“Truthiness” Abounds in Campaign for Austin’s Prop 1

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Early voting in the May 7th election for Austinites starts one week from today, on Monday, April 25th.

As the election approaches, Ridesharing Works Austin is stepping up it’s campaign ad game from mailers to commercials to ads on social media sites. Because Uber and Lyft are not running a campaign in the traditional sense, they can also coordinate with the PAC to place ads within their apps.

From the beginning, Ridesharing Works has relied on oversimplified and misleading language for it’s success. One of the people who collected signatures during the petition drive, which led to this election, was featured on the Ridesharing Works website explaining that voters deserved to decide whether they would like to “keep ridesharing in Austin,” as if Austin City Council had voted to outlaw the presence of TNC’s all together.

The campaign has continued to employ these rhetorical tactics heading toward the election this May.

KXAN investigated a commercial from Ridesharing Works that began airing in April, and concluded that the messaging around Proposition 1 was “misleading” at best. Ridesharing Works has clearly put the $2.1 million it has received from Uber and Lyft to use, as Austinites began receiving glossy campaign mailers echoing the claims in these commercials in their mailboxes.

One such mailer, pictured below, echoed claims made in the commercial that a vote for Prop 1 is a vote for “Powerful city oversight,” a claim KXAN found misleading due to its subjective nature. A vote against Prop 1, on the other hand, would lead to a “city takeover.” The claim that a vote for a proposition which would tie the city council’s hands for two years represents a vote for “city oversight” seems to be a stretch, if not an outright lie.

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A recent mailer from Ridesharing Works

A recent mailer from Ridesharing Works

Other ads, like this one from Instagram, frame Prop 1 as a vote to “require Uber and Lyft to keep doing criminal backrgound checks,” and then prompts users to “get the facts” by clicking through to Ridesharing Works’ website.

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Like every other message to come out of Ridesharing Works since they started their petition drive, the ad anchors itself in nuggets of truth to communicate a wholly misleading and incorrect concept. By suggesting that voting for the proposition is a vote to require Uber and Lyft to “keep doing criminal background checks,” the underlying message is that voting against proposition 1 would be a vote against continuing to require background checks at all.

While it is true that language in the regulation policy proposed by Uber and Lyft does place the responsibility for running background checks on the companies, voting against proposition 1 isn’t a vote against criminal background checks for drivers.

By utilizing short and catchy messaging filled with truthiness, Uber and Lyft have effectively put opponents of their proposition in the policy wonk weeds. It’s much easier to say, “Require Uber and Lyft to keep performing background checks!” than it is to debate the nuance between one regulation plan and another – which is what this election is actually about.

Ads from Ridesharing Works are even plugging into a general opposition to increased taxes in Austin that has managed to kill at least two major propositions in the last few municipal elections. A vote for proposition 1, they say, will place the cost on Uber and Lyft, while a vote against will leave the bill to taxpayers. According to KXAN‘s analysis of the claim, this is based entirely on conjecture – the city council hasn’t determined yet how the increased background checks proposed in December’s policy would be funded.

But this election, triggered by Uber and Lyft’s petition, is definitely coming out of your taxes – to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

3 Comments

  1. I’m glad I don’t see many of these examples of “truthiness” you have given. Attending the debate at The North Door last Thursday was bad enough. Lies and deception abounded there as well.

  2. They will leave if we don’t repeal the regulations. It’s as simple as that. They have every right to do so and I wouldn’t blame one bit for it. I rely on both Lyft and Uber on a daily basis.

  3. Acck! The bias … Oh, I mean yours. What revenue stream does the city have that it will plan to find this other than a tax (even If the city gets truthy with the name, it’s a tax). If a city takes over a process currently done by a private entity, that is government takeover. Both sides are using equal misdirection.

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