My mailbox is now an endless chute of garbage thanks to Austin’s Proposition 1, an Uber and Lyft-penned measure that deals with ride-hailing regulations. I’ve been called, emailed and texted. I’ve gotten spammy notifications on my phone and campaigners at my door. At what point does campaigning become harassment?
(Full disclosure: I drove for Uber in 2014 as part of a co-promotion for a local track day group. I only made a couple hundred bucks, but it’s worth noting, anyway. Yes, they’ve even made me angry.)
Eight million dollars. That’s how much Uber and Lyft have funneled into their Ridesharing Works for Austin political action committee since the start of 2016, according to KUT. As far as I can tell, it’s only served to shoot themselves in the foot.
By getting Proposition 1 put up to a vote on May 7 (early voting ends today), Uber and Lyft are fighting the city’s efforts to phase in fingerprint-based background checks, vehicle identification, additional annual fees, and tighter pick-up and drop-off location requirements for ride-hailing services.
Six million dollars were funneled into the Ridesharing Works for Austin PAC in the month of April alone. Most of the PAC funds have gone towards “staff salaries, television advertising, direct mail and consulting work,” per KUT’s report, plus $50,000 was spent to retain former Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell as a spokesman for the campaign.
This annihilates the previous $1 million record on local campaign spending, which came from Steve Adler’s mayoral campaign in 2014.
Problem is, this campaign has been beyond aggressive. Ridesharing Works for Austin sent me three huge flyers yesterday alone, which featured exactly the same messaging from every other garbage flyer they’ve sent. I’ve gone paperless for most mail that isn’t a magazine, and yet, flyers completely jammed my mailbox shut with wadded-together crap when I didn’t check it for a week.
Worse yet, some of the Uber/Lyft-PAC’s claims are wildly inaccurate, as a report from KVUE explains:
It’s also hard to believe that companies who can blow $8 million on a campaign are struggling to the point where they would have to shut down services in Austin if Proposition 1 failed. Opt to, maybe. Have to? Get over yourselves.
My worst encounter with a pro-Prop 1 campaigner was with one of their phone representatives, who called from a Houston-area (713) number. She advised me not to read the language of Proposition 1, but just to vote for it anyway.
I cannot think of a single thing more insane thing to say than “don’t read this; just vote for it,” especially here. Austin is a university and tech industry hub, not a bunch of bumpkins who blindly accept what authority figures tell us is correct, like you might find in College Station, for example.
Other locals have complained of the same irritating calls. I’ve only received one who got promptly reminded that I’m on the national do-not-call list and prefer to be left alone. However, one of my friends who legally cannot vote in the United States keeps getting calls regularly, as if Uber’s call center interprets her answer of “I can’t vote in this election” as an indecision that could be swayed with more calls.
Protip: “Irritate people more” is not a good campaign strategy. Whoever suggested it should be sacked immediately, for cause.
Please, other Austinites, go read Prop 1 before you vote on it. This week’s ballot is right here. Furthermore, KUT has an informative point-by-point run-down of the full proposition here that’s worth a read that goes into more detail.