Under threat of a referendum and/or initiative from so-called “ride-share” giants Uber and Lyft, the Seattle City Council is expected to repeal its recently passed taxi ordinance today, to be replaced by the alleged “compromise” negotiated by the mayor’s office. But the entire premise behind this urgency—that if the council doesn’t act today, the companies will file their referendum—is entirely false.
Tomorrow, King County Superior Court Judge Monica Benton will rule on a taxi industry lawsuit that argues that the Uber/Lyft referendum is outside the scope of the local initiative process because it addresses administrative issues, not legislative ones. Scope challenges can get a little fuzzy, but it’s a pretty strong argument backed up by a ton of precedent. I won’t hazard a guess on how Judge Benton will rule, but there’s a reasonable chance the plaintiffs will prevail.
So given the timing, the council should table today’s proposed action, and wait one day for the court to rule.
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, then there is no Uber/Lyft referendum or initiative, and the council has plenty of time to readdress the issue in a more deliberative manner. If the court rules against the plaintiffs, then the council still has plenty of time to put an alternative measure on the ballot that gives voter a choice between two competing proposals.
Today’s so-called deadline is total bullshit.
The council spent a year holding hearings and commissioning studies and carefully deliberating the issues in order to come up the ordinance it passed. One would hope it has the balls to wait just one more day before just rolling over and playing dead.
UPDATE: Yup, they repealed the ordinance: “I think the likelihood of the judge saying that something should not go to the voters is low,” said council member Sally Clark, who is not a lawyer. We’ll see.