Peter’s Take: Fisette Sends Wrong Message on Uber

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Peter RousselotArlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette sent the wrong message last month about highly popular ride sharing services like Uber:

In the end, Fisette said Arlington would participate in a state study into the Uber issue, but didn’t say what kind of perspective the county would bring to the table. “As a locality, we don’t really have a point of view except that we have to enforce the law,” he said.

As I have explained, Arlington lacks the authority unilaterally to change the law under which ride sharing services like Uber operate. Under Virginia’s “Dillon Rule”, changing the law has to be done at the state level. But, Arlington certainly could have a “point of view” — if it chose to have one. Arlington could bring its perspective to the table.

Arlington knows how to develop a point of view about issues over which it lacks authority to change the law. Look no further than the point of view the County Board (including Fisette) unanimously adopted four years ago on the subject of enforcement of federal law regarding undocumented immigrants.

In a September 2010 press release announcing its decision to direct the County Manager to look for ways in which to withdraw from enforcement of the federal “Secure Communities” program, the Board stated:

[T]he “Secure Communities Initiative will create divisions in our community and promote a culture of fear and distrust of law enforcement that threatens public safety and makes communities less safe,”

[…] [I]t is not the role or the desire of the Arlington County Police Department to take on the responsibility of enforcing federal immigration laws. [The Board] reaffirmed its support for existing County policies and procedures that prohibit racial profiling and protect crime victims and witnesses.

The Board concluded by explicitly calling on the U.S. Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform.  Even though it ended in failure, I applaud Jay Fisette and the County Board for the stand they took in 2010. They sent the right message to large numbers of Arlington residents who felt threatened by the federal program in question.

Today, vast numbers of Arlington residents say that ride sharing services like Uber are wildly popular for many good reasons. Jay Fisette ought to be demonstrating the same degree of empathy for these residents that he demonstrated four years ago for undocumented immigrants.

This is the message Jay Fisette should send on ride sharing services like Uber:

I am enthusiastic about the many benefits to Arlington customers that ride sharing services like Uber offer. I am committed to doing everything I can to enable these services to thrive.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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