Heated Uber debate in Palm Beach Co.

Posted at 5:27 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 19:19:21-05

With no guidance yet from the state, which is what Palm Beach County Commissioners wanted, the county is once again talking about how to regulate Uber and taxis. The deal back on the table is the one discussed last fall that would deregulate the industry. There will be cabs and non-cab companies like Uber.

The question is -- will public safety be at risk?

Tensions are still high as the county tries for a third time to figure out what the the future of Uber and taxis will look like in Palm Beach County. The meeting was packed. Uber supporters surrounded the committee of mostly taxi and limo company owners.

They have long pushed for a level playing field including fingerprint background checks which are currently done by the county for taxi and limo companies. Uber does its own checks.

Moving forward, any company could do its own checks or they could allow the county to do it. The company will have the choice. Records would be subject to an audit by the county.

That angered not only some in the cab industry but county employees who currently inspect cabs.

Inspector Joe Santiago started out his statement by saying it's his personal opinion. "There's not going to be personal safety for Uber or vehicle for hire because you will reduce the regulations," Santiago said.

It's a comment that sparked a response from Uber.

South Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani said, "Joe, I  know you said it's your personal opinion but you are a representative of the county. You are county staff, and we spent a lot of time on these issues for you to say personal safety is thrown out the window is not right."

The county in the past has voted against fingerprint background checks, despite spirited debate, so we asked Yellow Cab's representative why they think this time will be different.

"There's been a lot of time since their last decision and a lot has happened. They are looking for Tallahassee to solve it for them. We don't know if that's going to happen or not. The likelihood is bleak. I think this is up for debate again," said Yellow Cab attorney Neil Schiller.

The county commission will now weigh in on this issue at an April meeting if the state doesn't act in the remaining hours of its session and preempt the county from taking action.