The city of Ashland is one of the few Southern Oregon cities where ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft don't operate. City councilors almost changed that until the mayor stepped in with veto power.
When someone flies into the airport in Medford, they can take an Uber ride into Ashland, but not on their way back. That’s because Ashland’s rules are too strict for ride-sharing businesses to operate here.
That almost changed when city councilors passed an ordinance this month. They spent nearly a year fine-tuning it, but Ashland Mayor John Stromberg says there’s still more discussion to be had. He vetoed the ordinance over the weekend in a letter questioning these businesses’ viability.
In a two-page message issued Sunday, Stromberg wrote that these businesses "have so far offered no basis for believing they will participate in the local community in a positive way."
He says he’s concerned about Uber’s business model, since it relies mostly on venture capital and not on profit.
“If that business is operating in a way that is undercutting existing, sustainable businesses, and it’s doing it out of having huge amounts of start-up capital, then you have to ask, what is going to happen long term?" he said. "What are the consequences of that?” Stromberg says the veto was his best tool to encourage more conversation among councilors, since he can’t vote on matters unless there’s a tie.
Councilor Julie Akins disagrees with his decision. She says not having these ride-sharing apps confuses out-of-state visitors.
“We’re a tourist economy, or so we say," Akins said. "This is often said in council meetings that we’re a tourist economy and have to protect our tourism business and this is clearly a piece of that.”
Still, the mayor’s veto might become moot. The Willamette Week reports that a soon-to-be introduced bill would preempt city rules regulating ride sharing apps.