A group of ten Uber drivers will be offering free or donation-based rides in Portsmouth during New Years Eve.
On a website created to promote the offer, they identify as “just some of your local Uber drivers tired of being chased around Portsmouth by cops and crazy taxi drivers.”
By not charging for service and by scheduling rides in advance the drivers are able to operate legally in Portsmouth because their actions will not be regulated under the transportation ordinance. The group has indicated plans to continue operating similarly in January.
The group includes multiple Uber drivers who have continued driving in Portsmouth in defiance of the new transportation ordinance, under which all Uber drivers are driving illegally except for two drivers who have individually purchased their own commercial insurance policies.
The group also includes Free Uber founder Christopher David who was arrested by Portsmouth PD in November on felony wiretapping charges for posting a YouTube video of a Portsmouth bouncer & taxi driver calling the police on him while picking up an Uber customer outside Daniel Street Tavern.
The website continues, “We tried persuading the city council to allow us to operate freely in Portsmouth. No such luck. They killed all three amendments to the transportation law requested by Uber. Back to square one! We’ll try again with the new council, but in the meantime we’re going to try something a little different.”
This Monday, the group started taking ride requests on a dedicated reservation website. Interested riders will be manually matched with a driver.
In addition to the council killing Uber’s three requested amendments, the group’s action is motivated partly by Portsmouth’s largest taxi company threatening to pull their cabs out from Portsmouth to Dover on New Years Eve, exactly as one taxi owner admitted in a letter to the transportation commission they did in Thanksgiving Eve, intending to send a message to the city council.
Uber drivers have faced continued harassment from taxi drivers since the ordinance went into effect in September. At Monday’s meeting, “Uber Grandma” Stephanie Franz, who has accumulated $3,500 worth of fines under the new ordinance, said to the council: “I fear the taxi cab drivers. My car’s been blocked in. I’ve had stuff thrown at it. They take pictures of my car. They take pictures of me. They yell at me. They’ve done a lot of different things.”
“It is unfortunate that the city council sided with the taxi proponents who have been actively harassing Uber drivers,” said Free Uber founder Christopher David. “They even intentionally inconvenienced Portsmouth residents and guests by coordinating a withdrawal of their taxis to Dover on busy Thanksgiving Eve. Meanwhile Uber drivers are just trying to fill a need in Portsmouth and face daily harassment. The new city council should empower them to operate freely and in peace. Portsmouth residents and guests deserve to make up their own minds which transportation service to use, without outside interference.”
Regardless of the city council’s actions, the Portsmouth transportation ordinance will likely expire in mid-to-late 2016.
In July, Governor Hassan signed a bill forming a bipartisan committee to consider regulating ride-sharing statewide. On December 7th, committee members introduced legislative services request 2016-2957. According to the bill’s primary sponsor and a draft of the house bill’s text, the bill will preempt all local governments. If it passes, Portsmouth’s transportation ordinance will become void two months after the bill is signed.
In the meantime, a group of Uber drivers will continue providing service to those who want it, regardless of the harassment and legal obstacles they face.
Monday night the Portsmouth city council killed all three amendments requested by Uber that would have allowed all Uber drivers to operate legally in Portsmouth.
At the public hearing before the vote, Uber supporters outnumbered opponents about two to one. One taxi loyalist accused Uber drivers of “laughing at” the police because he saw an Uber driver park often right next to a police car downtown. Except “Uber Grandma” Stephanie Franz then stepped to the podium to say that driver was her. Why park there? She said:
“I do that because I fear the taxi cab drivers. My car’s been blocked in. I’ve had stuff thrown at it. They take pictures of my car. They take pictures of me. They yell at me. They’ve done a lot of different things.”
Additional reports of taxi drivers harassing Uber drivers and customers all fell on deaf ears. Ordinance architect Asst. Mayor Jim Splaine urged everyone to vote down all three amendments requested by Uber, which they did.
Splaine even jumped into the Free Uber Facebook page comments to defend the ordinance, erroneously claiming: “We’ve created a free market” by forcing Uber drivers to register with the city.
Portsmouth resident Jason Walls blasted the council’s actions in an op-ed published today in the Portsmouth Herald:
What I saw [Monday] was a group of people listen to a vast majority of interested parties in favor of abolishing the ordinance or, at the very least, adding the amendments requested by Uber to allow us to move on in the short term, and then, subsequently, completely ignore those people and pass the buck onto the next council. In the meantime, Taxi drivers will continue to harass Uber passengers, police will continue to waste time policing the ordinance, and all of this will happen during the holiday season when a surge of ride-sharing drivers is needed most.
This is dangerous and despicable. It’s disgusting to me as a resident and taxpayer. The council members, save for Thorsen and Dwyer, should be ashamed. The headlines should read “Council votes to delay safer Portsmouth” or “Council votes to continue increased drunk driving risks.” You had an opportunity to end this, or at least refrain from enforcement, until this time when it is needed most is over, and you didn’t – even those with nothing to lose on their way out. Let the record show.
Councilor Thorsen, who together with Councilor Dwyer, was one of the only voices of reason during the debate, had the best quote of the night, admitting that the council “didn’t really even know what we’re talking about”:
“I have a little bit of concern over this whole process just because, for example in our last meeting, I went away scratching my head because I was told that our process is better than Uber’s process, for example background checks. And at the same time, we were told we don’t know what Uber’s background check is. Now either one.. you can’t say both. And yet we said both right up here on the council, which told me we didn’t really even know what we’re talking about. And that concerns me in this whole process.
Now we had some feedback from the police department, and that’s good. But again, I don’t think that in trying to get down to the 15 versus 7 [years for the background checks] — I don’t agree with 15, I think we should be at 7 because that’s what most are.
I wanted to be able to address that. I’m going to have to leave it to the next council. We have several young people up on the next council. I think they’re going to have a different opinion than this council. I hope that they do and I hope that they get Uber into Portsmouth as soon as they possibly can.”
The turf war on the streets of Portsmouth continues. Eyes now turn to the new city council and their first meeting January 11th.
Less than seven weeks until Iowa, only one path remains for Rand Paul to win the presidency: energize the Remnant.
Gazing out from your balcony atop the darkened city, you notice in the distance a cloaked figure descending a hill at the base of the nearby mountain. The man’s staff and stoop remind you of a wizard from fantasy or a prophet of old. Topping his staff is a lantern that shines with an uncommon glow, growing brighter as he slowly approaches the outskirts of the city. You see his lips moving but you cannot hear him. Not yet.
Years pass. Now and then, you travel to the edge of the city to meet the man and listen to his message. To small pockets of seekers he speaks softly, never raising his voice, of the rights of all people and the free world to come. You keep coming back to learn more, to share more, to exemplify more, for your friends of the city. Slow progress is made. You did not imagine in those early days that the axis of the world would tilt, and the man’s whispers would come to roar like thunder.
There came a moment, exactly eight years ago to this day, when it seemed as if that voice laboring 30 years in the wilderness was finally being heard. The man’s revolutionary message had been exposed at last to full view, breaking past the censors, for all to see.
On December 16th, 2007, grassroots supporters of Ron Paul contributed more than $6 million to his presidential campaign in just 24 hours, shattering the previous single-day fundraising record. Said one pundit afterward:
“Ron, eighteen million dollars. That’s your fourth-quarter tally. You’ve set the record. In the history of American politics, nobody has raised more money in a single day than you. And yet, this is happening without your campaign people coordinating. This is completely about grassroots. And it’s completely about you just saying what you believe in.”
Fascist presidential candidate Donald Trump visited Portsmouth, NH last night to accept the endorsement of a police union, the New England Police Benevolent Association.
Hundreds of protestors including a handful of Free Staters turned out to oppose him. Free Staters were photographed or interviewed by the New York Times, The Guardian, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Portsmouth Herald, and various independent media.
Free Stater ally and NH native Harrison De Bree was interviewed by The Guardian, and got three paragraphs in their article about the event.
Some of the anti-Trump protesters were paradoxically Republicans. One of them, Harrison Debree, 28, held up a placard that said “Trump: America’s Hitler” with a photograph of the candidate with a Hitler moustache etched on it.
Debree normally votes Republican but said he was so unhappy about the messages being put out by Trump that he was seriously now considering voting for the leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
“I don’t like the way that Trump is assaulting the Bill of Rights, like this week’s statement on closing the US to Muslims – that’s an attack on the First Amendment religious test. He’s more of a threat to the Constitution than even the Democrats are.”
Though Secret Service guarded every entrance to the hotel, we were able to do a bit of trolling. We realized that the back of the Sheraton had an unguarded hill you could climb up to access a window that looked into the hotel bar where a number of fascist Trump sympathizers gathered.
During the event we put the above TRUMP IS A FASCIST sign on the window sill looking in, to the frowns of some sympathizers inside. Later it had been removed, so I replaced it with a leftover NO TRUMP sign.