City Council approves 'Thumbs Up' idea to encourage ridesharing fingerprints

On Thursday morning, those walking into Austin City Hall for the city council meeting saw a bright green "Thumbs Up Austin" display.

Mayor Steve Adler and other council members who support the idea of fingerprint background checks spoke briefly about it then went into another room and got fingerprinted themselves.

Council member Ellen Troxclair says she has many, many questions about the mayor's idea -- like who footed the bill for that big green display?

"If this is the very first public conversation we've ever had about this, whose paying for that?  There are companies who helped to organize that who stand to make money off of this proposal," she said.

"It's all donated.  So I'm a volunteer, I haven't been paid anything.  No one who worked on this has been paid anything.  This furniture is from my office," said Josh Jones-Dilworth with Thumbs Up.

Dilworth is a member of a 25-person task force the mayor put together in December...hoping to make fingerprinting something drivers will want to do instead of forcing them to do it.

"Can you reimagine the fingerprinting experience from the ground up?  Can you make it feel like an Apple Store?" he said.

At Thursday's meeting after heated discussion and a major divide on the dais, council approved the "Thumbs Up" idea 7 to 4.

It's basically like a Twitter checkmark or an eBay powerseller star -- allowing drivers to advertise they've been fingerprinted.

"It is not mandatory, completely voluntary, and it won't cost Uber a dime, it won't cost Lyft a dime, it won't cost drivers a dime and it won't cost passengers a dime," Jones-Dilworth said.

Troxclair was insulted council was even discussing anything ridesharing-related because of the "Ridesharing Works" petition.

"That requires us to to either adopt the language that was outlined in the petition or hold an election on May 7th.  Anything that we do in between only gets the city into legal liability," Troxclair said.

She says the people have spoken and said they don't want what council approved in December.

"When the public does engage with us and does tell us clearly what they want, we ignore.  And that infuriates me as a city council member," she said.

Uber and Lyft driver Shaun Roark got fingerprinted Thursday -- free of charge.

"I understand why Uber and Lyft might not want to set a presidence where they would potentially have to lose out on drivers potentially, have to pay for these fingerprint background checks.  Personally I think it's a good idea just for safety of riders in general," Roark said.

In response, Uber spoke to the idea that 'thumbs up' drivers will get better access in the city, saying in part...

"Removing drivers' access to the airport, the entertainment district, and major events, such as ACL and SXSW, would cause increased congestion and limit transportation options where they are needed most. This is not about choices or incentives, but about protecting incumbent transportation providers. It's weird, even for Austin."

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