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Prop 1 adversaries trade paint in last stretch before election day

Friday, May 6, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The last-minute messaging dash ahead of the May 7 referendum on Proposition 1 resulted in dueling press conferences in downtown Austin on Thursday. Ridesharing Works for Austin, the political action committee emboldened with nearly $8.7 million in funding from ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft, kicked things off in the late morning at City Hall with PAC Chair Lee Leffingwell. The former mayor was joined by the Texas State Independent Living Council’s Regina Blye along with Boone Blocker, the former chair of Capital Metro’s Access Advisory Committee. “Should Prop 1 fail to pass, Uber and Lyft will exit our city, leaving many people with accessibility needs, like myself, without an option that we have come to rely on,” Blocker said. Both transportation network companies, or TNCs, have pledged to leave town if the voters reject the proposed ordinance that contains regulations the companies prefer. An hour after that press conference started, opponents of Prop 1 staged another one at the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas headquarters on W. 13th Street. This press conference featured the heads of three local public safety employees’ unions, including the Austin Police Association, the Austin Firefighters Association and the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Association. Bob Nicks, the president of the AFA, noted that Prop 1 would rescind the rule prohibiting Uber and Lyft drivers from picking up and dropping off passengers in travel lanes. “To have this sort of impediment of traffic is another dimension that most people aren’t even talking about (that) I think is worth mentioning,” Nicks said. The head of APA’s political action committee, Andrew Romero, argued that fingerprint-based background checks on TNC drivers, which would no longer be required if Prop 1 passes, are vital to public safety. When asked whether those benefits are worth losing a citywide tool to reduce drunk driving, Romero responded, “When you start talking fingerprint background checks and reducing DWIs, what you’re saying is, we can’t have both. And I disagree with that premise entirely. The citizens of Austin deserve both.”

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