Tuesday, February 9, 2016
The fate of Uber is clearer after the Jackson City Council voted 3 to 1 for a set of regulations designed to address public safety and other issues for all transportation-network companies.
Uber is a ride-sharing mobile application that launched locally in late 2014. The council started working with Uber to strengthen regulations that address public-safety concerns and to even the playing field with traditional taxicab companies.
The Rules Committee OK'd a revised set of rules on Jan. 25. Uber threatened to leave the Jackson market if the City imposed certain regulations.
"I have drafted a set of proposals that meet the safety things that I think are most important and don't result in us being the city council that chased Uber out of town," City Council President Melvin Priester Jr., who drafted the ordinance, told his colleagues at the time.
That ordinance requires the companies to pay a $5,000 registration fee as well as a $2,500 annual fee. Under the plan, the transportation-network companies would apply to the City for a license.
A major sticking point among members of the council as well as from cab companies was how involved the City would be in drug testing drivers. Priester said a stronger drug-testing provision was a deal breaker for Uber and that no other city where the company operates had such a requirement.
"As much as we want to be Uber friendly, I have a teenage daughter. I don't want her getting in a car with someone who hasn't had a background check," said Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps, the only present member of the council to vote against the measure.
Not attending the meeting were members Kenneth Stokes (Ward 3), Charles Tillman (Ward 5) and Margaret Barrett-Simon (Ward 7).
Priester said the ordinance does require the transportation companies to perform background checks and the City would be able to perform quarterly audits of the companies' records. He added that Uber also has security safeguards that cabs lack, such as sending customers photos of drivers, their vehicles and tag numbers.
Stamps suggested that if Uber left the market, Jackson cab companies should develop their own Uber-style app to fill the void.
"If they leave, this is on them," Stamps. "It's not that Jackson drove them out."
In other city council action:
Two proposals went to committee. Ward 4 Councilman De'Keither Stamps' ordinance to ban new business licenses for payday loan, check cashing, pawn shops and liquor stores (at the city council meeting, Stamps also mentioned title loan businesses as part of the ordinance), went to the Planning Committee.
Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix put forth a measure to conduct yearly lead tests, which was placed in the Rules Committee. In late January, the state of Mississippi informed the City of Jackson after seven months that water from 13 homes had elevated lead levels. The federal government requires sampling every three years.
"I see that as problematic," Hendrix said at an informal work session on Feb. 8. "I have a problem with going so long without knowing what's in the water."
Dr. Rosie Pridgen, president of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority Board of Commissioners, made a short presentation to the council to say the board "vigorously opposes efforts to takeover airport" as well as "vigorously opposes processes to take over the management structure of airport."
"There is no need to undertake an illegal eminent domain takeover," Pridgen told members.
Pridgen said Sen. Josh Harkins, R-Flowood, who introduced legislation to abolish the current airport board and replace it with one for which the governor would appoint the majority of members, has never approached the airport board to discuss any concerns or talk about partnership opportunities.
Harkins has said the airport needs regional board because economic development near the airport has languished over the years, but he has not pointed to any specific examples of deals that died because of JMAA inaction.
Mayor Tony Yarber also said that Rankin County officials have never met with him about developing an interlocal agreement for economic-development projects at the airport, which is in Rankin County but in the corporate limits of the City of Jackson.