By: Mark Lisheron
Just three weeks after passing an ordinance prompting ridesharing companies to suspend service, the Corpus Christi City Council is expected to reconsider its handiwork.
Just how it will reconsider is uncertain, but Chad Magill, a member of the council majority who asked that the ordinance be brought up again, wants it known that public pressure wasn’t his primary motivation.
Kim Womack, the city’s director of communication, confirmed Magill’s request, but told Watchdog the city had not received any proposed change to the ordinance.
The only change that matters is a requirement that drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft be fingerprinted by the city. As they have in San Antonio, Midland and Galveston,Uber and Lyft pulled out Corpus Christi after the ordinance passed.
Service continues in Austin at least until May 7, when voters will decide whether the city council there should scrap its fingerprinting regulation or risk losing Uber for good.
Magill told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that Uber officials met with him for the first time and offered ordinance alternatives that would allow Uber to resume operating in the city.
He was vague about fingerprinting, but said, “The motion to reconsider is a clear message that we are listening, and new information reopens the conversation — and rightfully so.”
Magill might be a bit disingenuous about how much of that clear message is coming from Save Uber in CC, a website created to gather signatures online to pressure the council to repeal the ordinance.
Every one of the more than 1,300 signatures gathered since the site went online March 15 have been transmitted to Mayor Nelda Martinez and each of the council members, ridesharing supporter Steve DeAses told Watchdog.
DeAses, co-founder of Corpus Christi Digital, and other petition signers have made it clear that if city officials aren’t persuaded by the online effort, they are prepared to go door-to-door to gather signatures to call for a referendum on the issue, as was done in Austin.
The council and Martinez, like officials in Austin and other cities, cite dubious concerns about public safety in pre-empting decision-making by the people who actually use ridesharing services.
“There is a big disconnect between the council and the public,” DeAses said. “I don’t think most of the people on the council have ever used Uber. They haven’t given a whole lot of thought to what the public is interested in.”
DeAses said the council would do well to consider making the requirements for licensing drivers the same for ridesharing and taxi companies so neither is at a disadvantage.
Riders who obviously value safety should decide which ride services do the best job of keeping them safe, he said.
The council failed to consider another public safety issue when Uber and Lyft pulled out before Corpus Christi hosted its annual Spring Break invasion. Law enforcement leaders, including Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo and Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, have said their communities are safer from drunk drivers when people have a convenient option to pay someone else to drive.
Corpus Christi Police Chief Mike Markle does not share their view, having lined upwith Martinez behind the notion that the city must use every available tool — including fingerprinting drivers — to ensure safety.
Martinez is not likely to change her mind, DeAses said. But it is encouraging, he said, that a member of the majority who enacted the ordinance is willing to reconsider.
“I look at it this way,” DeAses said, “you better find some options because there is going to be an all-out revolt otherwise.”