The noise is getting louder as a definitive vote nears deciding just what the Seattle City Council will do concerning those gate-crashers, Lyft, Sidecar, Uber and Uber-X. In a guest column today co-written by city council-member Mike O'Brien, he came out in favor of capping the ride-share industry at the proposed 300 cars. He also mentioned adding I believe another 150 taxi licences, which should put smiles upon some faces until faced with the stark reality of making a living in a saturated market.
While it might be possible to sustain the number of proposed cars during the summer months, what happens in the remaining nine months? I have been saying it for months, and I will keep repeating myself until everyone understands. The current passenger demand will not sustain a doubling of existing cars.
If the council members would just go down to the Westin and the Sheraton to ask the drivers for honest assessments of what they are making, I am sure Sally Clark and Company would be shocked. I know the truth and no one appears to want to believe me. Why? Am I lying? Am I mistaken?
I invite all of the Seattle City Council members, the Mayor and his aides, Craig Leisy and all of his cohorts to ride with me any weekend they wish. They can see what I see, and believe me, the reality appearing before them will say everything they need to know.
As I have said, since about 2010 we have been facing a de-facto deregulation of the taxi industry. The numbers do not lie.
200 City-only for-hires
300 Ride-shares (with this proposed cap, current
150 New Taxis (according to Mike O'Brien)
650 cars, doubling the city fleet
Now add the 800 or so town cars running amok. How do you like those numbers?
Suddenly the established taxi industry is dealing with a total of
1450 cars. Wow!
That figure dwarfs the existing number of cabs, including county vehicles, making a more or less total of 950 cars. Add that total to 1450 and suddenly we have
2400 taxi and taxi-like vehicles. Amazing!
And as mentioned previously, what about all those King County-only for-hires picking up in the city? What a mess!
Amos & Andy: Two White Guys Portraying Black America
Back in the mid-1920s two white gentleman, Freeman Gosden (Amos) and Charles Correl (Andy) decided that they would go on America's radio waves with a program depicting a comical version of Negro reality. Given that few blacks in the Chicago and NYC ghettos and the Deep South had anything to joke about didn't stop Gosden and Correl from presenting a stereotyped version of Black America. They were extremely popular, the radio broadcast running from 1928 to 1960, a total of 32 years.
In addition to that, they created a television version which aired from 1951 to 1953. Understanding they could no longer appear in "black-face," radio essentially hiding their true identities and race, Gosden and Correl brought together an all-black cast, with Alvin Childress appearing as "Amos" and Spencer Williams portraying "Andy." What didn't change was the "comic book" portrayal of how African-Americans lived and loved and worked and of course, laughed. The NAACP filed protests but nobody cared, not with all of white America laughing. Further insulting was Gosden and Correl's initial intent of actually "lip-syncing" the lines for Childress and Williams, eventually deciding against that. Gosden and Correl sold their rights to CBS for 2.5 million dollars.
I mention Amos & Andy because here in Seattle we have a similar situation where non-taxi drivers are telling us what are reality is. Even worse, they are dictating what are working reality will be. While it is true they are requesting comments, it still leaves all the final decision making in their hands.
I would feel differently if instead all of the City Council members have, for the past 12 months, been out in the taxi community, riding in taxis and talking to everyone down at 74 South Hudson (the Yellow lot). The fact is, they haven't.
Further insulting is their demand study conducted by two non-drivers, James Cooper and Ray Mundy, two nice guys safely ensconced in their academic seats. No laboring beneath the top-light for them! Yes, folks, welcome to our own Amos & Andy reality show right here in good,old liberal Seattle. Funny, isn't it? Is it time to begin laughing, or perhaps more correctly, crying?
Letter From Belyou Dagnew
Dagnew, Orange Cab's General Manager, wrote a beautiful if not quite grammatical letter to the mayor and all of the city council members. In it she correctly presented current Seattle taxi reality from the immigrant taxi driver's perspective. It was poignant, it was simply wonderful. If that letter doesn't soften their hearts, nothing will!
Certainly I am sure the good folks at City Hall don't want to be memorialised like Whittier's Skipper Ireson:
"Old Floyd Ireson, for his hard heart,
Tarred and feathered and carried in a cart,
By the women of Marblehead."
What a sight it would be, the entire City Council paraded down 4th Avenue. Got to be better than any Seahawk celebration!