Fight Over Uber is Battle Over Innovation in Dallas

9/3/13Follow @amuse

I’ve lived in Dallas almost my entire adult life, but until this week I had never attended a city council meeting. The meeting started off with a bang as a woman dressed in traditional African costume (along with an accompanist on drums,) who serenaded Mayor Mike Rawlings just before she accused the sergeant-at-arms of “wanting” to rape her. Shortly after the entertainment concluded, the Mayor asked the members of the council if they had a motion on addendum 5, language that would have made it impossible for Uber to do business in Dallas.

#DallasNeedsUberThe motion was brought by Councilman Sheffie Kadane to move the matter to the transportation committee and then back to the full council for a briefing. Councilmen Philip Kingston proposed an alternative motion, that a full investigation of the entire matter, with subpoena power, be conducted. Some general arguing ensued and the mayor suggested they go into private session to come to an agreement. When they all returned, the original motion was approved by adopting the amendment saying that the mayor would be responsible for defining the investigation. Then the mayor thanked us for coming and continued with the rest of the agenda. No comments from the public were allowed. Almost the entire room stood to leave, causing quite a ruckus—so much so that the mayor had to ask us to leave quietly.

I was on the agenda to speak about the issue and, had I spoke, I was going to explain how I thought we could turn this unfortunate event into something positive for Dallas. Whenever government picks winners and losers in business, we all lose in the end. Regulations designed to favor one business over another are abhorrent. Regulations should be enacted to solve problems that exist and yet no one has ever given me a cogent argument as to what problem Uber causes the citizens of Dallas.

Now that the council has moved the matter to committee, it is the perfect timefor Dallas to consider overhauling the city code related to taxis and limos. The ordinances are woefully out of date and do not reflect the reality of the world we live in. There are lots of really innovative startups experimenting in the transportation space given the prevalence of mobile technology. Uber is just one of the companies causing disruption. Cities across the country are fighting these startups in court, making it very expensive to launch.

What if Dallas took the time to figure out how to make it easy for all of these companies to do business in Dallas while, at the same time, protecting the interests of the citizens of Dallas? How many jobs might we bring to Dallas if we became the go-to city for technology driven innovation?

The committee needs to really take time to study how all of the various technology-enabled transportation models work. They need to talk to Uber, HailO, LeCab, Zypsee, Lyft, Sidecar, InstantCab, Flywheel, GetTaxi, Zimride, and Local Motion to find out how we can make it easier for them to come to Dallas. Instead of fighting them, we need to take the time to understand them and square our need to protect the citizens with the need to allow for innovation, competition, and choice.

When and if the city does overhaul the code related to taxis and limos, we need to ensure that those regulations do not pick winners and losers. The regulations should only serve to protect the interests of the citizens of Dallas. I believe it is in the best interest of the citizens of Dallas to have as much choice as possible. Lets make Dallas the place for innovative startups and ideas.

#DallasNeedsUber could be the perfect catalyst. To that end, I am going to host a small group of concerned citizens at my home sometime in the next week or two to discuss how we might be able to help make this a reality. If you would like to join me, send me an email at amuse@startupmuse.com.

Alexander Muse is a serial entrepreneur based in Dallas. His latest startup is The Haul Company. Follow @amuse

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.