Ald. Anthony Beale (9), the main architect behind a contentious plan to require that Uber and Lyft drivers get a special license from the city and be fingerprinted by an outside contractor chosen by the Chicago Police Department, remains confident he has the votes to get his original plan through the Council, even as aldermen and mayoral staff held last minute meetings yesterday to propose alternatives.
And it looks like he’ll be getting what he wants. One source close to the ongoing negotiations told Aldertrack last night that after a five and a half hour private meeting with all parties yesterday, no changes were made to the original ordinance.
“I think we’re very far apart,” Beale told Aldertrack before the meeting yesterday afternoon, emphasizing he would still meet with taxi, rideshare, and administration representatives to find a compromise. But Beale touted a strong list of co-sponsors and repeated a familiar line: “I’m standing firm on my entire ordinance.” As chair of the Transportation Committee, he could potentially halt consideration of an introduction or substitution from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Beale is co-chairing today’s meeting with License Committee Chair Emma Mitts(37). He says he will not allow further public testimony today, limiting the meeting to only expert witnesses and a vote. The last hearing elicited raucous calls from the audience–a mix of Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers–with some shouts at aldermen.
Uber has lobbied its drivers to come out in full force today, asking them to attend an 11:30 a.m. press conference, where they’ll provide food, t-shirts, and $25 for parking. The email to drivers warned, “Under [Beale’s] rules, you’d be required to take time off work to obtain a pricey chauffeur’s license, go to class at Olive Harvey Community College, and pay hundreds of dollars in new fees just to get on the road.” The email links to eight steps drivers would need to take to receive a city license, which Uber says would take weeks and require hundreds in out of pocket costs for drivers. This afternoon, Lyft sent out a similar call to its drivers, and is planning an 11:15 a.m. press conference.
But Beale estimates support for his ordinance is stronger than anything the Mayor could drum up. “I’m very confident that I have a huge margin of votes,” Beale told reporters yesterday. As it stands today, 32 aldermen support Beale’s ordinance. 20 out of 29 joint committee members are sponsors.
One alderman, Brian Hopkins (2) requested to be removed as a co-sponsor of Beale’s ordinance on Wednesday. Hopkins didn’t return requests for comment about why he changed his mind. But Aldertrack has been told that Uber is actively lobbying aldermen to flip their votes. Beale’s co-chair, Ald. Mitts, in a rare social media statement on Facebook, wrote on Tuesday: “For the record, I am in support of Ride Share Companies such as Uber and Lyft. They provide jobs and service for the residents of the 37th Ward. I stand behind them and in favor for keeping them in the city.”
According to City Hall sources, Uber and Lyft had been pushing aldermen to amend Ald. Beale’s proposal so that the licensing requirement would only impact full time drivers. Representatives from both platforms have said that at least two-thirds of their drives are on the road only a few months at a time, usually when they’re strapped for cash.
Under the companies’ proposal, drivers who are on the road for 40 hours or more for 12 consecutive weeks would only be required to get the license, which they want to be in charge of administering, not the city. The Mayor’s office was rumored to want full time to be considered 30 hours. Neither company wants their drivers to get city-administered fingerprinting, drug tests, and a background check that would determine if the driver owes money to the city.
But it looks like Uber and Lyft have chosen not to push back on a requirement that would mandate that at least 5% of their fleet be wheelchair accessible.
If Beale is correct about his overwhelming support and the measures pass City Council, a veto from Mayor Emanuel might make him appear to favor his brother, Ari Emanuel, an Uber investor.