'We won't stop': Baraka fires back amid mounting Uber pushback

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 14, 2016

NEWARK — Facing an all-out campaign to stop the city from regulating Uber and other app-based livery services, Mayor Ras Baraka is launching a fight of his own.

In a video posted to the city's YouTube account Thursday afternoon, Baraka acknowledged Uber's recent pushback against an ordinance that would force its drivers to acquire licenses to operate in the city and its airport, saying money and energy spent on the fight could be used for good-faith negotiations.

"We're asking Uber to do what Airbnb did," he said. "Uber not only doesn't want to pay their fair share, they refuse to get fingerprinted, they refuse background checks, they refuse any kind of regulation whatsoever."

The heightening war of words comes as the City Council prepares to vote on amendments to the city's taxi code that would impose the licensing, inspections, insurance requirements and other conditions on Uber, Lyft and their ilk. The legislation has received unanimous support from the council at preliminary hearings, and appears poised to pass at its next meeting Wednesday night.

Uber has launched an all-out public assault on the proposal, threatening to leave the city altogether and even promoting a hashtag, #BarakaBan, for social media users to voice their displeasure with the mayor.

The company has also won the support of the state NAACP, which sent a letter asking the council to reject the new regulations on the basis that Uber's base of contracted drivers are mostly minorities.

Earlier Thursday, Uber released data saying its most popular pick-up and drop-off locations around the city included Essex County College, NJIT, University Hospital and the Prudential Center arena.

"The ordinance will risk thousands of trips tied to the economic, health, and educational heartbeat of Newark," it said in a statement.

Baraka has shot back, calling the company's claims the ordinance would hurt its roughly 2,000 local drivers disingenuous, and openly questioning the state NAACP's values.

"(The organization's position) leaves me to wonder whether the organization of W.E.B. DuBois would side with a multi-billion dollar corporation to attack a Black leader," he said in an op-ed published on PolitickerNJ.

In Thursday's video, the mayor stressed that he was happy to negotiate with Uber and was not making any active attempt to run it out of town, but said he would not back down until it was subject to the same checks as traditional taxi services.

"We won't stop until Uber pays their fair share. We won't stop until Uber is regulated," he said.

"When that happens, Uber is more than welcome to participate in the economy in the city of Newark...but we welcome to do that on the same grounds as every other business in this city."

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