Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Uber Referendum: What They Are Asking The Seattle Voters To Do

An op-ed piece recently percolating away upon my stove top is nearing the pouring stage into a favorite ceramic cup.  Preoccupied with the everything else I am doing, it's time I gave it a flavor check.  While planning on submitting a completed version sometime next week I better not wait too long, given Mayor Ed Murray's announcement from last week calling  for a "45 day negotiation period" with Uber and friends. I think it is extremely important that Seattle voters understand just what they will be voting for, and what their mayor might manifest through his talks with big money Uber.  Like the season's April pollen, compromise is in the air.  Pardon me while I sneeze.  Achoo!

Another item upon my taxi kitchen counter is a remarkable book I have been reading about WWII before collapsing asleep each post-taxi evening, "The World at War" by Mark Arnold-Forster (1920-1981).  WWII and the subject of war in general has held my interest since first poking my nose into a set of World Book encyclopedias at about age ten, and after reading many, many related books this might be the best yet.

Not to be either grandiose or silly but after reading how British Prime Minister  Neville Chamberlain and advisers like Lord Halifax dealt with Hitler and his successive annexations of Austria, Sudetenland and then soon thereafter Czechoslovakia in its entirety, I find similarities with our situation, our sovereign "business territory" bargained away by the City of Seattle.  Despite our protests and repeated "territorial violations" over these past three years, we are still awaiting a  theoretical justice remaining just that, chimerical and unfortunately entering the realm of the mythical.

Sample Draft Op-Ed Commentary

Now that Uber and friends have their pending August 2014 referendum vote, potentially overturning Seattle City Council's new ordinance regulating TNCs, its a fair question asking just what will Seattle be voting for or against.  If I said, that by voting yes, you would be sanctioning, and in effect, legalizing criminal activity, would you call me a liar?  

Uber says the vote is all about the capping of their business operations without for a moment acknowledging that what they have been doing in Seattle and literally around the world, is illegal both here and in San Antonio, Texas and Paris and Berlin.  What Uber and friends have done, minus any invitation, is penetrate multiple regulated business environments, flatly telling all the involved municipalities to "Screw off! We will do whatever we want regardless of consequences!"  Its an amazing statement but completely true. 

What Uber's referendum requests is to freely continue their operations within a wholly self-created "business anarchy," a lawless land where anything goes, where they, Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, are free to make up the rules minute to minute, day to day, the kind of Utopia never envisioned by Thomas Moore.  I am sure every government and corporation would love  and appreciate that kind of freedom.

Imagine if the restaurant equivalent invaded Seattle, setting up shop upon the sidewalks adjacent to every eatery in the city, proclaiming they have no need whatsoever for permits and licenses and health standards.  When Seattle administrators ask them to stop, they respond, "Go to Hell! We are not moving!"  And making the situation worse, when restaurant owners like Tom Douglas and the Canlis family tell Seattle to do something about it, to begin enforcing the very same rules they obey, Seattle ignore their pleas. 

Envision this occurring  daily for over three years and you now understand what Seattle's taxi industry has been facing.  Can you imagine the outcry if these same culinary invaders put a referendum before the voters validating their impertinence?  Where, you might ask, is the outrage concerning Uber's referendum?  It's an intriguing question.

One also might ask just what is Uber and friends complaining about?  Despite operating illegally for over three years in Seattle, they have remained free from legal consequences, receiving not one penny in fines and penalties.  While they complain, Seattle's taxi business community have watched helplessly as the invaders encroached upon their sovereign business territory, craving up their business like an Easter Sunday ham. 

Taking the example from the late 1930s, Czechoslovakia's leaders, when faced with annexation from Hitler's Germany, pleaded with the League of Nations and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for help.  And what assistance did they receive?  Not once but twice Chamberlain flew to Germany having lunch with Hitler, negotiating the demise of an completely independent nation.  We all know what happened after that!

It appears then that Seattle voters are being asked to do the impossible, sanction an invasion and hostile takeover of a once thriving business community.  How can this be happening, something akin to a more recent and modern Alice in Wonderland tale?   We could also ask what everyone has been smoking but since its Seattle we are talking about, we know beyond any doubt what kind of cigarette everyone is smoking, Seattle living and perpetuating an altered reality.  Is this legal?


  1. I agree with too much written here. However, one thing the Hitler analogy. While apt on a technical or strategic level, it is tone deaf. What the analogy is saying it important. Just find another way to explain it. That's all.

  2. What we are witnessing here is a birth of corporate monopoly in traditional "small business" field of personal transportation like taxis and limos.

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