BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - Yellow Cab President John Camillo runs the biggest taxi company in Broward and he might just be Uber's biggest obstacle to operate there.
It was Camillo, along with his boss, taxi mogul Jesse Gaddis, who played a key role in getting a new ordinance passed by the county commission that prompted the popular ride-sharing service to abandon the county at the end of last month.
"Are you trying to drive Uber out of Broward County?" Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman asked Camillo.
"No," he answered. "What we proposed was a set of regulations we felt was appropriate."
Among those regulations was a stricter background check for drivers than Broward has ever had, as well as a demand that those drivers obtain chauffeur's licenses in the county.
Yellow Cab and Gaddis have been big campaign contributors to the commission campaigns and hired four well-connected lobbyists, Bernie Friedman, George Platt, Judy Stern and former commissioner (and former state senator) Jim Scott, to help push their agenda.
But Camillo said it's the cab industry that is at an unfair competitive disadvantage in large part because cab rates are set by the county. He said that despite the campaign contributions and lobbyists, the commission rejected his proposal to extend those set rates to his competition.
"We wanted to have a floor on what Uber could charge that was comparable to what the county commission required us to charge so Uber couldn't engage in predatory process, undercutting us," he said. "They rejected the limitation on vehicles. They rejected the price control."
"You're saying the idea that Jesse Gaddis controls the commission isn't true?" asked Norman.
"No, it isn't true," Camillo said.
But commissioners did pass an FBI-related Level 2 background check that Uber claims is onerous.
Camillo claims that, however, is a "straw man" argument and that what really concerns Uber is any provision that would put the names of their drivers on a public list.
He cites an email sent to County Commissioner Beam Furr in which he explains the company's concerns about insurance carried by Uber drivers, many of whom presumably don't inform auto insurance companies that they are using their cars to transport people – something that would substantially raise their rates.
"As for the chauffeur's license, Uber is adamant that they want to keep the names of their drivers exempt from public records request," wrote Furr. "Part of this is for competitive reasons, and part of it is because these ridesharing companies are afraid that third parties will contact the personal insurance carriers of their drivers. Though they might not come out and say it, Uber and Lyft know that you can be thrown off your personal insurance if Geico, All State or carriers discover that you have been using your vehicle for ridesharing."
When Norman asked Camillo if the cab industry is a "dinosaur that is trying to kill off the new better species," Camillo answered, "If the playing field was equal then I think competition on the street is something we would have to live with. And if we can't compete then we're a dinosaur and we shouldn't be around."
The commission, under pressure from multitudes of Uber customers, is meeting Tuesday to try to iron out a compromise that will bring Uber back to the county.
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