by William Skink
In its yearly best-of popularity contest, the Missoula Independent regularly declares that State Rep. Ellie Hill is most likely to lead the revolution. What the Indy fails to acknowledge is this: for who? Those who don’t know this local politician like I do assume it’s for the poor and disadvantaged. Yeah, right. I think it’s more likely that Rep. Hill will lead the revolution for the new sharing economy’s silicon exploiters, as yesterdays Uber celebration at a fancy downtown wine bar clearly indicates.
Enabling tech-sector billionaire disruptors with deregulation comes with some nice rhetorical window-dressing. Uber will help rural communities and cut down on drunk driving, right? Here is a statement from “passenger zero” from the link:
Boldman Hill-Smith, who represents the University district and portions of downtown, said her major impetus for sponsoring the bill was to cut down on drunk driving by giving people another option to get home at night.
“A lot of bar owners and restaurant owners heard from customers who have to wait two to three hours to get a cab ride from downtown Missoula,” she said. “The Missoula City-County DUI Taskforce supported the bill, and from a pure economic standpoint, a free enterprise standpoint, it had a lot of bipartisan support.”
While that sounds great and all, a new study counters the assertion that Uber has had much of an impact on drunk driving in the many places it is already up and running:
Kirk and his coauthor Noli Brazil looked at drunk driving statistics in the 100 most populated metro areas in the United States for 2009 through 2014. It found that the rise of Uber didn’t correspond to any decrease in fatalities, overall or during peak drinking times like weekend nights.
Earlier this year, smelling something stinky from the Republican end of this effort get Uber in Montana, Don Pogreba made a big show of his request for emails about the legislation to deregulate Montana’s economy for Uber:
Two months ago, on January 16, I made a request to Representative Zolnikov and Montana Legislative Services for all of his e-mails about the UBER bill he helped guide through the Legislature, because I was curious about who had influenced the legislation and how they had managed to not foresee the insurance problem that has kept UBER from running in the state. My request is posted below.
I received a phone call from Legislative Services on January 18, when I was informed that Representative Zolniknov had been contacted by Legislative Services and that my records request would be processed shortly, “within a few days.” I’m still waiting for that request to be honored, and my e-mails to Legislative Services and the Representative have not been responded to since February 18, when I asked for an e-mail copy of a “giant spreadsheet for me to review” because “The email grab was way bigger than anticipated.”
Since then, I have sent four e-mails to Legislative Services asking for access to this spreadsheet, and have not received the courtesy of a response. I reached out to Representative Zolnikov to ask for comment on the apparently stonewalling on this records request, but he has not responded to that e-mail request, just as he never responded to my e-mail request for the e-mails in the first place.
I was eager to see if Pogreba would be successful, and if that success would shed any sunlight on the interesting bipartisan cooperation this legislation received from Democrat Representative Hill and the Republicans she usually bashes. Alas, there has been no follow up from Pogreba about this topic, so either he didn’t find anything, or maybe he did find something, and since it implicates a member of the party he shills for, he dropped it to free up more time photoshopping Zinke faces onto cowardly lions and puppets.
Anyway, Uber is now operating in Montana, so hooray for Rep. Hill and her Republican cohorts for getting this done. I hope the next time any Montanan, including our political representatives, consume too much alcohol, the added option of a Uber ride will make our streets safer.