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This Is How Uber Takes Over a City

Discussion in 'Uber Drivers Forum' started by Dreamer, Jun 24, 2015.

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  1. Dreamer

    Dreamer
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    To conquer America’s quirkiest city, the company unleashed its biggest weapon

    Charlie Hales, the mayor of Portland, Ore., was running a zoning hearing last December when he missed a call on his cell from David Plouffe, the campaign mastermind behind Barack Obama’s ascent. Although Hales had never met him, Plouffe left a voice mail that had an air of charming familiarity, reminiscing about the 2008 rally when 75,000 Obama supporters thronged Portland’s waterfront. “Sure love your city,” Plouffe gushed. “I’m now working for Uber and would love to talk.”

    Hales, like many mayors in America, could probably guess why Plouffe was trying to reach him. Uber’s made a name for itself by barging into cities and forcing politicians to respond. It started in 2010, providing swanky rides at the tap of an app in San Francisco. “I pushed a button, and a car showed up, and now I’m a pimp,” Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick said four years ago. The company has since expanded to take on lower-cost taxi service in more than 300 cities across six continents, ballooning to a $40 billion valuation. At the time of Plouffe’s call, Uber already operated in several Portland suburbs, and over the previous few months Hales’s staff had asked the company to please hold off on a Portland launch until the city could update taxi regulations. Plouffe may be a big name, but Hales didn’t immediately call him back.

    The next day, City Hall heard from a local reporter that Uber cars would hit the streets that very evening. The company’s unauthorized kickoff put Hales in a bit of an artisanal pickle. Portland had just become the first city to explicitly allow short-term rentals through Airbnb and other sites, and welcoming Uber could help build the city’s sharing-economy brand, a logical extension of its communitarian roots. On the other hand, aggression is so not the Portland way.

    Hales gathered Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and three aides to call Plouffe. Hales would play the good cop to Novick’s bad cop. The roles were fitting: Hales comes off like the thoughtful baby boomer dad on Family Ties, while Novick’s known around town for his fiery wit. (In a campaign ad mocking the idea that voters should elect politicians who are relatable drinking buddies, Novick, who was born without a left hand, pops open a bottle of beer with his prosthetic metal hook. “Steve Novick,” the voice-over said. “He’s always found a way to get things done.”) The group huddled around Hales’s cell phone on speaker mode as the mayor dialed Plouffe.

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