Monday, December 15, 2014

COUNCIL WATCH!: Liveblogging city government because it's Uber exciting

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2014 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge council.jpg
This is the end, beautiful friend, the end. Actually, it's just the last city council meeting of the year, which will put us somewhere around nine years of staring into the beige and finding civic meaning. As most people are aware, there has been a bit of back-and-forth going around over whether Uber (or UberX, because sex) should continue to operate in your City Beautiful, especially when there are already taxis that never show up that are perfectly good! Actually, we're not taking sides on this one, mostly because Uber is (as Gawker put it) the Ayn Rand of taxi services, and we are no Fountainhead. But there are sundry other reasons to love the company, some that involve not liking monopolies and totally liking people who need to make extra money in a shit economy. Uber hasn't been the best steward (STUBER?) of regular folk, however, and it likely gives money to the American Legislative Exchange Council (or at least it used to). Uber does have its fans, though, and "free market" is what we cheer when we want money, right? Anyway, the ordinance we're hearing today is on its second read (it will pass), but it has, according to the Orlando Sentinel, been changed to reflect to nightmare of pressure that the public has put on the city; no longer will there be a "You have to pay 125 percent of the fare that you would for that invisible taxi" thing, nor will the fees for drivers (and Uber) be quite as punitive. We shall see. 

Elsewhere on the docket, there are plans afoot for a new entertainment complex (!!!!!!!! enough with this term already) at the ancient and former Orlando Weekly offices that used to also house the Edge and Eight Seconds, and some more stroking of DPAC's hair to endure (minor changes to the Planned Development). Let's do this. IT'S 2 O'CLOCK!!! 

2:06 p.m.: Yawn, this is starting late. 

2:07 p.m.: Mayor Buddy Dyer has just reminded us that this is "the last city council meeting of the year." Thanks, we needed that. LET'S HEAR IT FOR AN INVOCATION AND A PLEDGE (VIA SAM INGS). 

2:09 p.m.: ....determining quorum.....


2:12 p.m.: There's an "I-Drive Congestion" situation that Sam Ings has apparently sussed. 

2:12.5 p.m.: New police station! More mayor's matching grants! 

2:13 p.m.: It's not a full house. People don't care about Uber anymore. 

2:14 p.m.: "Best Foot Forward" is a program to make it look like your city actually notices that everyone gets run over at every intersection. We have apparently learned a lot from this program. Still not crossing streets on foot or on bike, though. 


2:17 p.m.: Ings has driven a race car. It was both "Fast" and "Furious." He was on I-Drive for a grand opening I-Drive NASCAR? Didn't that already happen in 1997. Or was that just Daytona? 

2:20 p.m.: Jim Gray is visiting from 1957 to talk about community toy shopping or something. I really hope that Jim Gray has whisky in a cabinet. Update! He must. He's talking about whether Santa actually exists. Cheers, Mr. Gray. 

2:21 p.m.: WING SHACK IS EXPANDING. We should all care more. 

2:22 p.m.: Tony Ortiz's mustache has been officially joined by a full beard. So it's kind of like you can't see Tony Ortiz anymore. Ortiz, however, did play golf with Congressman John Mica yesterday or something while erecting a statue to Nam veterans. "Thanks to God, our community and our business community, here we are at the epicenter of the world?"

2:24 p.m.: Robert Stuart just brought up "a lot of hassle" that will accompany the I-4 redevelopment over six years. OMGOMGOMGOMG. EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO BE TERRIBLE. MERRY CHRISTMAS. 

2:27 p.m.: Stuart wants you to know that a city isn't about buildings alone. It is also about people. MUTUAL OF OMAHA MEANS PEOPLE. 

2:28 p.m.: Commissioner Patty Sheehan "nearly got hit today" by a bus. WHAT THE FUCK. "I think that would have been a bad council meeting for you all. Well, depends how I vote, I guess!" she says. Oh, dear. 

2:31 p.m.: Sheehan has "47,000 bosses" and she can't make them all happy. Oh, we're happy. 

2:32 p.m.: Regina Hill has tamed her latest hair accoutrement. It's all a little "No more drama"-Blige, but not quite as "last night was CRAZY" as last week. Uh-oh, Hill is talking Parramore revitalization (although through six houses for veterans (heroes) and not through a boondoggle development.)

2:36 p.m.: Hill thinks we have a bigger problem with "black on black crime," even though "it might not be politically correct." Bigger than what? "I apologize for getting on that soapbox... No, I don't apologize." She's asking the community..."yes, black lives matter, hands up don't shoot, great crusades, but we need to do more right here at home... get from off the pulpit and get into the street and help our youth." Some applause just happened. 

2:41 p.m.: We're into the boring ordinances about airplane noise. I CAN'T HEAR YOU. 

2:42 p.m.: Oh, the old Weekly office thing is happening. I doubt anyone is going to stop the Ace Cafe. 

2:43 p.m.: NOPE. 

2:44 p.m.: DPAC backstroke. 

2:45 p.m.: Last ordinance before Uber. Penultimate? PenUBERmate? This never gets old. 

2:46 p.m.: Dyer actually said "ride sharing," has heard a lot of public input that was "mostly" favorable toward Uber and Lyft operating in the city. Six months have been spent fussing over this; currently Uber and Lyft are crazy gypsies who are here to eat your babies. We will fix this. 

2:48: "We're not compromising in the area of safety measures," Dyer says. Background checks and insurance are important. 

2:49 p.m.: Here come the changes from last week. Also, hot guys in Lyft shirts. 

2:50 p.m.: "Levels the playing field," etc. 

2:54 p.m.: There is talk about mechanics going on, but it's boring. 

2:58 p.m.: Robert Stuart wants to make sure that everyone has insurance up to state standards. Well, that's already in the law. 

2:59 p.m.: TONY ORTIZ'S HIDDEN FACE IS TALKING. He wonders why the ordinance removes the use of Social Security numbers for drivers. BECAUSE STOLEN IDENTITY. Ortiz, who hates the Uber, wants to make sure that we have proper background checks. 

3:01 p.m.: Jim Gray wonders if Uber and Mears like these changes. 

3:02 p.m.: Negotiations have made Uber and Lyft happier but not "happy." Mostly because they want to keep background checks in house and don't want to have minimum fees. 

3:05 p.m.: Sheehan is glad about the "substantive changes" that make it a lot more palatable. "If both sides are unhappy, then it's a good compromise." 

3:06 p.m.: Cheerful Robert Stuart wants the fingerprints of drivers. That is not included in the ordinance. DRIVERS AREN'T CRIMINALS BY DEFAULT. 


3:10 p.m.: ADMISSION: THIS CONVERSATION IS SUPER DULL. Sure, background checks are great, but can't you just keep that in the bedroom? 

3:12 p.m.: Now public comment. There are 25 appearance requests, and everyone has five minutes. I'll see you at midnight. 

3:13 p.m.: An attorney for AFC Transportation and Orlando United Taxidrivers Association is talking about this being a "step in the right direction." Her clients want to be eligible for "livery" permitting fees. "We would still like to have a taxi permit, and we would submit that there should be no caps" on the number of permits. There's a lottery system, see, and her clients need 260 permits. So they're going to apply for the "livery" title. 

3:16 p.m.: A woman named Peggy in a wheelchair and with a service dog is about to talk. She's now talking. There are problems with transportation in Orlando. Especially, for her, the problem is that Uber is not handicap-acceptible. 

3:22 p.m.: I WISH I COULD UNDERSTAND THIS GUY BECAUSE I THINK I AGREE WITH HIM. He's a Mears driver though, so I'm not sure. He was just talking about requiring meters in cabs. 

3:28 p.m.: A very large cab driver is hating Uber right now, too, because of insurance disparities. He says that Uber's insurance policies don't meet state standards for property damage and indemnity. Wait, is he a cab driver? He just said he wants to drive for Uber legally. Uber is apparently saying that the drivers for Uber are able to use their personal vehicle insurance to get the gig. 

3:40 p.m.: Current testifying man says that he had to get rid of "luxury" from his van/cab service and it cost him hundreds (now thousands) of dollars to cosmetically fix for city code. "Did I complain to the city?" he asks. There's a lot of anti-Uber going on today. 

3:45 p.m.: Lyft's PR director is here all the way from San Francisco, and he's effectively doing and interpretive dance to the company's mission statement. Also, trying to differentiate from taxis and Uber. "The drivers are not professional folks... We see ourselves as a complement" to taxis and other transportation opportunities. Ride-sharing deserves its fair go, he says. HIS HAIR IS SO CURLY. LIKE PERM CURLY. 

3:49 p.m.: Lyft doesn't like the $250 fee. Surprise. 

3:51 p.m.: Lyft wants this vote to stop or be delayed, and has just intimated that it will leave town. Dyer isn't having any of it, except to say that things might be tweaked by February, when the ordinance takes effect. Sheehan is jumping in now, wondering how Lyft thinks that "riders" and "drivers" are friends. LYFT HAS AN INSANELY CALIFORNIAN BUSINESS MODEL. Sheehan, perhaps correctly, says that if you're charging someone, you're not a "friend." YOU'RE POSSIBLY A PROSTITUTE (I added that part). 

3:54 p.m.: Stuart is now calling himself "the hard-nose," and is making fun of Lyft's business model and how it says that 80 percent of the revenue stays in Orlando. It's "really cool, but you're still a vehicle for hire." 

3:55 p.m.: Lyft INTENDS to be free? They're just charging now to incentivize. Also, it smells like the feces of a large bull right now. 

3:58 p.m.: Stuart is being mean dad right now. "Why are you here?" he says to Lyft curls. This whole thing is a workaround to avoid regulation, he says. Lyft guy says we're talking about "semantics." "IT'S NOT SEMANTICS," says Stuart. Drivers are independent contractors, Lyft curls, and they work when they want. Stuart keeps saying "vehicle for hire," Lyft curl keeps saying "ride share." YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY DAUGHTER OUT DANCING. 

4:05 p.m.: "This really is not meant to be a full-time job," Lyft attorney argues to Ortiz. Ol' Tony is not a fan AT ALL of this stuff and totally pro-regulation. OH, WAIT, HE'S CONSERVATIVE. Weird, right? 

4:07 p.m.: Everytime Regina Hill says "many drivers," I think of Minnie Driver. 

4:10 p.m.: MORE TALK ABOUT HOW LYFT DOES BACKGROUND CHECKS. According to Lyft curls, most people who apply don't even pass the background check. That's comforting. 

4:12 p.m.: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LIMO DRIVERS? That's what we are talking about now. A representative from the Florida Limousine Association is saying that this whole thing is about safety, and this new wild west is totally uncomfortable. What else is uncomfortable? Weird "grass" metaphors. He also doesn't NOT like Uber and Lyft. Except he really does not like Uber and Lyft. 

4:19 p.m.: Limo driver's wife (and co-owner of business) just called all of Orlando out for not having "common sense" on this issue. She's speaking as a "mother" and a "wife," too. Also, "those laws are made to prevent chaos from happening." Like traffic lights, laws are in place for a reason. 

4:21 p.m.: Uber and Lyft are "sketchy" for their weird background checks and insurance policies. 

4:24 p.m.: HRNK! HOT LYFT DRIVER ALERT! He helped a woman who missed her bus to work. They had a great conversation. They bumped fists. 

4:25 p.m.: There are questions about signage, but apparently you can have some tiny tiny tiny tiny notifier on your vehicle. 

4:29 p.m.: Roger Chapin, of all the blue blood that runs through this county, is currently speaking against Uber, because he works for Mears. I do like Roger Chapin though. CONFLICTED. 

4:31 p.m.: Wow, strong language. Uber "knowingly and willingly profits off violating the law." 

4:33 p.m.: Diamond Taxi proprietor is currently speaking, and they pay $20,000 a month to pick people up at the airport. Wow. Also, "It's not just a Mears issue." JEALOUSY. 



4:38 p.m.: But he does have very fancy hair, so there's always that. 

4:40 p.m.: Tony Ortiz is endorsing wings. 

4:41 p.m.: OOOOOH, sort of a smack down. "Two different industries," says Ortiz. But what about salmonella? 

4:47 p.m.: TIME FOR DISCUSSION AMONG COMMISSIONERS. Ings called for a vote which caused Dyer to say, "I'm so proud of you Mr. Ings." Stuart, however, is back to being John Lithgow. 

4:49 p.m.: According to Lyft's website, Orlando is a "non-donation" market, so all that Lyft curl talk earlier was bunk, says Stuart. OMG, PATTY SHEEHAN JUST SAID "KEYBOARD COURAGE" and "TALKIN' TO FOLK." It's a wonderful life. 

4:53 p.m.: The ordinance passes. I hope everyone learned something today. And I hope everyone has a ride home. 
5:04 p.m.: Here's a link to the ordinance as passed: 

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