority of Austin’s city council. The contorted language made it necessary for Uber and Lyft to help finance a media campaign to explain Prop 1. (Austin’s “news” outlets — in their typically pro-government style — had a lot of negative things to say about the cost of the campaign, from which they profited.)

In the end, only 17 percent of Austin’s registered voters turned out to defeat Proposition 1 by 56 percent to 44 percent. The defeat of Prop 1 means that the background checks on prospective Uber and Lyft drivers will be conducted by the city, instead of by the companies. That’s just the seed from which bureaucratic control would inevitably grow to envelope Uber and Lyft, their drivers, and their customers. With the handwriting on the wall, Uber and Lyft probably will withdraw from Austin.

According to one report of the outcome,

Opposition to Prop 1 was concentrated in East, North and South Austin, with many downtown and West Austin voting precincts seeing a majority of their voters supporting the measure.

The election, in other words, pitted the “working class” sections of Austin against the “white collar” sections of Austin. The outcome reflects resentment toward Uber and Lyft (characterized as “big business” by some opponents of Prop 1) and their generally more affluent riders, who prefer Uber and Lyft’s less-plebian, higher-tech, surge-priced services.

What does this have to do with democracy in Austin? Here are two snippets from the source quoted above:

“The people have spoken tonight loud and clear,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in an emailed statement. “

Councilmember Ann Kitchen…. “The voters have spoken and they want these requirements and I know that we can do that…”

This is from another source:

Former Austin City Council member Laura Morrison has been a staunch opponent of Proposition 1, speaking on behalf of Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, a group opposed to the ordinance. She said Saturday’s election results were Austin’s way of saying, “that’s not how we do democracy in this city.”

How is it “democratic” for the city’s government to allow voters (and a relatively small number of them, at that) to override the voluntary choices of Uber and Lyft users? Adler, Kitchen, and Morrison are the kind of people (i.e., big-D Democrats) who would defend voluntary choice when it comes to abortion (i.e., killing a living human being). But it’s not all right (with them) if a person chooses to take the overstated risk of using Uber or Lyft instead of a taxi.

The intrusion of Austin’s government into the ride-sharing business (with the ardent support of local taxi companies), is yet another instance of “liberal” madness.

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Related reading: John Daniel Davidson, “How Austin Drove Out Uber and Lyft,” The Federalist, May 10, 2016

The Madness Continues

I just learned about this while watching the news on TV:

Uber and Lyft are being sued in several jurisdictions for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs. Not only that, but the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened in a case brought by blind plaintiffs, urging that the discrimination accusations be taken seriously. And not only that, but Uber told The Daily Beast that drivers accused of discrimination are usually suspended or fired. Lyft has a similar policy.

Why in the hell are handicapped persons — egged on by wheelchair-chasing lawyers, DOJ, and the usual whining meddlers — complaining about Uber and Lyft? And why are Uber and Lyft apologizing?

Uber and Lyft are providing services that weren’t previously available. They’re not denying the handicapped services to which the handicapped previously had access. They’re certainly not denying services that they have a contractual or moral responsibility to provide.

If anything, the availability of Uber and Lyft means that the handicapped have greater access to the sources of transportation on which they previously relied because many non-handicapped persons have switched to Uber and Lyft. Handicapped persons should be thankful to Uber and Lyft instead of whining about them.

Further, as the article notes, Uber and Lyft are technology companies — they match drivers and passengers — they’re not public carriers. It’s not their responsibility to provide transportation for the handicapped. Nor should it be the responsibility of Uber and Lyft drivers to do so. They may choose to do so, but that should be their call; they shouldn’t be compelled by yet another regulatory, statutory, or judicial mandate.

This is what happens when leftists, lawyers, and government agencies are free to meddle in the marketplace: They screw things up, just because they can.

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