The Austin Chronicle

Council: Still in Torment

Uber and Lyft up for discussion

By Michael King, September 19, 2014, News

The next City Council meeting is Sept. 25 (work session Sept. 23), allowing plenty more material to bubble from the depths before the final agenda is posted. The draft already has 146 Items, though at least a few of them are member proposals in search of co­-spon­sors, so expect some shuffling still to come.

The early headline Item has been CM Chris Riley's proposal (co­-sponsored by Mike Martinez) to find some way to accommodate public demand (and corporate strong­-arming) to legalize the already operating "peer-­to­-peer for-­hire ground transportation services" – the latest portmanteau phrase to try to accurately describe "Transportation Network Companies" like Uber and Lyft, who have solved the "Obey the Law" principle here and elsewhere by the traditional method: They ignore it. The companies prefer "ridesharing" as a friendly moniker, but "ridesharing" is already legal – any carpooler can do it. Arranging paid rides via commissioned drivers (with "surge" pricing for rush hours) is more traditionally defined as running a taxi­cab service, and under city law that's a regulated industry.

We've gotten early whiffs of Riley's proposals (a definitional ordinance and an accompanying resolution for city negotiations), but the drafts are apparently still in progress. See "A New Deal for TNCs?"), and monitor the Newsdesk online and next week's print edition, as the story develops.

The already burgeoning agenda includes no less than 30 zoning cases, so unless plenty of those get punted downstream (as often happens), it could be a lengthy evening.

Among other eye-­catching Items:

A nice bump for the lawyers (Richards, Rodriguez, & Skeith) defending the city in the White Lodging litigation over the city's withdrawal of fee waivers: tab now at $515,000.

An additional $11 million for Onion Creek floodplain buyouts (the already agreed partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engin­eers, not the recently added $78 million).

Resolution (not yet co­-sponsored) from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole endorsing "Permanent Supportive Housing" and setting a four-­year target for 400 units to address homelessness; another to explore the feasibility of and a pilot for "Social Impact Financing" (in which the project's successful impact can repay the loan).

Resolution (also needing a co­-sponsor) by CM Kathie Tovo to enable special event fees to cover "100% of the city's costs" for such events – curious to see that enforced for UT football games.

Resolutions (thoroughly sponsored) covering both "coyote conflict management strategy" and liberating "street performers and buskers" on city rights-­of-way – it's likely just a coincidence that these are paired on the agenda.

The morning briefing will update Council on the Colony Park District Master Plan.

There's plenty more (re: Fayette Power Plant, and the density bonus program in the Rainey Street district), and plenty offering tinder for heated debate.

And among the proclamations are "House of Torment Day," only inadvertently a reference to Council's continuing exile at the Trav­is County Commissioners Courtroom, while hammers and saws are still in the midst of creating the new Council room.

Copyright © 2022 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.