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De Blasio Declines Uber's Online Debate Invite

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) --  Bill de Blasio said thanks but no thanks to Uber's call for a live debate to air their differences.

On Monday, the ride-hailing service invited New York City's mayor to participate in a live-streamed conversation about the company's future in the Big Apple. The de Blasio administration has been trying to slow down Uber's rapid expansion.

De Blasio declined the invitation, saying, "I do not debate with the heads of private companies over their own self-interest."

Mayor Rejects Offer For Internet Debate With Uber

The City Council is expected to vote this week on a bill that could temporarily cap the growth of ride services such as Uber. There is a lot at stake -- for the yellow cab industry, which is apparently hurt by the competition; for the millions of consumers who use the Uber service and like it, and for the thousands who want to get jobs as drivers.

Since 2011, about 25,000 black and livery cars have been added to New York's streets, which some officials blame for worsening traffic congestion. Uber cars have surpassed the number of city taxis, and the government needs time to catch up on regulations, de Blasio said.

In an op-ed in the New York Daily News on Saturday, de Blasio said he fears adding tens of thousands of for-hire cars to city streets could lead to serious traffic problems.

"We'll ensure that current service remains in place — and can even grow modestly — but our goal is to ensure that our streets aren't flooded with tens of thousands more cars before we can stand up new rules to govern the marketplace," the mayor wrote, adding, "We still need basic standards that ensure people who work hard in this sector can earn a decent living."

De Blasio Declines Uber's Invitation For Online Debate

Since the mayor brought up the issue of driver treatment, CBS2's Marcia Kramer did as well. One of the mayor's key contributors is yellow cab taxi magnate Gene Friedman, who owns 860 medallions that compete with Uber.

Friedman has raised more than $70,000 for de Blasio, Kramer reported, and is being sued by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on charges of violating his drivers' rights and charging them rates to lease his cabs that are higher than legally permissible, Kramer reported.

Kramer: "Following up on your concerns about the rights of workers, I wonder if you plan to return the contributions that have been made to you by Gene Friedman?"

De Blasio: "Well, again, I don't have the status of the case, so I'd have to know a lot more about it."

Since he ran for office, de Blasio has collected about $630,000 from the yellow cab industry. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has collected $27,000, Kramer reported.

As for the proposed legislation, it would place a 1 percent growth cap on car services for at least a year while the city studies the impact of the influx of new cars on traffic, pollution and accessibility for disabled riders.

Uber warns that effort could send wait times skyrocketing and limit free enterprise and consumer choice. Uber also insists that more than 20 percent of its customers are in the outer boroughs and just 6 percent are in Manhattan.

Uber is now running TV ads accusing the mayor of favoring his supporters in the taxi industry.

"Let's be clear, Uber is a multibillion-dollar corporation, and they're acting like one," de Blasio told reporters, including WCBS 880's Jim Smith.

Uber driver Mohammad Hasan said preventing the company from hiring more drivers is wrong.

"I think that's against the American dream. Anybody wants to work in this country. As long as they're legal, they should be able to do what they want," Hasan said. "As the mayor of the city, he should help the people to get jobs."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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