On Tuesday, the city held a party to kickoff a program that would pay rideshare drivers to comply with a criminal background check. Since the city council had passed an ordinance in December allowing the companies to make these checks optional, city officials have instead created a $30,000 program that would give Uber or Lyft drivers a $25 gas card if they participate in a simple fingerprint check.
“As rideshare drivers choose to sign up for this incentive program, you are telling your customers that safety is important to you, too,” San Antonio Police Chief Will McManus told drivers attending the bash, thrown at the swanky downtown rooftop Paramour bar. This level of safety, however, did not appear to be very important to the city council three months ago.
Embracing this program seems to contradict with the message the council sent the public in December, when it voted to allow
rideshare companies to skip running background checks on its drivers. This vote came after months of debate
among city council members, tech advocates, taxi drivers and the general public over the importance of driver background checks.
While rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft do
run background checks on all their drivers, they don't include the fingerprint check that taxi and bus drivers are required to submit. Proponents of this more thorough, FBI-approved check say it could catch criminals who’ve changed their name since committing an offense. But, despite the city's request, Uber and Lyft refused to mandate this check for their drivers. It's an issue the companies, promising job creation and tourism, could risk being stubborn over — they knew the city would eventually bend its rules before letting them leave town (again).
In hopes of convincing drivers to opt into these background checks on their own, the city announced they'd cover the cost of the check (a fee taxi drivers pay for out of pocket). Still, only a few hundred out of the thousands of drivers complied. But that didn't keep the council from voting to give rideshare companies a green light
to ignore their previous background check demands in December.
Now, they're coming out to applaud a gas card incentive.
“When the rideshare companies threatened to leave San Antonio, we worked with the community to craft an innovative solution that satisfied all parties," said Councilman Robert Trevino, one of the council's biggest rideshare supporters, in a city press release.
Trevino was the only member of city council at the Tuesday event. Meanwhile, Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran, the loudest supporter of background checks before the council's debate, was testifying against the anti-trans Senate Bill 6 in Austin.