Faced with excessive over-regulation, the ridesharing service Uber is threatening to leave the city of Houston. While Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and pro-regulation council members insist that safety is their primary concern, there could be another reason why they are so intent on regulating Uber.

Campaign finance reports show an extensive network of ties between the cab lobbies, Turner, and council members supporting the regulations.

Particularly troubling is the close relationship between Turner and Yellow Cab lobbyist Cindy Clifford. Not only are Clifford and Turner close friends, but during the 2015 mayoral campaign Clifford donated $10,000 to Turner’s campaign – making her a resourceful political ally.

In addition to making a generous personal donation, Clifford actually sat on Turner’s campaign finance committee and actively raised money for the race. After Turner won the election, she was the chair of his inauguration committee, and was recently appointed by the mayor and city council to the Harris County Houston Sports Authority Board.

Clifford also had close ties with the previous administration of Annise Parker, fund-raising for her while representing Yellow Cab. Parker even threw Clifford a lavish and extravagant birthday party at her own house. Turner was also present.

Clifford is not the only lobbyist lining the campaign coffers of city council members. In the last few years, the Texas Taxi PAC has given over $53,000 to Houston City Council Members. In contrast, lobbyists for Uber and Lyft have only given a combined $4,900.

City officials claim that regulating Uber is a public safety issue, and have pushed for what they believe are stronger background checks and finger printing. Uber counters that their company’s own background checks are sufficient, and that the new regulations imposed by the city will hamper business and discourage people from becoming drivers. In a report released earlier this year, the company detailed the harm that the new regulations would cause.

“Houston has some of the most burdensome regulations for ridesharing in the country, and it is only one of two cities in the U.S. to require drivers to be fingerprinted in addition to completing Uber’s background screening process. As a result, it can take up to four months for a Houston driver to go from signing up with Uber to being granted a two-year license by the City.”

Citing statistics from a survey Uber conducted on prospective drivers, the company revealed that over 20,000 people in Houston had passed Uber’s background check but did not continue through the city’s extensive licensing process to become drivers. According to the survey, two-thirds of respondents said the regulations were, “too complex, too time-consuming, and too expensive.”

The report continues, “Thirty states, which cover a population of more than 200 million Americans, have found a way to support innovative transportation options while preserving public safety. It is our hope that the City of Houston will review these regulations and embrace similar rules for the road so we can work together to improve transportation for all Houstonians.”

With the cab lobbies filling the campaign coffers of city officials, Uber and advocates of “innovative transportation” have the deck stacked against them.

Reagan Reed

Reagan Reed is the East Texas Correspondent for Texas Scorecard. A homeschool graduate, he is nearing completion of his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Thomas Edison State College. He is a Patriot Academy Alumni, and is an Empower Texans Conservative Leader Award recipient.


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