Next Week/This Week: Uber, Uber Alles

This week was all Uber, all the time.

The Uber app. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
We bet you’re getting tired of photos of the Uber app. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Welcome to a new weekly feature from the Observer Politics Team, to run each Thursday. Here’s what you missed last week.

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1. Uber (UBER): Mayor Bill de Blasio" class="company-link">Bill de Blasio can try with all his might to spin his concession to the e-hail giant into some kind of a win, but there’s no doubt Uber emerges the winner of its knock-down-drag-out fight with City Hall. The City Council had the votes to pass legislation capping the service’s growth—in fact just hours before a deal members promised they would pass it at a rally—only for Uber to walk away from the discussion facing no immediate constraints on its business in exchange for a four-month traffic study.

2. Stu Loeser: Mr. Loeser, the former press secretary for Mayor Michael Bloomberg who now runs his own shop, has a real knack for picking clients that tend to miff Mr. de Blasio—his former boss’ legacy, charter schools, and now, Uber. But whatever went on behind closed doors, it’s obvious Uber was winning the public relations battle. They even got celebrities—like Kate Upton and Ashton Kutcher—on board. For the op-ed Mr. de Blasio wrote, which probably went unread by most users of Uber, Uber got their message across with in-app protests or big parties or impossible-to-miss television advertising. To remind you how incestuous the world of political PR can be, Mr. Loeser’s firm was not alone in boosting Uber’s press profile—there’s also the app’s in-house spox, Matt Wing, who used to work for both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and, you guessed it, Mr. de Blasio. (And who can forget Obama wizard David Plouffe!)

3. Congestion pricing: For months, Mr. de Blasio has said he hadn’t read a new proposal for congestion pricing, dubbed Move New York. Now, after insisting his crusade against Uber was in part due to traffic concerns and faced with a massive MTA capital plan budget gap, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris told the MTA the city’s willing to consider raising cash for the agency by tolling East River bridges through Move New York. (Mr. de Blasio did say at a press conference today he still hasn’t read the full report, despite Mr. Shorris’ letter.)



1. Mayor Bill de Blasio: Sure, he got to go the Vatican and Rome. But he didn’t get to hang out with the pope, and then, as he was heading back to the United States, his office backed down on its insistence that Uber’s growth needed to be capped—or that it needed to be capped right now, anyway. The mayor can revisit the cap another day—but there’s no telling whether the City Council votes to make it happen will still exist when he does.

2. Councilmen Ydanis Rodriguez and Stephen LevinAt 1 p.m. yesterday, these two top sponsors of the Uber cap bill stood on the City Hall steps and railed against the e-hail giant. They nodded along as black activist Bertha Lewis compared the company to a plantation. Mr. Rodriguez promised they had enough votes to pass their bill—and that they would pass it. The bills were even set out on members’ desks upstairs. A few hours later, City Hall leaked that a deal had been reached with Uber to drop the cap—during a meeting neither of the bill’s top sponsors had attended. Ouch.

3. Congestion pricing: Remember when City Hall took a big step and said it was ready to consider congestion pricing? Momentum was immediately quashed by Mr. Cuomo, who said he thought it was impossible that Albany would approve the state legislation necessary to make it happen.


That should be pretty obvious by now: Uber.

It was all Uber all the time this week, and not just for politicos. Virtually anyone with a television or social media account was bombarded with Uber-related advertising as the company blitzed the airwaves with spots knocking Mr. de Blasio and more targeted online ads and mailers going after council members.

Each hour seemed to be met by a new person expressing their opinion on capping Uber: Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Mr. Cuomo seemed to rejoice in having found yet another issue where he could disagree with the mayor—making three media appearances yesterday and discussing why he thought the e-hail app shouldn’t be curtailed at each one. On the Capitol Pressroom radio show with Susan Arbetter, Mr. Cuomo even agreed to wait out a commercial break and come back to keep talking about Uber. (Mr. Cuomo went back on the radio show this morning and talked about it again: “I did not play a role in the deal and I don’t know that they really have a set deal.” (Because if Mr. Cuomo wasn’t involved in a deal, surely it cannot be a real deal.)

Of course, in a way, Mr. Cuomo is right—we could be back to having this same conversation four months from now when the traffic study on Uber is done.


After two recent decisions that were perceived widely as concessions—an agreement to hire more cops after saying for more than a year he thought it wasn’t necessary, and now the Uber deal—eyes will be on Mr. de Blasio as he moves forward. Will the mayor develop a reputation for caving? Will he work to counter that narrative, perhaps returning to the toughness he found in going after Mr. Cuomo, as we draw closer and closer to 2017? (Sure, it’s still far away, but not in the eyes of those considering a primary bid.)


Each week we’ll poke fun at an organization or elected official who sent out a press release reacting to an announcement or an event long after everyone else did. This week’s dishonor goes to Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who sent out a release reacting the state wage board’s decision to endorse a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast food workers—at 10:08 a.m. this morning, even though the decision was announced at 3 p.m. the day before.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo to radio host Susan Arbetter: “Thank you for the almost-compliment about my powerful physique. You came close, you cam very very close.” (This, after Ms. Arbetter had noted the governor is a “powerful guy.”)


Mr. Cuomo shows up unannounced at City Hall—in an Uber.


It’s a quiet week for the City Council —so eyes will be on Mr. de Blasio to see what comes after the Uber Wars.

Next Week/This Week: Uber, Uber Alles