Monday, July 7, 2014

Breathtaking Political Theatre----The Seattle City Council Throws Away A Year's Work

Walking over to the City Hall this afternoon I was apprehensive, truly not knowing what to expect.  Reading the first agenda item, repeated in full here, I got the chills even on a hot 80 plus F. summer day, understanding I was about to witness the public beheading of the taxi industry.  It turns out I was correct, the Seattle City Council launching their invisible but quite palpable razor-sharp guillotine, lopping the taxi cranium onto the chamber floor.  No one else may have noticed but I did, hearing the screams.  It was quite unpleasant.  Agenda item number 1:

1.    C.B. 118139           

                                        Relating to taxicabs and for-hire vehicles;
                                        repealing Ordinance 124441 relating to
                                        companies and drivers of a new type of for-
                                        hire vehicle in order to create a pilot
                                        program for transportation network
                                        companies and affiliated drivers and

This political gobbledygook was introduced June 30th, 2014 by City Council President Tim Burgess.  Given past statements made by Burgess, the writing was on the bureaucratic wall.  We were doomed.

A 20-minute public comment period was allowed, and thankfully I got my next to last 2 minutes, telling everyone that the mayor's mediation committee was not representative of the over 3000 lease-drivers, and that the issue came down to one primary point, that what we were dealing with was an "illegal incursion into a regulated industry" and nothing else.  I made a similar statement to a KIRO TV 7 interviewer prior to the hearing.  I doubt greatly if I will receive my obligatory "10 second" soundbite

As I said, it was exceedingly clear that the city council, having been thoroughly briefed by the mayor and his staff, and perhaps Uber, were ready to scuttle their legislative vessel that was over a year in the making, letting it sink before entering turbulent seas. Why would the city council throw away a combined ten or more hearings plus hundreds of hours of research, interviews and governmental scrutiny?  That is not a sensible response.  Clearly, from my perspective, somebody somewhere changed the underlying agenda.  Who could have done that?

Could part of the answer be that this morning Wall Street announced that Uber overall valuation was now 18.5 billion dollars, up from a mere 17 billion?   Why concern yourself with a handful of scruffy cabbies when instead you can be wined and dined by the cultural upper crust!  The choice is obvious.

Something persistently enjoyable has been Uber's presentation as the victimized and misunderstood party.  Pathetic but humorous.  Wonderful to picture an abject billionaire crying upon Mayor Murray's shoulder.  "There, there," Ed Murray soothes, "don't worry, soon everything will be okay, I promise you."  Touching picture, don't you think?

Today's true dramatics began with Sally Clark, the prime and once proud Ordinance 124441 architect, giving what could be described as an eulogy upon her own creation, something that must be unavoidably euthanized.  As today's title suggests, it was a breathtaking performance, personally finding it simultaneously confusing and sad.   After that, it was all perfunctory theatre, the conclusion preordained, Council Bill 118139 winning by a 6-3 margin. 

What comes next is a week of "negotiation" with the defining vote concerning the mayor's proposal to be taken next Monday at again 2:00 PM.  Thankfully I will be in San Francisco, having a good excuse not to be in attendance.  I'd rather be eating Chinese any day of the week.

RCW 8172.10

This obscure statue might be the basis of potential legal action.  Line 6 says:

"Any other requirements adopted to ensure safe and reliable taxicab services."

Stay tuned!

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