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Adler comes out against Prop 1

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Mayor Steve Adler for the first time on Monday urged voters to reject Proposition 1, the ballot question that would rewrite existing regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

“Today, neither Prop 1 choice is best for Austin because neither delivers by itself what we need,” Adler said at a press conference in front of City Hall on Monday morning. “But because these are the only two choices in front of me, I am going to vote ‘Against’ on Prop 1 because such a vote puts Austin and the ride-share companies constructively back at the negotiating table.”

Adler publicly sided with opponents of the proposition on the first day of early voting. Election day is May 7.

He joins several current and former City Council members who have spoken against Prop 1, including Laura Morrison, Mike Martinez, Ann Kitchen and Greg Casar. However, the decision pits him against his immediate predecessor, former Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who is the chair of the Ridesharing Works for Austin political action committee that is using millions in contributions from both Uber and Lyft to conduct an advertising blitz in support of Prop 1.

At issue is a set of competing ordinances: one passed by Council in December and a virtually identical one that was passed by the previous Council under Leffingwell’s leadership. One of the key differences between them is the potential for fingerprint-based background checks for drivers, a component in the existing law that Uber and Lyft want to see changed.

“While Uber and Lyft have indicated they might leave Austin if Prop 1 fails, I believe they want to stay,” Adler said. “And ultimately, negotiation is going to be their best option, too.”

While one recent report indicated a mixed message from Uber about its intent should the election not go its way, an Uber spokeswoman told the Austin Monitor after Adler’s press conference that the company has every intention of leaving if Prop 1 loses.

The mayor spent only part of his speech addressing his reasoning for opposing the ballot question. After making his case for voting no, he pivoted to a recent letter sent last week by U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Amanda Eversole to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. In that letter, Eversole suggested that a failure for Prop 1 would tarnish Austin’s standing in the ongoing Smart City Challenge, a pet project of Adler’s.

“I can’t disagree more with the U.S. Chamber’s message, and their tactic,” Adler said before emphasizing the go-go nature of Austin’s hot local economy. “Innovation is in our DNA, and if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was really interested in creating jobs, they should study how we do things in Austin.”

When asked by a reporter whether Eversole’s letter had angered him, Adler responded, “I’d say no because I don’t think it’s going to have any real impact.”

After addressing other questions, Adler wrapped up the press conference over the repeated horn-honking from an SUV behind him on Cesar Chavez Street. When the vehicle drove off, an Uber sticker was visible on its rear window.

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