Today, though no longer a member I attended a Special Meeting called by the Seattle-King County Taxi Commission occasioned by the attendance of Seattle City Council President Sally Clark. The object of the meeting was to review and discuss the now infamous (at least from my perspective) Option 3 which the council is considering as a response to the Mundy/Cooper demand study and the ongoing controversy concerning alternate taxi-like services. Ultimately the commission will be sending an advisory recommendation to the Seattle City Council. Unfortunately only four of the sitting commission members showed up, failing to field a legal quorum. Six members were absent along with the seventh position, my former seat, remaining unfilled. One would think, given the urgency and importance of all this, that the full commission would have been present. The four commissioners who did attend, Abebe, Manjit, Rafi and Joseph did an excellent job. Speaking as the former chair, I was proud of them. The commission, or least part of it, is maturing and taking form. It was great to see.
Sally Clark gave a ten minute presentation, with an additional twenty minutes reserved for questions from the panel. It was a different Sally Clark, commenting that the demand study wasn't perfect, presenting it more as a guiding document than a completely definitive statement. Even saying that she appeared to agree with Mundy/Cooper that demand is up, at least for certain kinds of non-taxi transportation services, inferring that also translated into a more overall demand for taxi-like services.
When asked if the city council held the legal authority to include ride-share services in what was termed a taxi and for-hire and limousine (town car) study, Sally responded by saying she categorized ride-shares and for-hire vehicles as one and the same, thus providing necessary regulatory authority. In what appeared to be a possible contradiction, Sally said toward the end of her appearance that she viewed ride-shares as "private car" services. Given that for-hire cars are regulated by both the City of Seattle and King County and hold a requirement that the drivers hold a "For-Hire" license just like cab drivers, it seems that "private car" is the more correct definition.
The next taxi city council hearing is scheduled for Friday December 13th. What is telling is Sally said not to expect any final decisions until sometime in January or February or even March 2014. This might mean there will be plenty of time for negotiation.
The most important moment of the meeting occurred when the current Chair Manjit asked Sally what she knew about an incriminating email emanating from somewhere in the Seattle City Council chambers requesting that Seattle's enforcement arm, the Office of Consumer Affairs, defer from going legally after the ride-share services. Sally was shocked at the suggestion, saying no one would ever make that kind of request. All I can say is that after the meeting was over I saw evidence appearing to corroborate that charge. If it does turn out to be true, then, as the title implies, our taxi world is forever altered, backing up my contention that the City of Seattle has failed to protect us from predatory practices. Stay tuned is what I advise. The narrative it appears is about to become very interesting.
Editorial Note: Given my too usual post-taxi haze, two errors were missed but are now corrected. I do my best to overcome taxi fatigue but at times it comes out the victor. Have I ever implied that taxi driving is in any manner healthy? Believe me it isn't. It is a physical and mental grind. And as I am about three weeks shy of my 60th birthday it is not getting any easier.