Councilman Jon Camp believes having different requirements for Lincoln taxi drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers is fundamentally unfair.
And he’d like to see rules developed that would treat all drivers the same, no matter whether they drive a taxi for a company or their own car for Uber.
The city should have consistent oversight of drivers. This is a public safety issue, and the goal should be to focus on the drivers and protect the public, Camp said.
But Camp was overruled by a council majority who passed an ordinance removing Uber and Lyft drivers from any city oversight on a 5-1 vote.
Councilwoman Cyndi Lamm did not discuss or vote on the issue because she has a conflict of interest, since her husband drives for both Uber and Lyft.
Under the new ordinance the city will continue to do background checks, require physicals and test taxi drivers' knowledge of Lincoln, but will have no rules for Uber and Lyft drivers.
The state’s Public Service Commission does require ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to do their own background checks on drivers and the PSC audits those companies. But the PSC does not regulate rates for Uber and Lyft drivers like they do on taxis.
“You are putting this on the books and favoring one entity. I think this is all wrong. We are not looking at the public interest. We are not looking at the drivers," said Camp.
But Councilman Carl Eskridge said an Uber representatives had convinced him the company is doing background checks and the PSC is doing audits.
Companies like Uber and Lyft provide a public service, particularly on weekends, when traditional taxi services cannot keep up with the number of people who want rides home after drinking at downtown bars, Eskridge said.
Camp pointed out that no representatives of Uber or Lyft spoke at the council's public hearing, but contacted council members privately after the hearing.
Camp’s motion to delay passing any new rules until early December lost on a 2-4 vote. Camp wanted the extra time so everyone involved could sit down and come up with rules that would apply to all drivers.
Councilman Roy Christensen supported the delay, saying he did not believe the city should treat one business differently from another.
At the Oct. 2 public hearing on the proposed ordinance, taxi company owners said they wanted the city to continue to do background checks on their drivers. But they wanted Uber and Lyft drivers to follow the same rules.
Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister supported removing Uber and Lyft drivers from city oversight because of the cost of doing hundreds of background checks on those drivers.
Christensen said he could vote for the ordinance only because of Bliemeister's support.
Mayor Chris Beutler and his staff drafted the ordinance removing Uber and Lyft drivers from city rules after City Attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick determined these drivers did fall under current city taxi driver rules. The city would have to either start enforcing the rules on Uber and Lyft drivers or eliminate them, Kirkpatrick said.