Almost as quickly as he got pulled into the debate over Proposition 1, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo got dropped from the script.
Acevedo, who has not taken a side in the May 7 ballot initiative over the rules for Lyft and Uber, said he heard Wednesday evening that campaign calls were suggesting he supported the measure favored by the ride-hailing companies.
In fact, according to a script obtained by the American-Statesman, the callers with the pro-Prop 1 campaign were instructed to tell undecided voters that “the Travis County sheriff, Austin police chief and members of Austin’s DWI task force all confirm that ridesharing services have significantly reduced drunk driving.” That is accurate, Acevedo said Thursday.
“But it’s not appropriate for me to weigh in on it,” Acevedo said, referring to the May 7 ballot proposition. “I’ve been told they’ve rewritten it (the campaign call script) to remove any reference to the Austin police chief.”
Prop 1, if passed, would repeal a city ordinance passed in December that requires a phasing in of fingerprint-based background checks of drivers with the ride-hailing apps. It would be replaced with a new measure that prohibits fingerprinting and allows Uber and Lyft to continue using the name-based background checks they prefer.
Company representatives have threatened to shut down their Austin operations if Prop 1 loses and the fingerprinting mandate remains.
Acevedo, in testimony to the Austin City Council last year, had said that, yes, ride-hailing services offer a valuable alternative to driving for people who have had too much to drink. But he also endorsed fingerprint-based background checks in his remarks that night.
“In a perfect world, both methods (of background checks) would be used,” Acevedo said Thursday. “Neither is perfect.”
Travis Considine, a spokesman for Ridesharing Works for Austin, which is running the pro-Prop 1 campaign, said the call script would be altered to remove a reference to the chief, but that it was nonetheless accurate in what it said.
Tech leader backs Prop 1
High-tech leader Joshua Baer gave his endorsement Thursday to the Uber- and Lyft-backed ballot initiative at a mid-day event at his Capital Factory, a downtown facility that provides space for startup companies to germinate. In a post later that day on Medium, Baer called Prop 1 “the safest option, to protect the jobs of more than 10,000 drivers, and to protect Austin’s reputation as a global innovation hub.”