Green Room

Houston to Uber: Stop asking citizens to contact city officials

posted at 1:41 pm on February 27, 2014 by

Regardless of the legitimacy or lack thereof of Uber’s issues with the city of Houston, it’s difficult to think of a more clueless way for the city attorney to respond than with a cease-and-desist order … because too many people are contacting city officials through e-mail accounts used for official city business.  Uber delightedly posted the demand on its website:

From: Feldman, David M. – LGL

Sent: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 8:46 AM
To: Miller, Robert
Subject: Uber Cease and Desist

Robert – Please consider this as a formal demand that your client, Uber, cease and desist from transmitting or aiding in the transmission of form e-mails to City officials regarding the adoption of an ordinance to accommodate their enterprise. Despite my informal request to you by telephone on Monday, the excessive number of e-mails has gone unabated, to the point that it has become harassing in nature and arguably unlawful. Failure to cease and desist will be met with appropriate action by the City.

David M. Feldman
City Attorney
City of Houston

Which Houston office-holders specifically are tired of hearing from their constituents? Mayor Annise Parker, who’s been in city government for almost half of her adult life? Someone had to tell Feldman to send this tone-deaf demand to Uber, after all. Houstonians might be interested to know which of their politicians are far too busy to deal with voter feedback.

Here’s a thought: why not just change all of the e-mail addresses, or hide them from the public? Congress does that, forcing constituents to communicate through its website. Making that change might create a political kerfuffle, but it’s a lot smarter than sending cease-and-desist demands to people with business before the city government.

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Sit down, plebe! If we want your input, we’ll beat it out of you.

CurtZHP on February 27, 2014 at 1:50 PM

@CurtZHP

It’s sad that made me laugh.

TexasJack on February 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Far be it from me to defend Houston, for anything. And I have no problem with Uber.

However, how do we know any of those emails were from constituents?

It seems that this could more likely be another case of cyber bullying by internet dweebs, world wide, with nothing better to do.

And Uber could get their point across without this tactic. It would make me think of reasons to not accede to Uber if I was part of the government in Houston (shudders at the thought).

Though, only a complete idiot would ever be in Houston without their own means of getting out of Houston very quickly. Preferably south, or north, on I-45. And if you ain’t already outside of 610 hum the Eagles “Hotel California”. Cause you ain’t gettin’ out.

cozmo on February 27, 2014 at 2:03 PM

@CurtZHP

It’s sad that made me laugh.

TexasJack on February 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Sadist! Masochist!

Shy Guy on February 27, 2014 at 2:06 PM

If they do not like e-mails, maybe folks should accommodate their government representatives in Houston by calling instead.

I won’t post phone numbers here (I’ll leave that as an exercise for the student), but here are links to the City of Houston’s government:

Mayor Annise D. Parker: http://www.houstontx.gov/mayor/index.html
City Council: http://www.houstontx.gov/council/

If you do call, please explain that you are calling about the Uber issue instead of e-mailing because you heard that the City Attorney was warning Uber to stop encouraging people to send e-mails, so you decided since the city government wasn’t reading its e-mails, you felt it necessary to contact them by telephone – to make sure they know how you feel about the issue.

And remember — call only if you live in Houston or the surrounding area.

No Truce With Kings on February 27, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Annise Parker, mayor of Houston is a Lesbian.

She is famous for pulling this petty fascist stuff.

chuckh on February 27, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Shorter: Houston to Uber, in the Fascist States of America democracy no longer exists.

rbj on February 27, 2014 at 2:29 PM

However, how do we know any of those emails were from constituents?

That’s actually one good reason Congress set up its system the way it has. It requires a zip code entry, IIRC, on its form. Presumably zips outside of a district or state are ignored.

Ed Morrissey on February 27, 2014 at 2:33 PM

She is famous for pulling this petty fascist stuff.

It’s not as if petty fascism is a function of sexual orientation. As far as I know plenty of petty fascists are straight – Filner, Reid, and Pelosi among them.

No Truce With Kings on February 27, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Ed Morrissey on February 27, 2014 at 2:33 PM

So did the one at the link. So what?

maps of Houston zip codes.

cozmo on February 27, 2014 at 2:38 PM

I somewhat agree with the C&D if the emails were truely automated form emails.

It’s one thing to post the email link and ask people to send a personal email in support of something. Is entirely another to provide them with an input form and automatically send the same email over and over again.

Critic2029 on February 27, 2014 at 3:27 PM

From the about page of Uber they list their investors: Goldman Sachs, Google Ventures, Menlo, First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, and finally Benchmark. The rah rah, power to the people, democracy vs fascism, peasants vs rulers hyperventilating is puzzling for what seems like just some innovative astroturfing campaign for these vested business interests which are aiming for deregulation of the Houston taxi/limo industry. Modifying it for their own enrichment/business venture. A business venture already looking shady. But what do you really expect from the likes of Goldman Sachs?

Sadly though, it is good for business if you can dupe enough constituents in your targeted area to badger their elected officials into allowing your business model to out-compete the current area businesses. But either way its still fascism when a government can write and rewrite the rules for whomever they want to succeed or fail, at will(for “the people” or not).

That being said, it looks like this David M. Feldman bit down on the bait hard. What a putz.

Smiles on February 27, 2014 at 3:28 PM

but it’s a lot smarter than sending cease-and-desist demands to people with business before the city government

Especially since the C&D could be considered “prior restraint” since the First Amendment mentions “grievances”. It’s touchy because of the nuisance aspect, but it could be argued, imho.

GWB on February 27, 2014 at 3:32 PM

What about non Houston residents that fly in and out of the city frequently for business?!?

Shouldn’t they be able to contact those in power via email, telegram, pony express, smoke signal, twitter or carrier pidgeon?

Green_Bay_Packers on February 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM

“Our e-mail systems are reserved for official bribe offers only,” the City Attorney further complained…

viking01 on February 27, 2014 at 3:43 PM

What about non Houston residents that fly in and out of the city frequently for business?!?

Well, in that case you are in the same position I am every time I fly through Atlanta, LAX, or JFK — a sheep to be shorn. If you cannot vote them out of office, they really don’t care. In fact, they are likely to do the opposite of what someone from outside the area urges them to do because they have to restrain their urges when dealing with their constituents.

But then again, if you want to call, it’s not like I can stop you.

No Truce With Kings on February 27, 2014 at 3:55 PM

What portion of these e-mails are from actual constituents? My guess is not a lot. 10%, 20%, 30% maybe?

If it is mostly constituents, then I think Ed is right.

If not, the cease and desist order was too much, but somewhat understandable since the e-mails would be preventing the city from responding to actual constituents.

drewwerd on February 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM

drewwerd on February 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM

That’s my point of view.

It seems the issue is Uber put a form on their site that asked for email address and then automatically sent an form email on your behalf.

I would say your estimation is probably correct. Only a very small minority of those messages came from actual Houstonians.

Critic2029 on February 27, 2014 at 4:10 PM

fun fact. Our liberal lesbian mayor is the 2nd highest paid mayor in the US at $274,500 plus bennies. Her appointed city attorney is THE highest municipal employee in the US at $350,000.

My hunch is the entire administration is over 50% ghey, many from San Fran.

Another fun fact. The city is growing at about 1% year. All that boom you hear about is happening outside the city limits. Be warned if you’re coming to Texas.

DanMan on February 27, 2014 at 4:29 PM

DanMan on February 27, 2014 at 4:29 PM

I really kind of like Houston. It keeps Dallas from being the worst big city in the state. The title could go to Lubbock. But Lubbock ain’t very big.

cozmo on February 27, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Gee, I guess they haven’t heard about spam filters by keywords. Do they even know how to work a computer?

NOMOBO on February 27, 2014 at 5:19 PM

That’s actually one good reason Congress set up its system the way it has. It requires a zip code entry, IIRC, on its form. Presumably zips outside of a district or state are ignored.

Ed Morrissey on February 27, 2014 at 2:33 PM

There’s one problem with this system. It doesn’t stop congressmen from outside my district from sending ME emails. I just got one from a congressman in another state. Granted it was one of those blast emails asking for me to call my own congressman, but I wanted to respond directly to the politician who saw fit to attach his name to it. Can’t be done.

CurtZHP on February 27, 2014 at 5:35 PM

It violates both the First Amendment and public policy, i.e., you want people to be able to contact city government. And remember, the city atty is a gov employee meaning there is state action here.

Blake on February 27, 2014 at 6:24 PM

And once again the leftists reply with “SHUT UP!”

Jefferson was right. IYKWIMAIKYD

jukin3 on February 27, 2014 at 6:28 PM

…screw the masses!

KOOLAID2 on February 27, 2014 at 7:48 PM

What about non Houston residents that fly in and out of the city frequently for business?!?

Shouldn’t they be able to contact those in power via email, telegram, pony express, smoke signal, twitter or carrier pidgeon?

Green_Bay_Packers on February 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM

No, now shut up and pay for all our new stadiums. /sarc

Over50 on February 27, 2014 at 7:59 PM

Sit down, plebe! If we want your input, we’ll beat it out of into you.

CurtZHP on February 27, 2014 at 1:50 PM

ReWrite™ engaged for direction.

Steve Eggleston on February 27, 2014 at 9:49 PM

Annise Parker, mayor of Houston is a Lesbian.

She is famous for pulling this petty fascist stuff.

chuckh on February 27, 2014 at 2:28 PM

chuckh is an american male.

He is famous for posting complete non-sequitars to conservative web sites.

TedInATL on February 28, 2014 at 9:31 AM

City of Houston “racist” against Ubers?

PJ Emeritus on February 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Those Houston residents should know their places by now.

When you live on the Democratic Plantation, your job is to receive the benefits the Masters bestow and otherwise keep your danged trap SHUT.

Adjoran on February 28, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Did I miss some huge news cycle thing that explains WTF Uber is, and why they’re pestering Houston (legitimately or otherwise) with emails?

The post doesn’t explain squat, nor does the link.

James on February 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

The post doesn’t explain squat, nor does the link.

James on February 28, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Wikipedia explains it. Personally, since I operate on a lower economic spectrum than people who would use Uber, I don’t.

I spend my money on Kittens!

unclesmrgol on March 1, 2014 at 4:56 PM