Portland City Council voted 3-2 Wednesday morning to allow Uber and Lyft to operate permanently in Portland.
Mayor Charlie Hales joined City Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Steve Novick in approving the new rules. Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish voted no.
Fritz, whose husband died in a car crash last year, offered a lengthy explanation for her no vote, taking aim at the ride-sharing companies and her colleagues' "capitulation" to powerful, out-of-state corporations.
"This ordinance denotes caving in to multinational corporations, at the expense of Portland businesses and the safety of our community," she said before voting no.
Here's Fritz's entire speech:
I never thought I would see the day that Portland City Council would operate like the Republican-dominated Congress in Washington, D.C. Congress is known for allowing industry to write its own regulations, rather than legislators acting on behalf of their constituents in the public interest. Sadly, that day has arrived here in Portland today, with these regulations being adopted on behalf of the Transportation Network Companies or TNCs, principally Uber and Lyft. I am greatly troubled by the fact that common-sense regulations were not accepted by the Council majority, simply because Uber and Lyft wouldn't approve.
This has been a long public process. It has not been a good public process. None of the workers most affected by this ordinance had a seat at the table of the community Task Force. TNC lobbyists had multiple private meetings with the primary council members supporting this ordinance. Taxi representatives did not. As a consequence of the process, the final ordinance does not represent a balanced approach. And as a result of that lack of balance, it does not act on behalf of the long term public good of Portlanders.
A December 8, 2014 article in The Oregonian reported that Commissioner [Steve] Novick stated:
"If Uber thinks there should be no maximum price on what they charge Portlanders, they should make their case to the Portland City Council, because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community."
Good regulations do make for a safer community. But this ordinance doesn't follow through on the laudable initial commitment to good regulations.
Commissioner Novick just reiterated his desire that both Uber drivers and taxi drivers should be treated as employees. This outcome is not met in the rules to be adopted by the City Council today, even after the state Bureau of Labor and Industries has ruled Uber drivers are employees. This ordinance ignores that ruling.
In meetings inside City Hall, Commissioner Novick pledged to me that the new system would be as safe for an aging woman like me as the current taxi system. That is not the outcome with the policy before us. Background checks will no longer be overseen by public servants working for the people of Portland inside city government. They will be contracted out to private third parties, with only spot checks to confirm accountability. There is no requirement for drivers to take a defensive driving course, thus missing a huge opportunity to close the driver-error gap as we implement Vision Zero. Taxi drivers are having to work longer hours to eke out a living. All of these factors make me feel less safe as a lifelong taxi cab user, as a result of this ordinance.
There are other factors in these rules, dismantling the reliable taxi service Portlanders have depended on for decades:
People choosing to use taxis will no longer be certain of the fare before we hail or book a cab. Customers will need to ask every driver in a taxi waiting zone for their fare, in order to get the best price.
New taxi companies will no longer be scrutinized by the grueling public vetting and approval by City Council in an open public hearing. I feel so sad for my friends in Union Cab, supported by the Communication Workers of America Local 7901. You worked so hard to win approval. You offer dozens of immigrant families not only a chance at the American Dream, but an opportunity to belong to an American union, part of the united American Federation of Labor movement. You achieved the dream, in winning approval of your franchise. And now the majority of Council is telling you you're an expendable casualty in the free market – the free market that is grinding the working class and the middle class into the servants of the billionaire corporations.
The majority of Council is showing the same disregard for the values and service of Radio Cab, predominantly owned and operated by veterans. The same for Green Cab, and EcoCab. Which values and principles does this ordinance purport to serve? The almighty free market is a poor substitute for local businesses, local values, local loyalty.
More problems with this ordinance:
Only taxis will be required to use in-vehicle cameras. This puts both passengers and drivers at risk. This is another inequity created between taxis and TNCs. Why not require that TNCs have the cameras turned on during the ride, on those wonderful smartphones? Answer: because Uber and Lyft say no.
The City will lose revenue with the adoption of this ordinance. Many TNC drivers won't meet the threshold annual income level of $50,000 to be liable for our Business Income Tax. Yet the rides they provide would otherwise have been taxable income to full-time cab drivers. Expanding the driver pool dilutes the tax base.
The fees charged for TNC company permits are woefully inadequate to cover the cost of enforcement, meaning fees paid by taxi companies will disproportionately pay for PBOT staff time attempting to hold TNCs accountable. This will mean fewer spot checks of taxis, by the thinning of the soup.
I don't understand why people driving for profit are somehow exempt from precautions on using cell phones while driving. Commissioner Saltzman has previously been so vigilant on distracted driving. Studies show that hands-free operation is just as distracting as hand-held phone use. We heard testimony that the sound has to be kept on, to alert the driver of a ride opportunity. Does that mean the sound is on for taking a phone call, too? Have three of you forgotten so fast, that Public Service Announcement we viewed from AT&T just a few months ago, urging us to put our cell phones in the glove compartment while driving?
But with all those flaws, this ordinance is most egregious regarding the disparate requirements for insurance between taxis and TNCs. Taxis will continue to be required to carry half a million dollars in liability insurance at all times. Uber and Lyft drivers will be covered by a paltry $50,000 when accidents happen while drivers are waiting to pick up fares, or are on their way home. And they'll get nothing, if a crash occurs with a distracted driver tapping their phone to accept a ride, then crashing into a tree or another car. There is no required collision coverage in that scenario.
Worst of all is the appalling disregard in this ordinance for pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists injured by TNC drivers during Period 1, when the driver is cruising waiting for a ride, or after a passenger has been dropped off. Mayor [Charlie] Hales asked for data on accident incidences. The data gathered laboriously by taxi companies proved most crashes happen when drivers are waiting for rides or on their way home after a fare. Yet no changes were made to the insurance coverage required in this ordinance, in response to that data.
As you are all aware, my husband was killed in a traffic crash last year. Through this excruciating life event, I've learned a lot about insurance coverage requirements in this state. The crash in which my husband was killed was probably initiated by the reckless driving of a commercial tanker truck as it was being driven home after dropping off its cargo. This ordinance sets the value of a person's life taken by a commercial driver returning from a paid fare, at $50,000 maximum. Less, perhaps, given the pitiful level of coverage the Council is setting of $100,000 per incident.
Four innocent people were harmed in the crash that killed my husband. Under this ordinance, another grieving spouse like me in a crash with four injuries would receive only $25,000 in compensation for a death caused by a TNC driver – even if the insurance company paid out without the fees of 35% or more deducted if the estate has to engage a lawyer to collect on damages. I am baffled as to why any of you would consider your own life, or that of the person you love most in the entire world, to max out in value at $50k, less than half of one year of our salaries. I don't understand why you asked for the data on crash incidences before and after picking up a ride, then ignored it.
The Council is opening the city to liability, in knowing of a problem and refusing to address it, the same way ODOT failed to install median crash barriers until we passed the Fritz-Fairchild Act. Whose will be the names on the ordinance amending this Code, after someone's family member is killed by a TNC driver in Period 1?
Again, I quote Commissioner Novick early in this process:
" If Uber thinks taxis should not have to have proper insurance in case of a crash, they should tell us why we should allow that."
That has not happened. There is no public purpose in allowing TNCs to have inadequate insurance in case of a crash.
Again, I quote Mayor Hales, "Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that…" "Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety."
The rules adopted by the majority of council today do not follow the same rules for public health and safety for TNCs as for the taxi cab companies.
There are multiple other problems with the done deal being adopted.
–Lack of protection for TNC drivers assaulted by passengers, compared with taxis.
–Setting the insurance company rules to favor Uber's insurer, which is not admitted in the state of Oregon and will not provide protection if the James River Corporation fails, while making local taxi companies buy insurance from big national companies rather than reliable Oregon firms.
–Taxing all rides the same to pay for accessible rides, without requiring TNCs to share the load in providing accessible vehicles, places an unfair burden on taxi companies who recently invested in accessible vehicles to meet the City's fleet requirement.
–One and done safe driver checks, rather than periodic re-testing.
I could go on and on. I am beyond disappointed in these regulations, which ought to be so simple, fair, and safety-oriented.
Aside from the here-and-now impacts on drivers, passengers and bystanders injured by TNC operations, I am very concerned about the negative climate impacts of putting thousands of TNC vehicles on Portland streets. Before the pilot project, there were a mere 750 permits allotted to taxis. Now, we are told there are about 5,000 new commercial drivers on Portland's streets, adding to congestion and making it easier for passengers to choose low-occupancy cars over transit. The mayor is heading to Paris to boast about Portland's commitment to reducing vehicle emissions and other crucial mechanisms to combat climate disruption. How does this ordinance help in that regard?
I am very grateful to the taxi drivers and other citizens who participated in this process, however flawed the process has been, as if their participation might make a difference. I was hopeful that my input might make a difference, too. I see no evidence that has been true.
I thank Director Leah Treat and the Portland Bureau of Transportation staff. I recognize that you have carried out the direction of your commissioner in charge and mayor. I expect and receive the same from the bureau directors assigned to my portfolio.
Thank you to my colleague [Commissioner] Nick Fish, who has stood side by side with me in trying to protect the interests of our constituents, rather than ceding to the demands of two powerful out-of-state corporations. Like the many Portlanders who have provided support and encouragement to me over the past 62 weeks — Commissioner Fish, your efforts have been hugely appreciated, even though we can't change the outcome.
Thank you to Claire Adamsick, Tim Crail and Tom Bizeau on my staff, and Judith Mowry and Dante James in the Office of Equity and Human Rights, who tried hard to get taxi drivers' voices heard.
I recognize there are many Portlanders supplementing their income, or driving for Uber or Lyft as their primary income. I appreciate their participation in the process, too. I worry about the TNC drivers putting their families at risk from driving without proper insurance, surveillance or support from their TNC employer. When $50,000 insurance proves too little in Period 1, the injured party can and will sue you personally to recover damages. I believe we could have set up a system that safeguards both drivers and riders in the new paradigm, and those in the taxi industry continuing to provide service to women like me who do not feel safe getting into an unmarked car with no camera running. This ordinance does not do that.
This ordinance denotes caving in to multinational corporations, at the expense of Portland businesses and the safety of our community. There is limited public purpose in the regulations being adopted today. This ordinance represents capitulation to the lowest common denominator, in the worst way. I am very disappointed that Portland isn't stepping up to set the national standard for a sharing economy with adequate safeguards for both workers and customers.
This is one of the saddest votes I have cast in almost seven years in office. Portlanders will lose their family-wage jobs, fare-paying passengers will not be as safe when hiring rides in Portland, and victims will receive grossly inadequate compensation when tragedies occur, as a result of this action.
This ordinance does not act on behalf of the long term public good of Portlanders. In casting my vote, I would like to add an emphatic swear word. But in the interest of decorum, I vote simply in the name of all traffic crash victims. No.