It was a busy Tuesday morning at Austin Java on Parkway. A little table in the back was set aside for registered Austin voters to come in, have a seat and sign a petition to put City Council's ridesharing regulations before the voters. While we were there, a steady flow of people signed their names.
"Yeah I think it enables the people to have a voice and say 'Hey this is useful in my life. I feel safer, I feel more enabled, I want to have this choice," said Melanie Weinberger who signed the petition.
City Council ended up passing the controversial ordinance before Christmas. But the major point of contention between council and the ridesharing companies -- the fingerprint background checks -- was left dangling for council to finish up in January.
"There's nothing in here that says...TNC's need to comply with fingerprinting or they can't operate in the city. So does that mean that it's optional? Does that means it's mandatory? I'd say that it's incomplete," Mayor Adler told us the day after the vote.
Uber and Lyft have eluded they will leave the city if fingerprinting does become a requirement. So ATX Safer Streets, TechNet and Austin Music People have formed a political action committee called Ridesharing Works for Austin. Along with Uber and Lyft, they're circulating the petition.
Jennifer Houlihan with Austin Music People says ridesharing not only reduces drunk driving, it provides thousands of jobs for creative people.
"If you are a dancer, a sculptor, a musician, or if you're a teacher or a physical trainer, or someone else that's got a flexible schedule and you'd like another part time job...ridesharing allows you to pick up that extra income without sacrificing your career," Houlihan said.
Ridesharing Works for Austin is hoping to collect 30,000 signatures in 60 days instructing City Council to either keep the ridesharing rules the way they were before council's December vote or to let the people of Austin decide if the new ordinance is something they want.
"That's what Austin is all about right? Letting people participate in the civic process and raise their voices. So this petition and this ballot initiative are a perfect way for people to say 'This is what we want' and for council to be able to hear them loud and clear," Houlihan said.
The Travis County Republican Party is all for this:
Supporting this petition drive is a natural fit for Travis County Republicans, as we have always supported economic freedom and free speech. If ridesharing apps were as dangerous as their detractors say they are, then consumers would have already 'voted with their feet.' and found other transportation options. Why punish the success of companies such as Lyft and Uber? This is the free market dynamism at its best," said Andy Hogue with the Travis County Republicans.
The petition is available to sign at Austin Java from 8 A.M. to 11 A.M. and from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M. The coalition says they only need 20,000 signatures but they're going for 30,000 just in case.
The group says once they have their signatures, they'll present the petition to the city clerk for validation.