Morning Fizz: Perhaps the Tunnel News Hasn't Sunk in Yet?
Caffeinated news and gossip featuring a rideshare rally, an odd alliance, a troubled alliance, and a rosy outlook.
1. In what could be a sign of an odd left-right city council alliance—against ridesharing companies like UberX and Lyft—of Kshama Sawant, the socialist council member (who appears to be leaning toward legislation restricting rideshares based on the fact that cabbies are working-class) and Bruce Harrell (who wants to protect the taxi industry), Uber supporters say they've had a difficult time getting face time with either council member. They report they've failed to even get a response from Sawant, despite multiple requests for meetings. And they just held their first meeting with Harrell yesterday, two days before the big vote.
The council's taxi committee plans to vote on new regulations that would limit the number of ridesharing cars in Seattle to 300 and the number of hours each driver could operate to 16 per week. No city has adopted similar restrictions.
UPDATE: We hear the council has delayed the vote, but the scheduled committee meeting will still take place tomorrow morning at city hall.
2. Meanwhile, Lyft (backed largely by former Netscape founder Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen's VC firm) held a rally outside City Hall yesterday.
About 100 people showed up. And after a series of Lyft drivers and riders spoke—including one driver who compared taxi companies to Hollywood and Blockbuster because of their prefab choices and Lyft to populist Redbox—a female rider who likes the safer feeling of app rideshares said she'd collected more than 3,600 signatures in support of ridesharing.
Then Lyft's CEO John Zimmer spoke. He said Lyft created more competition, bringing prices down, taking cars off the road, and, in a bit of an oversell, hyped how ridesharing brings people together rather than isolating people on their way to work.
A duo of protesters heckled Zimmer over ridesharing insurance—a driver for Uber, a rideshare service like Lyft, recently ran over a six-year girl in San Francisco and the company didn't take responsibility because he wasn't on an Uber job, though he was monitoring his app. Zimmer responded, touting the company's background checks and $1 million insurance policy for drivers which he said was more than taxi drivers' $300,000 insurance requirement. (Specifics about Lyft's insurance requirements here.)
Zimmer ended by accusing the city council doing the bidding of Seattle's taxicab monopoly "for people who own  licenses in Seattle."
3. The Seattle Times had the scoop yesterday: Conservative Republican state Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry (R-13, Moses Lake)—the senator Fizz wrote about on Monday morning after she proposed legislation counteracting the DREAM Act, passed by the senate a week earlier, by putting kids of undocumented parents to the back of the line for student aid—has taken her name off the MCC's website roster.
The Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus, or MCC, controls the state senate with a delicate coalition starring a handful of moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats, and a big crew of conservative Republicans, giving them a 26-23 advantage over the Democratic caucus.
However, the MCC's support for the DREAM Act and perhaps other pending compromises appears to have shaken the coalition. The Times reported that in addition to Sen. Holmquist Newbry more conservatives may bail.
4. We imagine it's because the Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Or maybe it's because we now have a gay mayor and a socialist City Council member.
Whatever the reason: Something we forgot to point out yesterday—in addition to the strong support for a $15 minimum wage—EMC Research polling released yesterday also showed that Seattle voters feel a lot better about the city now than they did last fall.
Perhaps the tunnel embarrassment hasn't sunk in yet, but the poll showed 63 percent of voters felt Seattle was on the right track, as opposed to 52 percent last fall (and numbers in the low 40s last spring.)