When I was in my pre- and post kindergarten years I loved receiving the child's magazine, Humpty Dumpty, the first subscription I ever received, a rare parental gesture by my usually self-absorbed mother and father. One feature I enjoyed were the drawings where "connecting the dots" revealed some creature or object concealed in the outline. Taking my pencil I would obediently draw connecting lines from 1 to 2 to 3 and so on until a gaggle of ducks quacked at me. Often I would already see what I was creating but the fun was in the process, in the doing. That I was not having any fun Sunday afternoon when 478's fuel pump failed on the west-bound 3600 hundred-block of 15th Avenue West is an understatement; a situation further compounded by waiting 3 hours for the tow truck. And believe me, Seattle's drivers don't see an inch beyond their noses! How did these people qualify for driving licenses when obviously they are not ready for the experience.
I utilize my Humpty Dumpty example from many years ago to illustrate something self-evident from Sunday's experience: connecting the dots bringing into view a series of events taking me to that moment where I was mere seconds away from breaking down in the middle of the Ballard Bridge, not something any cabby would want, the sheer danger scary to consider. Though I could lay all the blame upon Yellow, it wouldn't be either fair or accurate, a history far more complicated than the mere pointing of fingers at convenient targets.
Following the dots brings you more correctly to the source and cause of Sunday's not-so-pleasant mechanical failure. While Yellow and the other associations have a well-known history of poor decisions and chaotic organization, it's clear that at the same time you need money to operate and coordinate, and the current business pressures presented by Uber & friends, the flat-rate for-hires and the town-cars have had an ill and debilitating effect. The inescapable reality for BYG/PSD (Yellow) is that it has less money than it needs for the moment to efficiently operate what is a multi-million dollar business. So let's begin connecting the dots, revealing the true villains in this story.
I begin with King County's attitude eight years back or so when they decided to issue 50 King County licenses while completely disregarding their own RFP (Request for Proposal) requirements. What they were really telling us was that we in the local Seattle and King County taxi industry held little or no standing with local regulators, neither liking or respecting us. That was further clarified by allowing the eventual "Green Cab" operators to not follow the stated guidelines. KC thumbed their nose, saying, "Screw you!" I now have reports that those same "Green Cab" licensees, having never followed the mandated "employer/employee"dictate, have now transferred those "limited" licenses to other associations in clear violation of how and why they were granted.
Continue to the next dot when Seattle and King County finally filled the seats of the dormant Seattle & KC Taxi Advisory Commission, peopling it with unqualified candidates, setting it up for failure. One appointee failed to show up even once for an entire year, and was never seen by the other commission members; while another only appeared twice before vanishing, never to be seen again. Any attempt to remedy the sorry situation fell upon deaf bureaucratic ears. The commission currently resides in governmental limbo, which is exactly where the City of Seattle and King County wants it to be, residing in an imaginary netherworld somewhere in the City Council's collective brain.
Take your pencil to the next dot which is the Seattle & KC decision to release over 200 Seattle flat-rate for-hire licenses and a County-wide unlimited licensing entry, meaning if you were dumb enough to put on a million flat-rate County cars, you could. This decision was made despite the legal option and demand for over an additionally permitted 300 plus City taxi licenses. All this was done knowing that the flat-rate for-hire licenses were released minus any immediately viable operational model. After that, for the next three-plus years, the flat-rate licensees were allowed to essentially operate illegally upon Seattle's streets minus any viable enforcement.
Your next dot is the Seattle and King County decision not to immediately put a stop to the illegal incursion in a regulated market by Uber Lyft & Sidecar. That they did nothing said everything about their attitude toward the local taxi industry. While the taxi industry complained, Uber & friends soared unhindered over Seattle's roads and byways. Adding insult to obvious injury, Uber wailed that they, not us, were the afflicted party.
Now turn your pencil to the Seattle City Council and their decision to pay $100,000 to an outside team of so-called transportation experts, Professors Cooper and Mundy, to conduct a "passenger demand" study. That the City Council ignored our complaints that one, Cooper & Mundy knew nothing in real terms about taxi in general and our situation in Seattle in particular; and two, their ultimate conclusions were amateurish and inaccurate, setting us up for the Murray fiasco. Cooper and Mundy continue to masquerade as "taxi experts," spreading havoc across the known taxi landscape. While not quite "blood money," I wonder how Cooper and Mundy sleep at night?
You can now begin to see the ugly, snarling creature taking shape upon the page, further brought into focus by connecting to former Mayor McGinn's doomed decision to create his "after midnight" part-time taxi stands while completely ignoring industry's real needs, allowing the University of Washington to rebuild a new and giant college football stadium minus taxi stands and wheelchair and disabled access. As the new Husky football season approaches (1st home game 09/12/15), not one solitary stand has been created. How can that be in one of America's most well known "liberal" cities? Composting is important but picking up the disabled after the game appears not to be a priority. Who is being treated like garbage?
Continue connecting to the City Council's grand announcement that they had settled upon a 250 car cap for all TNC/Ride-share companies, where self-congratulation was the order of the day. How proud they were, still hearing Sally Clark's pronouncements to this moment.
Next make a wiggly line to the next post-Mayoral election City Council announcement that they were cancelling their much debated ordinance in favor of a new one orchestrated by the new mayor, Ed Murray. And they never gave a plausible reason as to why they were dumping their bill. It was just something we in the taxi industry had to accept minus any options. One single owner said it was the best deal they could get. "Nothing whatsoever" was the best deal? Unbelievable!
Connect to Murray's preordained negotiation hearings where Uber & friends were given unlimited entry while the taxis remained capped. Anything major (like licenses changing to medallions) gained by the industry was already in the bureaucratic pipeline.
If you are still able to grip your pencil, connect to the City Council 8-1 vote disavowing all their hearings and meetings and hard work, giving Uber everything they wanted while Murray quickly set his signature to the deal. Only Mike O'Brien voted in opposition to what was clearly a fatal stab in the taxi industry's back. That ersatz socialist, Kshama Sawant made a strange statement to the effect that "big money's" victory was inevitable, somehow explaining her vote for sinking the taxi industry. Huh!? To be further nauseated, check out that great liberal rag, "The Nation---150 years old and counting" and their feature about the heroic Sawant. Whatever she might be, she ain't no dalit leading the caste-trodden masses. Can anyone say "Brahman?"
Take that pencil and now connect to BYG/PSD's winter "mothballing" of a large percentage of its fleet and the laying off of invaluable shop mechanics along with the curtailing of cashier and driver superintendent hours. The annual Thanksgiving Feast provided by BYG was cancelled for the first time in over 20 years. The lesson here is you can't spend money you don't have.
Your pencil now moves to the second to last dot and Washington State Legislature's decision ending mandatory Labor & Industry insurance protection for owners and lease-drivers. July 23rd is the new opt-in/opt-out date. Another "great" liberal, Governor Jay Inslee, signed the bill.
For the final dot completing the monster's toothy, menacing grin, grab another pencil and make a thick red line to new City of Seattle statistics stating that we in the local industry last year lost nearly one-third of our gross income while working harder for what we got. Not funny which brings me to my original thought, that everything isn't what it seems upon first glance, a short story expanded to novella.
Now that money is in shorter supply, routine maintenance has been downgraded. Perhaps that faulty or failing fuel pump would have been caught before I was stranded way out there on 15th West. And more tow trucks would have resulted, in the usual fashion, of getting the disabled cab back to the lot within a hour or so. In 28 years, the 3 hours was my longest wait, 45-60 minutes being usual.
In conclusion, what seems simple, isn't. After hearing the tow truck driver's explanation, I even gave him my customary $5.00 tip. He was a good guy, and I admired how he swung 478 around in a tight parking lot. Let's lay the blame where it really belongs, and that is the City of Seattle and King County's treatment of our industry. They have kicked us like a can down the street. Clearly it is time for us to kick back. Are you ready is all I can ask? Are you ready to take your industry back from the hands of fools? Are you tired of being stepped upon and ground into the dirt? I am ready to hear your answer. If losing your livelihood isn't enough, what will it take to get your attention? Guns pointed at your heads and driven from your homes? In short, guys and gals, this is serious business. Understand it. Comprehend. Do something. Do something about it.