I’ve never seen anything like this Uber thing.
People regularly challenge me to write about specific topics relating to Birmingham, but the interest in Uber is beyond insane.
I’ve been bombarded by e-mails from folks supporting Uber and describing Birmingham City Councilor Kim Rafferty as the Evil Witch of the West.
I believe many folks have determined the Uber decision will define the future of Birmingham.
Under great pressure, I write about Uber knowing that many of you may be unhappy with my perspective.
Those of you who read ComebackTown regularly know our objective is to create a conversation about a better Birmingham with an emphasis on improved government for our region.
The Uber controversy is a great example of what happens when a small portion of our metropolitan area (the City of Birmingham) makes a decision for our whole region. (The City of Birmingham represents 19% of the population of metropolitan Birmingham)
The majority of people who urged me to support Uber don’t live in the City of Birmingham. Why should they be upset no Birmingham City Councilor’s paying attention to them?
Many Birmingham citizens live below the poverty line and may be struggling to pay bills and buy food. Uber is not a critical issue for them. These folks are probably more concerned about adequate public transportation.
Those of us who live in the suburbs have determined we are okay with the City of Birmingham making decisions for us. Suburbanites complain about Birmingham, but they have chosen to opt out. When my family moved to Vestavia Hills we were fully aware we would have no vote in Birmingham.
I have no plans to move into Birmingham and I’m not recommending anyone else move either. If Vestavia Hills were to consolidate into Birmingham my neighbors and I would have a vote and a voice.
Everyone gets a seat at the table in Nashville, Charlotte, Jacksonville and other cities with consolidated governments. We have chosen to extricate ourselves from Birmingham and then are surprised when we are powerless.
Birmingham may never be a modern city without Uber, but Birmingham will never be a modern city without basic public transportation. We may want a dome; we may want the Democratic National Convention. Having both ride sharing and a highly functional bus system would be expected.
The City of Birmingham has the authority to make decisions it feels are in the best interest of its citizens–even if they don’t align with its wealthier suburbs. Isn’t that what you would expect?
If we are unhappy being powerless we can change our government structure or understand the consequences. We can’t have it both ways.
Editor’s note: No one should feel sorry for Uber. Uber just raised $1.2 billion–based on an evaluation of $17 billion. Uber will eventually find a way to do business in Birmingham.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising Agency and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).