Unless you have been under a rock or you have chosen boycott any form of social media channels in Dallas for that last week, you are aware of the battle for the survival of Uber,
an on-demand transportation technology startup. Late Friday afternoon, this issue popped up on this week’s agenda for the City Council meeting which was a huge surprise to Uber and all of its customers. This sudden interested in modifying the current working conditions for Uber has resulted in a massive grassroots movement by the startup community and customer base of Uber to support the movement at City Hall to allow Uber to continue to operate as-is in Dallas.
Not since 2009 when Mayor Tom Leppert
and others mounted the campaign to support and pass the vote (a No Vote meant you wanted to build the hotel) to bring the Omni Hotel to downtown Dallas has there been such out cry from citizens to mobilize at City Hall to make a stand for the opinion of the community. If you remember this movement people from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, industry segments, and socioeconomic origins came forth for a shared purpose. Some people were in favor of development of the new Convention Center Hotel, while others were vehemently making a stance against the vote to have the convention center hotel built. Either way, there was a collaborative, organized, and well thought out movement aunched in the hopes of adding everyday un-engaged Dallas citizens into the conversation around a current and pressing issue in the city.
Something about that movement 5 years ago resinated with me and this most recent movement in support of Uber feels the same way. What makes Uber so different than any other agenda on the City Council’s meeting schedule for Aug. 28th? Is this more important that other agenda items, does this have a bigger economic impact on the city than any other issues being addressed in this weeks’ meeting? I would submit to you that it does not, but the importance of this issue is rooted in the hearts and minds of Dallas citizens who are in passionate support or opposition of Uber’s operations in Dallas.
But what strikes me as unfortunate, is that there are not more issues like this in City Hall that spurs mobilization like this current issue at City Hall. What if our citizens were more engaged in other areas of the city including education, philanthropy, economic develop, and even Mayor Rawlings’ #MenAgainstAbuse movement earlier this year. Think about the opportunity we have as young people, startup companies, social communities, and responsible citizens to take a active interest in the inner workings of City Hall. We have a voice in the workings and leadership of the city of Dallas and it is only through our engagement in this issues that we can play a role in making Dallas an even better place to live, work, and play.
On the other hand, the City has an important responsibility and and “uber opportunity” to use this event to engage the newbies to City Hall. Most of these people couldn’t tell you where City Hall was before the Uber Controversy popped up on their Facebook page. Like me, until two years again I didn’t understand the role of mayor, city manager, and city council.
It is important for the City Council to listen to both sides of this argument, but also not to miss out on the opportunity to use cases like the Omni Hotel Campaign or the Uber Controversy to make more citizens a part of what will make Dallas great.
As of after hours on Tuesday, Council Members Scott Griggs and Phil Kingston have had the issue pulled from the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting and sent back to committee to go through the probably process to get presented in the City Council Agenda, but there will still be a discussion to hear the arguments both FOR and Against Uber.
So what will be the fate of Uber in Dallas, no one can say. As a early supporter and user of the Uber service, I would hate to see Dallas to be the first city to say “no” to Uber and prevent this enabling technology from serving an obviously passionate and growing audience of loyal consumers. But what I would consider even more unfortunate would be the City does not take this opportunity to listen to its citizens and find a way to further engage them in the workings of City Hall and make this issue a catalyst for connecting our citizens into greater involvement into a wide spectrum of issues and opportunities to make Dallas an even better city.