Ashland mayor hits the brakes on Uber/Lyft

ASHLAND, Ore. — Uber and Lyft drivers were going to start picking people up in Ashland as soon as permits were filed with the city.

Less than a week after it was approved by Ashland City Councilors, Ashland’s mayor sent a letter to Ashland city councilors saying he was vetoing the ordinance.

“When I was thinking about signing the ordinance I just thought no there’s a lot more to this and we really need to think about it and then when I got into the research I discovered some very interesting things,” Mayor Stromberg, city of Ashland, said.

That decision isn’t sitting well with Ashland city councilor, Julie Akins, who was one of four who voted in favor of the ordinance.

“The mayor is not the king of Ashland… he’s one person,” said Julie Akins, Ashland City Councilor.

She says despite the reasons Mayor Stromberg gave in his veto including negotiating with the companies to provide background checks on drivers, seeing how it would affect bus services in the area or people on a fixed income, it’s not his decision to make.

“The citizens of Ashland are adults. They have said that they want Uber and Lyft. it is our job as representative officials to give the citizens what they have requested,” said Akins.

People who are against ride-sharing companies and their business tactics say the mayor’s decision couldn’t be better.

“I’ve heard a lot about their tactics where they are able to use their power as a large corporation to muscle out smaller taxi companies… as well as intimidate local governments into allowing them to have special privileges,” said Benjamin Culhane, Ashland resident.

Mayor Stromberg says he has many reasons for using his mayoral veto. He wants to revisit the requirement of vehicle safety inspections, wheelchair accessibility, and criminal background checks, which are some of the biggest reasons.

And he’s not the only one apart of the city council that feels this way.

“This is a relatively new service in the Rogue Valley in that multiple communities have scrambled to figure out the ways to regulate these companies that make sense for their community,” Ashland city councilor, Rich Rosenthal said. “We just are responding to these two differences that at least two and or three of us think are pretty important.”

On top of those reasons, Mayor Stromberg also wants the council to consider the negatice economic impact ride-sharing companies could have on the city.

“The question that I think the council never considered, this isn’t exactly a fair playing field economically,” Mayor Stromberg said. “Our system is not supposed to work this way where some company comes in with so much money they can just blow smaller local companies out of the water until they go away.”

While others say they’re tired of all the back and forth deliberating.

“I think it would be super beneficial and way easier access than relying on friends or having to call a taxi. It’s much easier having it on your phone,” said Emma Ryan, SOU student.

“I feel like if it’s good enough for Medford it’s good enough for Ashland. I don’t think we are so exceptional that we should favor one business over another,” said Akins.

Ashland City Council is set to discuss the issue and vote again on February 19th. According to the city’s charter, there needs to be a two-thirds veto by councilors to overturn the mayor’s veto.

The initial vote for this ordinance was 4 to 2.

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