Uber has been operating in Oxford for three months, but the problems keep coming for the “transportation service app” — both locally and nationwide.
About one month after the Oxford Police Department announced Uber drivers would be arrested if they did not comply with the city’s vehicles for hire ordinances, only one warning citation has been given.
“No drivers have been arrested as of now,” Deputy Chief James Owens said. “Some drivers have gone to city hall for information on becoming a legal vehicle for hire.”
Owens did not disclose if those drivers were other vehicle for hire drivers or Uber drivers.
In a September interview with HottyToddy.com, Uber representative Kaitlin Durkosh said any fines drivers are given will be paid by the company. A vehicle for hire does not comply with the city’s taxi ordinances can face fines up to $1,000 for each offense. Durkosh said Uber should be considered under a different umbrella because it’s a “transportation service app” instead of a taxi company, yet their drivers seem to line up with Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson’s definition of a vehicle for hire.
“My definition of a vehicle for hire is if you’re driving a car, and I pay $10 to take me the student union at Ole Miss, you are a vehicle for hire,” Patterson said.
Patterson describes the city’s vehicle for hire ordinances as “loose as they come.” To become a legal vehicle for hire in the city of Oxford, he said drivers must come to city hall to pick up an application. Next, the driver gets a medallion to place in his or her car, and the vehicle needs to have an inspection sticker.
“Uber is absolutely welcome — all we ask is they comply with our very modest vehicle for hire ordinance,” Patterson said.
According to the city’s ordinance, a vehicle for hire must also have insurance, display a permanent sign about fares and offer a written receipt after each ride. Patterson said rates, by Oxford law, are a maximum of $10 per person for a one-way trip.
Uber has been running ads in local media around Oxford and Ole Miss, such as The Daily Mississippian and The Oxford Eagle. Uber recruits drivers by advertising that drivers can make $25 an hour, but some Uber drivers are speaking out about the advertising being false.
Oxford Alderman Jay Hughes said the Uber company is a “non-issue” for him. There is not an official count of drivers in Oxford who use the Uber app to take people places, but many have seen up to three drivers at one time available on the app.
“Some qualified drivers here do follow the legal requirements and use the Uber app for their business. So, it is really a non-issue for me,” Hughes said. “I prefer to focus on the matters that truly matter to Oxford.”
An issue to many journalists across the globe is the accusations made that the company will and possibly already has started tracking reporters, according to BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith.
Smith and Uber senior vice president Emil Michael were having dinner together when Michael mentioned the company had $1 million to “dig up dirt on unfavorable reporters.”
Michael gave special attention to reporter Sarah Lacey, founder and editor-in-chief of online newspaper, Pando Daily.
According to Slate magazine, Michael said he would “expose Lacey,” “go after her family” and “consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media.”
Journalists across the country are reporting Uber does not want their drivers complying with city vehicle for hire services because they don’t see themselves as vehicles for hire— a government issue. HottyToddy.com editors spoke with a lobbyist who said Uber was different from cab companies and should not be put under the same restrictions.
However, after giving Uber representatives all of October and multiple attempts to respond to interview requests, no comments were given since an initial interview when Uber first began operating in Oxford.
Although Michael publicly retracted his plan to target unfavorable reporters and their families, Lacey did not back down to Michael — or Uber.
In a response article Lacey wrote to her followers on Nov. 17, she said, “This is a company you trust with your personal safety every single time you use it. Let me also remind you: The executive in question has not been fired.”
Patterson said that a main issue with vehicle for hire drivers that do not comply with the vehicle for hire ordinances is a safety issue for the passengers.
“We don’t just want anyone in the world coming in and picking up college folks, for example,” Patterson said. “We want to know who they are, what they’re tag numbers are and where they live.”
Though, Patterson implied several times that the company is welcome in Oxford, he said, “it baffles me as to why they will not comply with our ordinances.”
Emily Newton is a staff reporter for Hottytoddy.com and can be reached at email@example.com.