Hey, Kate Upton’s got a question.
By this, noted policy wonk and urban planner Kate Upton is referencing Mayor DeBlasio’s plan to restrict all ride-hailing services in New York City with more than 500 drivers to 1 percent growth—until, at least, a report on the city’s congestion is completed in April 2016.
This would dramatically affect Uber, which currently operates 19,000 vehicles in NYC and has expanded at a rate of 3 percent per month. The City Council is expected to vote on this tomorrow, and in the home stretch of Uber’s huge campaign against DeBlasio—there have been “scary” app add-ons, multi-million-dollar ads everywhere, and a reported 20,000 letters to City Hall in the last five days—the company has somehow (somehow...) gotten celebrities to weigh in.
Uber has not returned a request for comment on whether or not these celebrities are getting paid. But a look at the #UberMovesNYC tag on Twitter is a dizzying and depressing glimpse of the sheer personal passion that normal people can gin up about a corporate presence—one that may provide quite a bit of convenience, but has otherwise proven itself repeatedly, over and over, to be unsafe and predatory and generally full of shit.
Uber—under strategy director David Plouffe, formerly a campaign strategist for Obama—has compensated for its bad press with overdeveloped lobbying muscle. Uber has 29 lobbying firms registered in the United States, with over 250 lobbyists who have aggressively pushed the company past and over local regulations in cities like Portland, where the company launched without city approval, got sued by the administration, and won the battle in the end.
It hasn’t all been successful: there have been protests in San Francisco, where Uber is headquartered, and in states like Texas, a million dollars in lobbying cash has not been enough to pave Uber’s way smoothly. In Paris, in late June, Uber executives were detained for their violation of a transportation law that sparked violent protest. Comparatively, New York is a success: out of the 63,000 vehicles for hire, 25,000 have been added since Uber’s 2011 debut.
And it’s this success that prompts DeBlasio’s action; in his op-ed for the New York Daily News, he forecasted 25,000 more vehicles added within the next year if the ride-hailing service goes unchecked, and cites growing congestion (never a pressing problem before) as a primary reason Uber’s growth should be curbed. Opposing his rhetoric, the New York Times and many other entities have come out saying that limiting Uber won’t actually do much about congestion, which is due more to simple population growth.
In the meantime, Uber has been aggressively courting public favor even outside all the ad buys, playing what may or may not be a fair race card in a press conference in Harlem; New Yorkers now oppose DeBlasio’s regulations almost two to one. Uber has also “spent at least $225,000 on lobbying the mayor’s office, the City Council and the Taxi and Limousine Commission, according to city records, turning to some of the most powerful lobbyists in the city.”
But DeBlasio is unequivocally on the cab side, ideologically and monetarily. In 2013, Capital New York reported the yellow-cab industry as giving $350,000 to DeBlasio’s campaign; on July 16, representatives from the industry also sued his administration, saying Uber violates their lawful exclusive right to street hails.
“We wouldn’t let ExxonMobil or Wal-Mart or any other corporate giant operate in New York City without basic rules in place to protect the public,” wrote DeBlasio.
But Kate freaking UPTON says he’s STANDING in the way of PROGRESS, OK?!!?!?!?!?!?!?
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Image via AP