Tuesday morning the saga of UBER Grandma came to a close at Portsmouth district court. Stephanie Franz’ trial was scheduled for seven tickets she’s received since October of 2015 for the horrible crime of driving people places without a government permission slip. Rather than thank her for providing the service of getting drunk people home alive (and stopping them from driving themselves home drunk), the “City of Portsmouth” gang decided to ticket her seven times for a total of $6,500! $500 for the first ticket, $1000 each for the rest.
Check out this excellent interview of this courageous civil disobedience activist, recorded outside Portsmouth district court, then keep reading for details on the case:
The city’s argument for threatening the sweet grandmother and other UBER drivers with such ridiculous fines was the claim that more stringent background checks than what UBER provides are necessary to keep passengers safe. However, this argument is obvious garbage, as the city only regulates drivers who charge for their services. If a convicted murderer were to offer rides for free, the regulations wouldn’t apply. Portsmouth’s anti-ride-sharing regulations, passed in Summer of 2015, were created to protect the existing taxi oligopoly. That’s what regulations are really for – not to protect consumers as the government claims, but to protect the established businesses from innovative competition.
Indeed, the cabbies in Portsmouth were the loudest group in support of the regulations. UBER Grandma was also targeted by those same cab drivers. They had been witnessed boxing her in to the curb as she was picking up riders in downtown Portsmouth and even smashed out her tail-light. They also appeared at government hearings in Portsmouth and Concord advocating for more government control of the industry.
Despite the constant attacks by both the police and the cabbies, UBER Grandma was not deterred. She kept driving in civil disobedience to the city’s protectionist ordinances, knowing she had harmed no one, and in fact had helped many people get home safely. She’s a hero for continuing to stand up for her right to do business without asking for permission!Ultimately the police stopped ticketing her this Spring because New Hampshire’s state legislature passed a statute that created a uniform set of regulations for the entire state. Since NH is not a “home rule” state, this invalidated the ordinances that Portsmouth had on the books.
However, the statutory changes didn’t nullify the seven tickets that UBER Grandma was facing. When they were written, the Portsmouth ordinances were legal. Her trial date had been continued multiple times as the city gang hoped to drag out the matter to persuade her to plead guilty and just pay up. They were almost successful when they recently offered to settle the tickets for $600 and a guilty plea. She ultimately refused and demanded her day in court.
That day was Tuesday. David Jurist and I drove across the state to attend, leaving Keene at 5:50am and meeting up with Derrick J, who now lives in Portsmouth. Upon entering the court and setting up our cameras, the court clerk lied to me in an attempt to intimidate me into not recording the judge. I refused to back down and when judge Gardner came in she said nothing at all about the cameras. Some had wondered why the video clip I posted yesterday was so short. That’s because there was no hearing. The bailiff had said he expected her trial to be continued, but he was wrong.
Turns out, the case was settled via an “administrative finding”, not a guilty plea. Basically, Stephanie’s attorney (for which UBER was paying the bill) pointed out that she’d likely be found guilty and they agreed to settle the case for $645 (for which UBER will pay). However, it’s not totally over yet. Once I informed Stephanie of the idea of motioning the court to allow the payment to be made to a local charity, she loved it and her attorney agreed to try it. It’s worked in Keene, Manchester, and Concord courts over the years multiple times. Even if UBER ends up paying the fine to the state, they got far more than $645 worth of publicity out of it. I’d call that a win. Stay tuned here to Free Keene for any updates on this case.