How big a deal was Portland City Hall's standoff with Uber? It just made Bloomberg Businessweek.
The financial magazine's feature story, "This is How Uber Takes Over a City," recounts city regulators' uphill battle with Uber in the days following the $41 billion ride-hailing behemoth's invasion into the Portland market in defiance of city rules.
"In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf," reporter Karen Weise writes. "They'd become a constant force in City Hall. City officials say they'd never seen anything on this scale."
The insider history Bloomberg recounts will be familiar to WW readers. There's the angry phone call between City Commissioner Steve Novick and Uber exec David Plouffe, the aborted attempt to sting Uber drivers, and the crucial role of lobbyist Mark Wiener in brokering a truce.
Bloomberg updates the story with a play-by-play of how Uber got its way in the spring rule-making process that led to the current test period legalizing Uber and its competitor Lyft. Once again, Wiener plays a part, this time winning the support of swing vote (and Wiener client) City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
"Records show the company had 19 in-person meetings with city officials in the first three months of the year, including one at the end of March, when Uber brought back the big gun, Wiener, to meet with Saltzman, the likely swing vote. Wiener had consulted on Saltzmanâs past campaigns. All the meetings, combined with phone calls, meant Uber spoke with City Hall on average almost every other workday. E-mail traffic was even heavier. The city hasnât released the correspondence, which Bloomberg Businessweek requested in early April, saying itâs taken longer than expected because Uber and city staffers exchanged about 300 e-mails that may fall under the request."
One measure of how successful Uber has been: It announced today it has contracted with 1,500 drivers in Portland, triple its numbers just two months ago.
Another sign of Uber's victory? Today it's launching a free-ride campaign with Venture Portland, the neighborhood-business guild that's funded, to the tune of $308,000 annually, by Portland City Hall.