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U.S. mayors vote down tighter regulations for Uber, Lyft

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Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. left, watches as Madison Mayor Paul Soglin speaks out against Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal ending residency requirements for public workres statewide on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

A large gathering of the nation’s mayors resoundingly voted down proposed stricter regulations of ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft, in San Francisco on Saturday.

Over the weekend nearly 300 mayors visited San Francisco for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The gathered mayors voted in committees to pass resolutions recommending changes in law to local and federal agencies.

There is power in numbers, but Saturday, the numbers were against Madison, Wis., Mayor Paul Soglin.

For the second year in a row, Soglin introduced a resolution asking the Transportation and Communications Committee of the conference that more power be given to local governments to enact laws restricting ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft.

The committee has no authority itself to enact laws, but resolutions passed by the U.S. Mayors Conference are largely seen as influential in lobbying for change.
In a small, packed room at the Hilton Union Square Hotel, Soglin made his case to his colleagues.

“I don’t know how many experiences you’ve had to date with this new industry,” Soglin told the mayors. “The innovation it brings is the app, it’s wonderful.”

But, he said, “It can exist in the marketplace without devastating our communities.”
His resolution would not only give power to local government to regulate ride-hail apps, but also ask Uber and Lyft to cease operation in cities until regulations are in place. Many of the mayors present spoke up against his resolution as too restrictive.

Mayor Robert Reichert of Macon, Ga., said, “The best way to stifle innovation is by regulation.”

Another mayor said he preferred Uber to taxis because he was able to take Jaguars and the newest SUVs through the Uber app.

Soglin said after Wisconsin passed looser regulations not requiring
Uber and others to share driver identity data with the state, that “three days later, we had two sexual assaults.”

“They told our local police department if they wanted to know who the driver was, they’d need a subpoena or search warrant,” Soglin said. “By the time we did that, that man fled the United States of America.”

When asked about the incident, an Uber spokeswoman said the company would only speak on background. Notably, Uber and Lyft are both listed sponsors of the conference, paying for luncheons and other accommodations for the mayors.

On Monday the mayors are invited to tour Uber headquarters on Market Street. A protest by local taxi ndrivers is planned to coincide with the tour.

Before the vote, Soglin told the mayors “this does not stifle innovation, this is a reasonable effort to provide safety.”

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