Kansas City Mayor Sly James is gaining a reputation as a guy who can get angry and speak his mind.
It happened again Thursday when the City Council passed rules governing the future of Uber and other ride-hailing companies in the city.
The bottom line: The city did some good things to open the market to competitors of Yellow Cab while still protecting public safety.
“The idea that we are kicking Uber out, that is so much garbage,” James said during the council meeting.
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James later continued the attack — and defense of city policies — on Twitter:
“I want @Uber in KC. Have said that from beginning. But only they can decide if they will pack up their toys and go home. We want to play.”
UPDATE: Ratcheting up the p.r. battle, James’ office shortly after 4 p.m. Friday released his Thursday speech on YouTube.
It’s good to see the mayor standing up for public safety’s role when it comes to moving people around the city, while embracing the role technology can play in improving the city’s economy. I don’t doubt his sincerity on that issue.
Uber engaged by threatening to leave town:
“We’re very disappointed with the City’s decision. This anti-technology ordinance eliminates more than 1,000 jobs in Kansas City and creates nearly a dozen barriers to entry for small businesses. By trying to squeeze ridesharing into antiquated regulations, the City Council has effectively eliminated a safe and reliable transportation option, making Kansas City one of the few cities left in the nation without Uber.”
Uber’s reaction is par for the course, too, even understandable.
It wants to make things as easy as possible for its many part-time drivers. And it is true that other cities have done more to get rid of rules that Uber didn’t like.
Yet as James points out, there’s been plenty of time for negotiating, and you’d think Uber would want to be in this market.
But if it doesn’t, what then?
Lyft is the other big ride-hailing service that’s been talking about operating in Kansas City. Those efforts were stymied by a court action involving the company and the city.
Now, if Lyft agrees to the city’s new rules, it’s possible Lyft could come to Kansas City, grab some of Uber’s drivers and have much of the ride-hailing market to itself.
That could result in a good outcome for Lyft, for drivers and for Kansas City passengers who don’t want to use traditional cabs for any number of reasons.
The only thing missing, of course, would be the competition from Uber that could help keep fares reasonable in the future.
At this point, I wouldn’t rule out Uber staying in Kansas City, and trying to find ways to work within the new regulations.