Passengers arriving at the Tri-Cities Airport or Pasco residents hoping to imbibe during a night out will have to hail a cab if they want a for-hire driver in that city.
Uber, and all other transportation network companies that solely use web-based platforms or smartphone applications, are still not approved to pick up people in Pasco.
Two separate motions that would have authorized the changes failed Monday night before the Pasco City Council.
The original motion required all for-hire drivers to be fingerprinted as part of their business license application. The second motion proposed an amendment to remove the fingerprint requirement for transportation network company drivers, but left it in place for traditional taxicab companies.
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It is a one-time $5 fee to get fingerprinted at the Pasco Police Department. Those prints then are used to verify the driver’s identification.
Pasco council members were split after learning from Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel that Uber officials indicated they “would not operate in a jurisdiction where fingerprinting was part of the process, even though it is a requirement of the individual and not the corporation.”
Uber’s background checks of its drivers do not include fingerprinting.
VIDEO: The “Taxicab and Transportation Network Company Licensing” discussion started at the 11-minute, 35-second mark, and went to 1:25:18. The voting on two separate motions started at 1:20:50 mark.
Councilman Tom Larsen voted against both motions.
He had indicated he would vote the same as Councilman Al Yenney, who was in favor of keeping the fingerprint clause. But when the clerk was taking votes on the amendment, Larsen only answered “with Mr. Yenney” instead of saying yes or no.
Mayor Matt Watkins asked for a clarification.
“OK, whatever,” Larsen replied while pointing to Yenney.
Watkins said he believed it was a “no” vote, but Councilman Bob Hoffmann — who sided with colleagues Chi Flores and Saul Martinez to drop the fingerprint requirement — said he needed to hear the actual word.
Watkins again asked Larsen to register his vote, but Larsen wouldn’t answer the mayor and sat still in his chair during the inquiries.
City Attorney Leland Kerr said in this case they would go with the tally by the clerk, who marked Larsen as a “no” on the amendment.
“We appreciate Mr. Larsen voting yes or no, but if he doesn’t, I can’t force him to say anything,” Watkins said.
Then, when it came to the original ordinance as proposed by city staff, Larsen voted opposite of what he earlier had indicated. His switch had some council members shaking their heads.
“OK, parliamentary procedure prevails. The motion fails, so it is status quo in the city of Pasco, and I don’t think it was for lack of trying,” Watkins said. “We’re not going to resolve this tonight. I would encourage council to think about this.”
Pasco first addressed updating its rules in early January to include transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. Council members seemed to be on board with adopting the changes in the city’s municipal code.
City staff then made some changes to address concerns, including adding the fingerprint requirement for all for-hire drivers. Kennewick and Richland did not include the fingerprint clause in their ordinances dealing with Uber drivers.
Strebel said Pasco staff thinks the requirement is reasonable, as it has been in place for 20 years for taxicab drivers without any issues.
Martinez said he was surprised to hear Uber would make the fingerprints a deal-breaker for coming to the Tri-Cities.
However, Martinez wants to see Uber in Pasco because it gives people options, and said he was OK with dropping the requirement and leaving it to customers to decide if they want a taxi driver who has been fingerprinted or another driver who has not.
Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Francik argued that when city officials are signing a business license, they’re saying that driver has gone through a background check and should be considered safe to the passenger.
She also noted that another company may start up in the region and not have the same stringent background checks as Uber.
“It’s really sad to see Uber say that’s the line in the sand,” said Francik, adding that council members shouldn’t be considered the bad guys for making this decision.
“This is a policy we’re making for anybody who wants to be in the transportation network company business,” she said. “I would love to see Uber here, but I think it we’re going to take out fingerprints for Uber, then we need to take it out for taxicabs.”
Strebel and City Manager Dave Zabell said they will contact Uber and try to work something out.