Morning Fizz: Rideshare Deal, Without Caps, in the Works
Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring Uber deal, pre-K funding, DelBene vs. the NSA, and a KUOW resignation.
1. It never seemed quite right that Seattle, of all places—a hub of tech and 21st century economics—put a cap on ridesharing companies such as UberX, Lyft, and Sidecar earlier this year.
But after the city council passed the ham-fisted legislation—capping each transit network company (TNCs as they're called) at 150 drivers on the road at any given time, Mayor Ed Murray put the legislation on hold and called all the parties—TNCs, taxi drivers, and for-hire drivers—into negotiations to try and reach a more future-friendly deal.
Fizz hears Murray's transportation policy director Andrew Glass-Hastings has a deal coming soon that would remove all caps on the TNCS, give the for-hire drivers the right to pick up people who flag them down, and increase the value of taxi licenses.
2. Speaking of questionable (or cryptic, anyway) council action: Though a council committee moved forward on a proposal to fund universal pre-kindergarten on Friday, taking up a Mayor Murray plan to increase property taxes to cover early learning, council member Tim Burgess objected to a proposal from council member Kshama Sawant to include early education teachers and unions as stakeholders in pre-K curriculum and training planning.
When Burgess was questioned by Sawant's two main council allies, lefties Nick Licata and Mike O'Brien, he simply confirmed his reservations and said: "We will have discussion Monday morning in executive session about why that is."
Executive sessions are closed to the public—a curious setting for a policy discussion. Burgess' move implies there's a private legal issue—collective bargaining?—at play, but pre-K workers aren't under any collective bargaining agreement with the city.
O'Brien quipped: "I'm trying to understand your opposition to including unions that represent educators. I guess maybe what you said is I'll learn on Monday."
Burgess also fielded a friendly question from his council ally Sally Bagshaw: "Will the unions ... continue to be involved?" she said. "It's already in the ordinance. So ... they will be involved."
Burgess said: "Yes. Yes they will."
Go to the 112:00 minute mark to watch the back and forth.
3. Taking a dissident stance, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-1, WA) gave her thumbs down to house legislation last month that was supposed to rein in NSA surveillance, complaining that it actually gave the NSA greater leeway to snoop.
Rep. DelBene's view got serious credence last week during senate-side testimony on the bill, the USA Freedom Act (!), as NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett said the house legislation created the potential, as DelBene had warned, for increased surveillance.
The National Journal reported late last week:
Lawmakers want to rein in the National Security Agency, but their bill could actually give the agency access to more Americans' records.
Rick Ledgett, the NSA's deputy director, acknowledged during a Senate hearing Thursday that the USA Freedom Act could "potentially" help the NSA gain access to records on millions of cell phone calls that are currently out of the agency's reach.
"Under the guise of further protecting privacy … the universe [of call records] will be exponentially larger than what the prior system was," Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, warned during the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
4. Longtime KUOW host Steve Scher resigned from the station last week.
The move isn't as startling as it may appear: Scher, who recently took a six-month sabbatical, was reportedly unhappy with changes at the station that eliminated his morning show Weekday and replaced it with a new afternoon show called The Record on which he shared hosting duties with KUOW newsroom colleagues Ross Reynolds and Marcie Sillman.