Russell Brand, an Ally of Bill de Blasio in the Fight Against Uber

They might take umbrage with Uber for different reasons, but manic actor Russell Brand and New York mayor Bill de Blasio both line up against the "arrogantly managed" mega car service. Brand, a free spirit loved by schoolchildren, goes after Uber in this video posted to his YouTube channel. He really works himself into a lather around the 1:15 mark.

Here's the crux of his argument against Uber in London:

Local cabbies…put their money back into the local economy, not like Uber, a multibillion-dollar corporation, part-owned by Goldman Sachs, part-owned by Google, that skims off all its profit and puts it into foreign bank accounts. It's more money being siphoned out of our country. If you get a black cab, that money stays in our country, it stays in our economy. That's one clear advantage. 

He continues (caps represent peak Brand): 

Uber, when you look at it, is just another tax-evading company like Amazon, Starbucks, or Tesco. Of course we all use Tesco, Amazon, and Starbucks — they're unavoidable and we're just human beings — but be aware of what we're participating in, because once these people have got us monopolized, I'VE GOT A FEELING that they're in this for profit, so prices might start going up.

Meanwhile, the mayor wants to put a cap on new Uber vehicles to 201 a year and conduct a nine-month study of congestion in the city. Uber, for its part, wants to add 10,000 new cars (and those "10,000 new jobs") to New York streets. A rep for Uber tells the Voice that there are "18,000 Uber driver-partners directly affiliated with an Uber base." That's compared to 13,437 taxi medallions shared by more than 50,000 drivers.

In an op-ed for the Daily News published this past Saturday, de Blasio writes that "we're facing the addition of over 25,000 cars to our streets over the next year — the rough equivalent of two times the total number of yellow taxis in all of New York City."

The City Council could vote Thursday to cap Uber growth, as well as on whether to implement the traffic congestion study. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said Tuesday that the council should pump the brakes: "We must delay any vote in the council and begin an earnest discussion," he told Capital New York. And joining Stringer is Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who showed his support for the car service at an Uber job fair in Long Island City, also on Tuesday. Today, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz also called for a study before a cap is put on Uber growth: "The legislation before the City Council is flawed, and would have the unintended consequence of inhibiting the growth of the livery car services my borough and much of the city relies on for transportation."

Leading up to a possible vote, Uber launched a public relations campaign with ads on TV, and through traditional and social media, as well as launching this public petition

Three of Uber's Facebook ads.
Three of Uber's Facebook ads.

De Blasio, who was on a two-day trip to Rome to talk about climate change Tuesday, didn't miss the opportunity to share his frustrations over Uber with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: 

"She’s having very similar experience," de Blasio told reporters at the Vatican. "I think it’s clear that as a corporation — as a multibillion-dollar corporation — Uber thinks it can dictate to government. I remind them that the government represents the people and the people’s larger interests and that is more important than any one company’s needs.

"So I think the situation playing out in Paris in a way is very similar to New York City. I think it’s playing out in London in a way that’s very similar. And I think, in each case, the people of our cities don’t like the notion of those who are particularly wealthy and powerful dictating the terms to a government elected by the people. So I think that is not a wise course and ultimately the people will reject it."

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De Blasio has been criticized for going after Uber because of the hefty campaign donations made to him by the taxi industry. The Times tallied $85,000 in donations to his campaign for mayor from taxi interests.

[nlucchesi@villagevoice.com][@nicklucchesi]


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