On May 7, the people of Austin will vote on the Proposition 1. Prop 1 is an ordinance that repeals the previously passed ordinance by the City of Austin, which required “transportation network companies” (i.e. Uber and Lyft) to conduct a fingerprint background check on their drivers, among other regulations. It is imperative that Prop 1 passes as the current legislation stems from a disingenuous campaign to stifle ride-sharing growth.
Opponents to Prop 1 offer many scare-tactic arguments against the ordinance. They say ride-sharing is unsafe because the background checks that Uber and Lyft normally use are not as exhaustive as fingerprint background checks. Uber disputes this, even stating that 53 Austin cab drivers “were prevented from partnering with Uber due to failing Uber’s background check process.” However, the most interesting argument against Prop 1 is that the ordinance was written by the companies themselves, and thereby deprives the city of its regulatory authority and sets a precedent of self-regulation.
However, the current legislation that Prop 1 is working to repeal was also heavily influenced by companies. The current ordinance, though written by the Austin City Council, was created by lobbying and money from existing taxi companies, who are trying to avoid major competition from ride-sharing companies through regulatory action. Though those against Uber and Lyft claim democratic purity, they are just as influenced by company lobbying.
Likewise, the claim that Prop 1 sets a precedent of self-regulation is a slippery-slope argument. The “slippery-slope fallacy” is an argumentative fallacy that assumes that one thing leads to another without making room for middle ground. Uber and Lyft would be “self-regulating” in a sense, but this does not guarantee future self-regulation. Despite this active role in crafting their own regulation, this practice is not unique and does not strip the city of its ability to regulate in the future.
The case that Uber and Lyft are “strong-arming” the government into creating looser regulations is unfounded. The companies fought for the Prop 1 election using a citizen-based petition. The proposition will also be voted for by the people, so it will truly represent what the people want. Uber and Lyft fill the void of public transportation in Austin while simultaneously offering cheaper rates and lower wait times than taxis. We should work to keep their operations in Austin, not stifle them.
Don’t fall prey to the scare-tactics against “evil” corporations — vote yes to Prop 1 on May 7th.
Bordelon is a philosophy sophomore from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @davbord.