Houston Issues 'Cease-And-Desist' To Uber To Stop Houston Residents From Communicating With Their Government

from the your-government-at-work dept

We’ve covered for a while now how Uber — the mobile phone-enabled car/taxi ordering service — has run up against a bunch of obsolete laws in various cities, often leading to bizarre rebuttals from municipal officials. Uber quickly realized that each ridiculous response from a city government was something of a marketing opportunity to introduce itself to new cities. You would think, by now, city officials would learn that the proper thing to do is figure out how to work with Uber to provide better transportation for their citizenry, rather than immediately bowing to demands from taxi/limo companies who fear potential competition.

However, the response from Houston may be the most bizarre of all. Uber had set up a petition for Houston residents, emailing city officials of their support for allowing Uber in that city. In response to this, the city of Houston issued a cease-and-desist, effectively telling Uber to stop asking Houston residents to contact their own elected government about this issues any more.

From: Feldman, David M. – LGL Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:46 AM
To: Miller, Robert
Subject: Uber Cease and Desist

Robert – Please consider this as a formal demand that your client, Uber, cease and desist from transmitting or aiding in the transmission of form e-mails to City officials regarding the adoption of an ordinance to accommodate their enterprise. Despite my informal request to you by telephone on Monday, the excessive number of e-mails has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful. Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by the City.

David M. Feldman
City Attorney
City of Houston

It’s ridiculous for Feldman to argue that citizens contacting their own elected officials is a form of harassment and somehow illegal. And, of course, the end result of this is that it just drives that much more attention to the issue (and probably even more emails).

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Companies: uber

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Comments on “Houston Issues 'Cease-And-Desist' To Uber To Stop Houston Residents From Communicating With Their Government”

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59 Comments
PocketCab (user link) says:

Re: Silence peasants!

Please see attached Press Release. If you are not able to view attachment I have include the content below.

For Immediate Release

Houston (March 27, 2014)

Sugar Land based taxi and limo startup founder to acquire mobile app technology company PocketCab, Inc.

Today, Edmund D Samora, LLC operator of Sugar Land Taxi, First Colony Taxi, Rose Rich Taxi, Cinco Ranch Taxi and 713-TOWN-CAR has executed a Letter of Intent to acquire PocketCab, Inc.

PocketCab, Inc is an Indianapolis based technology company that makes mobile applications connecting passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire that is similar to that of Uber. These applications allow you to request a cab on a smartphone, watch the cab in real time as it approaches you and make secure credit card payments through your own phone with a receipt being emailed to you.

In May of 2010, with no prior experience, Edmund entered the taxi industry with one car in Rosenberg, Texas. Edmunds intentions were to service his community. Within two months Edmund grew to three cars. By May of 2011, Edmund expanded into Sugar Land, Texas; the second largest market in the Houston region. In September of 2012, he entered the Limousine and Town Car industry in Houston, Texas.

“I love my community. I love the response from the community regarding the level of service we provide. I love providing solutions and efficiencies. This industry needs efficiency and I feel in this fast growing world these technologies are the solution” says Edmund.

After one and a half years of development, PocketCab launched its Mobile App in April of 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Due to recent changes within PocketCab and within the market, PocketCab has been searching for a company to continue with what was started. ?It is gratifying to find someone like Edmund that recognizes where the industry is going and can take our system and move it forward?, says Todd Cutler, President and Developer of PocketCab. Edmund D. Samora, LLC is currently conducting due diligence and expecting to finalize the acquisition on or before May 9, 2014.

?PocketCab is currently available to be downloaded on iPhone and Android but we do not have the date that we will launch in Houston. The application needs some updates to comply with the strict standards the City of Houston requires regarding these technologies. Everyone knows Uber is trying to launch in Houston and they have a lot of issues to be resolved before they can legally launch. The City of Houston’s position is that these types of technologies are a “public safety issue”. We agree and our intentions are to get this application right before we launch in Houston” Edmund said.

More information can be found about PocketCab and Edmund D Samora LLC at
http://www.pocketcabapp.com, http://www.firstcolonytaxi.com, http://www.sugarlandtexastaxi.com ,
http://www.713towncar.com.

Media inquiries or questions can be directed to Edmund@713TownCar.com.

ShivaFang (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Thanks for that, I am immediately moved to email them to tell them that urging people to contact their representatives is a staple of democracy and by trying to gag that with a cease and desist is completely undemocratic.

The fact is, the issue makes me (living in Canada, not even in the same country – let alone the same municipality) want to write in.

zip says:

Uber is going about it the wrong way. Instead of taking their fight directly to the people, they should have stuck to wining and dining government officials, creating PACs to funnel money into their re-election bank accounts, and other tried-and-true ways of influencing government.

Isn’t that how the game is supposed to be played?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: zip on Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:12pm

Ah… but this way, they get a bunch of free publicity, and are forever branded as the “people’s choice” for public transportation. I’m just surprised that nobody’s successfully run this sort of campaign before, as it actually has the ability to 1) affect national transit policy and 2) galvanize public opinion, with any lawyer fees being cheaper than the equivalent publicity campaign. Plus, anything they do damages all the people dependent on lobbying, which doesn’t include them, but includes just about everyone else. About the only way they could lose on this one is if they get hit with shotgun suits and an unsympathetic court.

anon says:

Re: Re:

The only mistake you made is calling it influencing…it is clear bribery…legal and bragged about by many but it is bribery…whenever someone pays for some law to pass that is Barbary in every sense of the word..they can say it is lobbying or any other words they like to use, but it all boils down to paying politicians to pass laws in their favor which is bribery plain and simple.And routing most of the money through their political party does not change it from being bribery, it is just that others want their cut or they will stop it from happening, and maybe just maybe they will come out and actually fight the law that someone has paid to pass.

Anonymous Coward says:

“the whole point of SOPA/PIPA was to pit two “rich” industries — tech and Hollywood — against each other to make donations rain from the sky.”

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140227/17473026386/mpaa-shifts-its-funding-efforts-to-republicans-after-sopa-defeat.shtml#comments

This is actually very interesting. It puts a lot of things into perspective. Take, for example

“UPDATED: Google Files Emergency Motion To Stop Censorship Ruling Over ‘Innocence Of Muslims’, Is Denied”

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140228/11312926391/updated-google-files-emergency-motion-to-stop-censorship-ruling-over-innocence-muslims-is-denied.shtml

The traditional way of getting what you want is law buying. What Google and Uber did here is contrary to that tradition. You want laws, get the passed like everyone else. Buy them. Provide politicians with campaign contributions and revolving door favors. Don’t circumvent this process by turning to the public to get them passed because they have no say in the democratic process. and that’s why the courts, the white house, the Congress, state governments, local governments, etc… frown at any attempts to get laws passed that run contrary to the tradition of buying them like everyone else.

allengarvin (profile) says:

Re: 1st Amendment

The first amendment as well as the Texas constitution.

It’s not an official cease & desist yet though. The city attorney just used those words in an email. Uber might be able to go to court and get an injunction against such, but it’s probably far better to wait and let the city make a bigger fool of itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 1st Amendment

Yep. It’s an “official” cease and desist letter. What it isn’t is anything enforceable – you can send one yourself to someone if you feel like it. It’s mostly so that if it goes to court eventually, the city can prove that they told Uber to stop.

But according to Uber’s blog linked in the article, their response is “We Won?t Cease or Desist”. And good for them.

Jeff (profile) says:

Re: Re: 1st Amendment

@allengarvin: That shouldn’t take long at all. I’m actually rather surprised they haven’t done so already.

(My folks are proud Texas refugees; I enjoy the occasional bit of local “color” as a reaffirmation of the sublime wisdom of “there, but for the grace of God?”

That, and “as goes Texas, so goes the country”. God save America ??from itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by the City.

Actually, this may be entirely correct. If people fail to cease and desist petitioning their government, the government may well take appropriate action. That’s how it SHOULD be…

… oh, by “appropriate action” they mean “criminal charges or a lawsuit”, and not “listen to the citizens”? That doesn’t sound appropriate…

scotts13 (profile) says:

SOP

I happened to watch “The Aviator” last night. Howard Hughes was accused of bribing Air Force officials, and he said “Of course I did. That’s the way business with the Air Force is done.” Further said he’d checked, and under current law it wasn’t illegal, so if they wanted to make a big deal of it, the lawmakers better get to work.

There are a fair number of countries that don’t even make the pretense things aren’t done that way. Uber isn’t playing the game right, and they’ll be stalled and inconvenienced for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

RE: SOP

We’re s’posed to aspire to being better than that.

It was LOTS harder to rise above old-boy, back-room, “quid pro quo,” etc. approaches pre-Internet. Let’s support or at least approve and applaud causes that attempt to end-run the traditional machinery by leveraging technology and grass-root campaigns to influence government officials by public voice.

Same Old Phuckery is a really poor excuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What is Feldman's email address?

From: Feldman, David M. ? LGL [mailto:David.Feldman@houstontx.gov] Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:46 AM
To: Miller, Robert
Subject: Uber Cease and Desist

Robert ? Please consider this as a formal demand that your client, Uber, cease and desist from transmitting or aiding in the transmission of form e-mails to City officials regarding the adoption of an ordinance to accommodate their enterprise. Despite my informal request to you by telephone on Monday, the excessive number of e-mails has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful. Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by the City.

David M. Feldman
City Attorney
City of Houston

Steve says:

Re: Re: What is Feldman's email address?

Everytime I make this comment it gets sensored.

Change. Org is not a legitimate petition. It is a vc backed company out of silicon valley. It is paid to spam people to sign petitions. Every city in the US now knows this. Go sign up and put in the word scam, pick a phoney zip and vote. Who knows where the the people live but probably not Houston Texas.

Les Hardie says:

UBER

You guys need to reread the Declaration of Independence, where it clearly says: ” That whenever any Form of People becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the Government to alter or abolish The People, and to institute new People, laying its foundation on such principles as shall seem most likely to effect The Government’s Safety and Happiness.” This is what my copy of the Declaration says. I got it from the Democrat Party. Did you think it said something different? How naive!

mark says:

This might splain some things. from his webpage at the city….

“Over the course of his 33 years in private practice he served as a partner with the firm of Vinson & Elkins and as managing partner of his own firm, Feldman, Rogers, Morris and Grover, L.L.P., specializing in the representation of both private and public employers in all forms of labor and employment disputes, civil rights litigation and general litigation.”

Anonymous Coward says:

“For Uber to operate there, Johns said, the city would have to change its laws setting a $70 minimum fare and 30-minute prearrangement time on limousine rides.”

http://www.texastribune.org/2013/11/01/uber-making-headway-texas-expansion/

Because laws enabling reasonably priced goods and services would be an unacceptable outcome.

Since when is it the government’s job to set prices? How is this free market capitalism?

Wanderer says:

Laws on cabs

Oh those icky laws. Demanding that strangers who drive you have insurance, in case they get into crashes. Demanding that they have safe driving records–who cares if they’ve flown off the bridge. It’s just so unfair–Government (BIG GOVERNMENT THAT IS, FOR GOVERNMENT IS DEFINITIONALLY BIG) must be taking the side of those yucky cab drivers, not those cool Uber drivers!

Reverend Draco (profile) says:

I only I lived in Houston

David ? Please consider this as a formal demand that your client, the City of Houston, cease and desist from interfering with the daily operations of Uber in any way, shape, or form. Despite the number of e-mails that have been sent to the City, the interference has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful. Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by myself and other like-minded individuals. And we’ll do the deciding on what is appropriate action.

Almost makes me wish I lived in Houston. . .

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