Houston mayor: 50 percent of Uber driver applicants have criminal record

Uber public affairs official for Texas disputes figure

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - The relationship between the popular ride-sharing service Uber and the city of Houston has always been somewhat contentious.

"I hope Uber is going to continue to operate in this city. We want them to continue to operate in this city," Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

The primary sticking point remains the requirement in Houston that prospective Uber drivers submit their fingerprints for an FBI background check.

Uber reluctantly abides by the rule but continues to ask the mayor to re-evaluate the need for such fingerprinting.

"The FBI fingerprinting database is widely reported to be inaccurate the majority of the time. We do have a fundamental disagreement on how to keep people safe," said Trevor Theunissen, Uber public affairs lead for Texas.

Theunissen stopped short of saying Uber would leave the market if Turner does not change his stance.

"Half the people who are coming to be drivers for Uber have some form of criminal record -- one-half the people applying," Turner said, referring to Houston-based applicants.

Theunissen disputed the figure and said that Turner had shared no such information with Uber.

The ride-sharing behemoth is currently focused on helping push through statewide legislation that would override Turner's screening requirements.

"We would continue to work with Mayor Turner, but our hope is that a statewide bill will pass this session so that we can stay in Houston," Theunissen said.

Three bills introduced in the Texas Legislature this session aim to strip city government's ability to regulate Uber.

Two of the bills, HB 100 and SB 361, have advanced out of committees.

"If the state bills go through, it's like you're getting in one of these vehicles and you're hoping and praying that the companies would have undergone a thorough background check," Turner said.

Turner said that he is also concerned that the legislation does not adequately address the needs of handicap riders, requiring ride sharing companies to meet certain accessibility requirements, as Houston requires.

"We will continue to service our customers with disability, just like we have. That won't stop," Theunissen said.

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