1. Uber has responded to outspoken driver Takele Gobena. (No, not by firing him.)
You’ll remember yesterday, we reported that Gobena, who publicly spoke in favor of city council legislation that would allow ride share drivers to unionize, believes the company retaliated against him by temporarily deactivating his account. He provided a screenshot of the August 31 deactivation text, preceded only by a series of nonrelated texts from the company about road closures and car wash services.
Uber has now provided an Excel spreadsheet listing a series of three texts they claim to have sent prior to the August 31 deactivation notice (all on August 29) warning Gobena that his insurance documentation was about to expire.
Maybe Gobena deleted those texts? Or maybe Uber simply doctored up a spreadsheet? (Frankly, a screenshot would be more convincing.)
Along with his screenshot, Gobena also provided me with his insurance card, which is valid from June 2015 through December 2015, raising a larger question about Uber’s claim that the issue with Gobena’s status was outdated insurance.
Uber says Gobena himself had listed his insurance expiration date as September 1. They also say their system shows a valid insurance document was uploaded seven minutes after the deactivation text, and that Gobena’s status as an active driver was promptly restored; they point out that their records show a customer contacted Gobena that evening, proving he was back on the system. Gobena doesn’t dispute that claim—though Uber says Gobena canceled the ride while Gobena says the customer did.
More to the point: Gobena says after he got the alarming text, he didn’t upload anything to his account. He reports that all he did after being temporarily deactivated was contact Teamsters 117, a union that is interested in representing share economy drivers.
If this makes you like the Teamsters (editorializing here, but it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling), political junkies may be interested to know who the union has endorsed in the city council races. So far: Lisa Herbold in District One, Bruce Harrell in District Two, Kshama Sawant in District Three, Mike O'Brien in District Six (he's sponsoring the legislation), Sally Bagshaw in District Seven, Tim Burgess in District Eight, and Lorena González in District Nine.
I have a call in to the Teamsters.
2. And another followup.
Yesterday, we had the news that a major property owner in the Pike/Pine corridor wasn't happy about the street closure pilot project there.
If grumbling from a bigwig property owner didn't make you second-guess the exciting prospect of ped-only zones on Capitol Hill, we've now heard from a popular anchor retailer, Elliott Bay Books.
Tracy Taylor, the GM at Elliott Bay, tells Fizz:
We are still waiting to hear about turn out and cost on the pedestrian street closure.
In general, as a retail business that is dependent upon customers from all across the city, we don't support street closures. Our customers come on foot, by bicycle, and by car. Our reading series is attended by those from all around Seattle and they already struggle with parking on the Hill. With the construction on 10th and 11th, this past year, parking has become more and more of an issue. We left Pioneer Square partly because the perception was that parking was too difficult. We were surrounded by bars and very little retail, and it created a vacuum. Whether the parking situation there was real or not, it was the perception of many people and they avoided coming to [Pioneer] Square. When we have streets closed for Block Party, pedestrian projects, construction, filming (our street was closed one and a half days for filming last month), or to help foster a festive atmosphere for the bar crowd, we lose customers. It's a simple reality. When Pike is closed, Broadway is blocked for our customers. They can no longer make a left hand turn onto Pine street from Broadway. SDOT made that a no turn lane when the track for the street cars were laid down and the left turn onto Pine is no longer an option—it's a problem for our customers.
If we lived in a city with a great mass transit system, this might be a different story, but we do not.
3. Another Democratic legislator is leaving office: State senator Brian Hatfield (D-19, Raymond), a moderate Democrat who was part of the bipartisan group of swing-vote senators known as the Road Kill Caucus back in the late 2000s, (but who stuck with the Democrats when the GOP formally leveraged that divide and took over), announced yesterday he's resigning to take a job with the governor leading rural economic development.
Hatfield was first elected to the house in 1994 and has been a state senator since 2006.
On the house side: Democratic budget guru, appropriations committee chair representative Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), announced this week he's leaving to take a job in the executive branch as well, heading up early learning.
Meanwhile, infamously volatile Republican state senator Pam Roach (R-31, Auburn), has formally changed her address to her Pierce County home in Sumner and announced this week she's running for the Pierce County Council. She hasn't ruled out keeping her state senate seat as well; Sumner is also in the 31st.
4. File this under the column the magazine used to run ("Would It Work Here?"), where we highlighted cool things other cities are doing. Or just file it under a PubliCola LIKE: As part of its Employer Transit Benefit Ordinance, by January 1, 2016, DC employers with more than 20 employees will be required to provide employees either a tax deduction for taking transit, a subsidy for transit, or providing transit itself in the form of shuttles.