This morning I somehow pulled myself out of bed and joined the taxi crew down in Olympia, Washington to attend Rep. Steve Kirby's House sub-committee hearing on his "striker" amendment to Bill 5550. What brought me and everyone else down to the state's capitol were the two provisions under discussion: insurance requirements for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar; and relating directly to taxi, a provision making the purchase of Washington State Labor & Industry insurance optional, meaning it would remove the current mandatory requirement we are all operating under.
By simple fate, the first four witnesses were all from Uber, including one poor soul admitting to being in the quasi-taxi business for two whole weeks. Once my two minutes arrived, I JUST had to mention I have been driving for 28 years, and attempted make my brief testimony as nuanced as possible, mentioning that too many TNC (Uber, etc.) drivers were operating minus their official app and picking up passengers illegally, thus automatically driving without insurance coverage.
My stance concerning L&I coverage was more neutral, stating the obvious that at least all of us in the local industry are now protected, stating that before mandatory insurance not one of the approximately three thousand plus cabbies had bothered with personal insurance. What astounded me about the Uber folks is that they pleaded poverty, that having Proper and Legal insurance coverage would be an unjust and unaffordable burden. This from a company valued at 40 billion dollars? What are they talking about?
Unintended comedy came from the Lyft lobbyist who made reference to some new "insurance language" currently in negotiation between Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and a national insurance group. When Kirby requested from the Lyft lobbyist that the "language" be provided to his ten-member committee, the lobbyist responded that "he too was trying to get the information," leaving the clear impression that, while presenting the ongoing national negotiation as an alternative, he himself yet to read the very same information he was promoting. If pomposity can be called a disease, its clearly epidemic amongst the Uber, Lyft and Sidecar folks. Please, is there a vaccination available? Stay tuned as all this progresses thought the various House and Senate committees.
We can thank those wonderfully inefficient elected officials in Seattle for handing the problem of insurance requirements to their State colleagues. After all that talk, talk talk it is amazing that the administrative "walk" remains hobbled and crippled. Do you think the voters will hold them accountable? I for one don't believe they will, for all the reasons that one can think of, accountable democracy purely theoretical, and little else, the fate of the Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and the Huskies far more important. Why do people care about millionaires doing nothing that is conceivably productive unless I suppose you view them as some kind of cultural high priests performing metaphysical tasks? That must be why.
Death in the Industry
Last night a female driver operating a Mert's Taxi taxi-cab in Mount Vernon, Washington, was murdered by a male passenger. The suspect then carjacked a car and drove it to Lakewood, WA where this morning he was located and arrested. An unintended advertisement for continued mandatory L&I coverage was WA State Labor & Industry's official contact with the victim's family within hours of the crime. Thankfully the family is guaranteed a settlement that otherwise might not exist. The reality is is that L&I can be extremely beneficial if and when needed. More on this tragedy as it becomes available.
Once Again, Early Full Moon Swoon
My intention this week, before the Mert's Taxi murder, was to be humorous, spotlighting all the stupid situations I encountered this past weekend but who can laugh when a taxi colleague has been senselessly killed? All I can say is that if one doubts full moon reality, you should have been behind the wheel of my taxi late Saturday night driving north on a darkened and unfamiliar Everett, Washington street when two teen aged skate-boarders suddenly appeared in front of me in the middle of the road, one of them swerving to the curb. It is fortunate I have good night vision. My passenger complimented my driving skills. Thank goodness I do know how to drive a car! And those fools down at Seattle's City Hall think anyone can do this, expecting the average cabbie to achieve the near impossible. Think again and again and again, ladies and gentlemen, think again!