Debate rages throughout Seattle's taxi industry and nationwide on who is to blame for our current woes. Most opinion centers on Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, saying these folks have no right infringing upon a regulated sector of the business community. While that cannot be denied, locally I have found our real problem resides with our local administrators and regulators. Even when criticism is directed at our local taxi associations it is misplaced because the City of Seattle and King County have long held the legal responsibility to oversee industry efficiency.
When looking for the source of all our troubles, I suggest looking no further than Seattle's City Hall and the King County offices located on 5th Avenue. You might want to include the Consumer Affairs Office down on South Dearborn Street but it has become clear they are receiving their marching, or more correctly, enforcement orders from City Hall. While many find their inaction irritating, it doesn't seem to be their fault.
It is time everyone is clear on who is causing all of our distress. While the lawsuit filed against Uber last week is understandable, ultimately it is beside the point because it was the City of Seattle and King County who decided to not enforce the law and prevent the ride-share (TNC) companies from operating. I haven't researched it but the State of Washington must hold some regulatory authority on how companies legally operate so I am guessing that on some level the State of Washington might hold also some culpability in the matter.
But clearly locally, given the recent bill passed by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by the new Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, we know where the responsibility lies. The case is simple.
The City of Seattle held the ability to immediately stop Uber, Lyft and Sidecar from operating. The City of Seattle's actions over a three-year period told us everything we didn't want to know, expressing that the needs and concerns of the local taxi industry were of small priority. Disregard what might have been said during recent Seattle City Council hearings. We can only go by what has occurred since 2011. Not only were Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, along with the local flat-rate for hire industry, allowed to operate illegally within the legal boundaries of Seattle, the City of Seattle, minus any penalties, legitimized their operational status. Given that all this is beyond dispute, it should be obvious where any potential legal action should be directed.
Let us be clear. Seattle holds its regulatory status as holy. Just see what happens if anyone tried to take their regulatory authority away. They would fight all the way past the State Supreme Court to Washington DC and talk it over with Chief Justice Stevens and his black-robed friends. Since this is indisputable, the City of Seattle should be asked why did they not act in the best interests of the voting public and the local taxi industry.
As I have said before, laws and rules and regulations cannot be selectively enforced.
When bank robber X holds up a bank in North Seattle and every effort is made toward arresting the individual, bank robber Z, simultaneously robbing a back in South Seattle, is not allowed to elude justice. Both are actively sought by the police, both held equally responsible for their actions.
This, you might have noticed, is not what happened regarding the violations perpetuated by the TNCs and the flat-rate for hires. They were allowed year after year to break the law. Interesting, isn't it? And why? That remains the burning question. Why? Why won't the City of Seattle tell us the answer? We need to know. We need to know the answer now!