Flashback: The Night Steve Novick Told Uber to GTFO

Novick tells WW today: "My tombstone should probably read: 'He should have stuck to his guns against Uber.'"

Steve Novick (Christine Dong)

A new book about Uber contains a dramatic account of the night the ride-hailing company invaded Portland—featuring a furiously obscene Steve Novick.

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, by New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, contains several passages featuring the tech giant's defiance of Portland City Hall in December 2014. In one chapter, excerpted by National Public Radio, Isaac describes the evening when Uber's diplomatic liaison, David Plouffe, called Mayor Charlie Hales and Novick, the city commissioner running transportation, to tell them the company would operate in defiance of Portland's rules for taxis.

Isaac describes Novick's fury.

"Mr. Plouffe, announcing that you're going to break the law is not civil," he said, his hook digging into the mayor's desk in frustration. "This is not about whether we should have a thoughtful conversation about changing taxi regulations. This is about one company thinking it is above the law."

Now, the two sides found themselves at an impasse. "Get your fucking company out of our city!" Novick yelled into the speaker phone. Plouffe, the charmer, was silent.

That account both reflects and subtly differs from what the key players told WW about the Dec. 4, 2014 phone call. Read WW's contemporaneous account of the call here.

Portland officials eventually relented and allowed Uber to legally operate in the city. In 2015, Hales and Plouffe appeared together onstage at TechfestNW for a conciliatory panel interview.

But The New York Times later revealed that Uber had used a software called "Greyball" to help its drivers evade city regulators while it defied Novick and Hales.

Novick told WW today: "My tombstone should probably read: 'He should have stuck to his guns against Uber.'"

Isaac reads from Super Pumped at Powell's City of Books on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

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