City Council Set to Repeal Taxi Ordinance One Day Before Court Rules on Validity of “Ride-Share” Initiative

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UPDATE: Yup, they repealed the ordinance: “I think the likelihood of the judge saying that something should not go to the voters is low,” said council member Sally Clark, who is not a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.


  1. 1

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    Isn’t the passed ordinance, in and of itself, a legislative act and possibly therefore subject to the initiative process? This wasn’t a department manager issuing a rule. It was the City Council essentially making law. I’m not so certain the ‘administrative’ act you seem to think occurred by a vote of a legislative body was, in fact, administrative.

  2. 2

    ChefJoe spews:

    It’s partially administrative (like opening up some of the extra cab licenses) and partially legislative (a whole new category, TNC operators). I don’t get, however, if this is an initiative (new rule) or a referendum (refer an issue to voters) and why Goldy’s confused about “Uber/Lyft referendum is outside the scope of the local initiative process”.

    It’s like saying that Tim Keck is threatening to put more music in HA Seattle posts to sell tickets…..

  3. 3


    @1, @2: You two can have as many uninformed opinions as you like, but this administrative/legislative distinction is complex, and has a complex case history behind it. Essentially, the argument is that the legislative act came years ago when the city decided to re-regulated for-hire vehicles. Uber and Lyft are for-hire vehicles. All the recent ordinance did was adjust the regulations to accommodate the new class of for-hires (which were already subject to the existing rules, even if they didn’t comply). The fact that it was in the form of an ordinance is immaterial.

  4. 4

    ChefJoe spews:

    It’s right there in the text of ordinance 12441. New type, create new program…
    “AN ORDINANCE relating to companies and drivers of a new type of for-hire vehicle in order to create a pilot program for transportation network companies and affiliated drivers and vehicles; establishing minimum operating requirements for transportation network companies and affiliated drivers; imposing vehicle inspections; imposing a zero tolerance drug use policy for affiliated drivers; imposing minimum insurance requirements for transportation network companies and affiliated vehicles; requiring rate transparency for transportation network companies; and establishing licensing fees; ”
    The lawsuit, as filed, says in points 21 and 22 that the state has to regulate for-hires and precludes local laws or a local referendum. Point 23 is that it’s administrative.

  5. 6

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:


    I might agree with you if there weren’t the words ‘creation of a pilot program’ all over the place in the ordinance, including right smack dab in the middle of the first sentence.

    The word ‘ordinance’ may be material. The word ‘creation’ isn’t.

  6. 8

    Merchant Seaman spews:

    @: 1,2,4,5,&6,

    maybe you’re right maybe you’re not about what the court ruling would be, but Goldy’s point is; Why not wait until tomorrow when the court rules for the City Council to take action.

  7. 9

    ChefJoe spews:

    @8, because the full council meetings are regularly scheduled for Monday at 2 PM and the main drive of the repeal is for the mayor’s legislation they intend to vote on the following week ?
    Councilmember Sally Clark, who heads up the Transportation Committee, tells GeekWire that she expects the council to repeal the ordinance today and vote on the new agreement next week.

  8. 11

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    @ 9

    Thanks for posting that link.

    A fair number of cab services and a union urged Council that the repeal be done and replaced with the negotiated agreement, with no changes made.

    I’d be interested in knowing why some of the cab services and a union didn’t want to try their luck with the lawsuit, if it was such a slam dunk.

    My suspicion is that it wasn’t a slam dunk for reasons not unlike those debated upthread, and that the cab services and union saw an opportunity to participate in a negotiated agreement rather than see the lawsuit fail, watch public opinion work its magic in a referendum, and then have to play defense from an even less advantageous position. They don’t seem to have a strong hand.

    Now that it’s repealed, perhaps Goldy can tell us what he knew but wasn’t willing to say prior to the Council action.

  9. 12

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    Speaking of cab services in disadvantageous positions, Uber is putting the hurt on NYC cabbies:

    We just dropped uberX fares by 20%, making it cheaper than a New York City taxi. From Brooklyn to the Bronx, and everywhere in between, uberX is now the most affordable ride in the city.

    It’s temporary, for a limited time. ’cause $17B only goes so far.

  10. 13

    Sloppy Travis Bickle spews:

    Goldy @GoldyHA
    .@cruickshank If Uber could find a way to profit from rail, no doubt city officials would bend over backwards to support it.

    Um, Uber does. Every single day. Think about it.

  11. 14

    Puddybud - The One The Only spews:

    Travis and ChefJoe,

    There are other cities with Goldy peeps screaming the same tune. Puddy travels all over and recently visited San Francisco, Minneapolis and Atlanta with Uber/Lyft stories in the local newspapers! Uber /Lyft haters are very apparent. But, they hate Uber more!

    Did rujaxoff actually add anything useful to the thread? Why wasn’t it removed? How cum it’s posting see the light of day at all?

  12. 15

    ChefJoe spews:

    @13, exactly. Mudslides in Dec, Jan, February shutting down the Sounder Everett rail and the not-infrequent shutdown of Link to investigate that shooting in the SoDo stations probably resulted in a spike of TNC activity.

  13. 16

    ChefJoe spews:

    So, did the courts enter a ruling on this today ? Should we be outraged that the repeal made the ruling a moot point and wasted the courts’ time which could have been spent convicting rapists, murderers, and killers ? What about the part of the lawsuit saying that local referendums can’t regulate for-hire transportation services ?

  14. 17

    ClaimsAdjuster spews:

    @11, sorry, the Western Washington Taxi Operators Association is not a union. It is an industry lobby run by the Teamsters. It does not represent labor.

    An actual union that would not agree to dropping the mandate that all Seattle taxis and for-hire carry security cameras. The City Council and Police Chief Kerlikowske all agreed in 2006 that the security cameras saved cab drivers lives and helped put criminals away.;Dept=28

    But now the security cameras are removed because the Mayor patches together a half baked agreement designed to give Uber everything it wants in exchange for booby prizes for the rentier class at the taxi companies.

    The taxi and for-hire driver who rents his vehicle got screwed. They were not represented, certainly not by the Teamsters.