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Prop 1 ride-hailing measure is soundly defeated

Sunday, May 8, 2016 by KUT News

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft were dealt a stunning blow Saturday, as Austin voters rejected Proposition 1 by a 12-percent margin.

The proposition, put on the ballot by a petition circulated by the political action committee backed by Uber and Lyft, would have repealed a city ordinance requiring fingerprint background checks for ride-hailing drivers.

The measure failed, 56 percent to 44 percent, with about 17 percent of eligible voters turning out.

Both Uber and Lyft vowed to end operations in Austin on Monday if Prop 1 failed.

After the results were in, both companies appeared set on following through.

“Lyft and Austin are a perfect match and we want to stay in the city. Unfortunately, the rules passed by City Council don’t allow true ridesharing to operate,” Lyft said in an emailed statement. “Because of this, we have to take a stand for a long-term path forward that lets ridesharing continue to grow across the country, and will pause operations in Austin on Monday, May 9th.”

“Disappointment does not begin to describe how we feel about shutting down operations in Austin,” said Uber’s Austin general manager Chris Nakutis. “We hope the City Council will reconsider their ordinance so we can work together to make the streets of Austin a safer place for everyone.”

Both statements seemed to indicate a willingness to negotiate with city over the fingerprinting issue. City officials appeared willing to meet them.

“The people have spoken tonight loud and clear,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler in an emailed statement. “Uber and Lyft are welcome to stay in Austin, and I invite them to the table regardless. Austin is an innovative and creative city, and we’ll need to be at our most creative and innovative now.”

Through Ridesharing Works for Austin, Uber and Lyft spent more than $8 million to campaign for Proposition 1. By contrast, the main opposition group, Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice raised and spent about $125,000.

Ridesharing Works spokesman former Mayor Lee Leffingwell expressed disappointment in the results, but blamed the Council for the measure’s failure.

“The ballot language written by the City Council was intentionally confusing and a disservice to voters,” Leffingwell said.

“Nobody wants them to leave and we’re not asking them to leave,” Councilmember Ann Kitchen told KUT. “The voters have spoken and they want these requirements and I know that we can do that… I don’t know why they would leave. We held the election that they said they wanted.”

Kitchen led the effort to enact fingerprint background check requirements.

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.

Photo: Former city council member Laura Morrison speaks to crowds after the defeat of Proposition One during the Vote Against Proposition One Election Night Watch Party at Scholz Garten. GABRIEL CRISTÓVER PÉREZ/KUT NEWS

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