"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence,
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down!"
This somewhat "out-of-context" quote from the American poet Robert Frost (1875-1963) is of course from his famous poem, "Mending Wall," coming from, if I remember correctly, one of the greatest poetry volumes in American literary history, "North of Boston." Everybody loves to quote Frost. In a book I just read, William Styron's "Lie Down In Darkness," "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is referenced twice. There are only a small number of writers I truly admire, and Mr. Frost certainly is one of them. And today his poetry will assist me in, yes, again making further commentary upon current Seattle taxi issues.
While enjoying ending my last missive with "animal talk," I find it necessary to expand further on the implications of what the Seattle City Council is doing and why it is potentially important to us taxi industry stalwarts. The title says much of what I believe they are doing, and have been doing for at least the last four years---namely the creating of operational barriers, or walls, to our ability to function as the governmental regulated industry which we undeniably are.
During the past couple of years I have dutifully reported on both City Council and various Seattle and King County decisions curtailing our ability to thrive and prosper. It has not been a pretty picture, and as many of you know, our future only continues to darken. The latest chapter in their ongoing effort to punish and suffocate Seatttle and King County's taxi operations, as I said in my previous post, is by partnering with Teamsters Local 117s' effort to further legitimise flat-rate for-hire and rideshare/TNC (Uber & Lyft) inroads into our traditional operational sphere. By offering collective-bargaining rights to entities that, from my position, should not exist in the first place, the City Council and Teamsters 117 are only further entrenching into permanency what are nothing but invasive species choking the taxi soil. That Teamsters 117 pretends to also represent a sizable group of taxi drivers and owners, mostly consigned to Sea-Tac Airport, we have a situation both contradictory and schizophrenic, creating more confusion and despair. Our historic disarray only works to their advantage. The question, as usual, is what to do; how and why; and should and can we respond?
To do nothing is easy, which is what we collectively as an industry do well. Another equally ineffective response is address one's own personal interests, which is what happened during the now infamous "Mayor Murray negotiations," resulting in the city being over run with Uber vehicles. What the Mayor provided the taxi industry was a "garden hose" when the blazing fire was inches from the house, the smouldering embers inevitable, burning the skin.
As I have noted, Ed Murray is the consummate politician---like any good poker player, understanding a favorable hand. Friday on-line I saw a photograph of Mayor Ed Murray, KC Executive Dow Constantine and Govornor Jay Inslee greeting President Obama on the airport tarmac. That, my friends, is about as big as it gets in our current political reality. And this is where Murray wants to be, with the major players, where he thinks he belongs. Look for him to be part of any new Democratic Administration, post-Obama.
Again, Murray "toyed" with taxi industry representatives, even storming out (from all reports) during one session. And there he is now, rubbing elbows with the US President. For once I am not laughing. I am wincing. Oh yes, that's right, the smoke getting to my eyes.
Why did we lose? Why did we succumb so easily? The simple answer is the lack of a bonafide organization truly representing our industry interests. If we in Seattle continue to rely solely upon association leadership, and the duplicitous Teamsters Local 117, I foresee only a continued deterioration in our business model, meaning our ability to make a living. Our opponents will not be letting up, I can guarantee that. If you doubt that, you only have to look as far as the endangered Yellow Cab Sea-Tac contract. If you don't see or understand what is happening at Sea-Tac, you are blind. It is that simple.
So what to do, what can we do to stem our bleeding? Well, the answer, and continues to be, is to organize, to once and for all create a viable, legal Union (or whatever else you want to call it) and start defending our industry in every possible way. I don't see an alternative. Delay will only lead to a diminishing of our industry and personal wealth. It is the truth. And thinking about it for a few seconds, I know you agree. The walls are closing upon us. Soon they will tower, blocking out all sunlight. Is that what you want to happen? Not only will it happen, it is occurring right now as I sit here typing in faraway Sanok, Poland. I know you know what we must do. It is obvious.
It has taken me a while but I am finally getting more oriented with Sanok's general vicinity. Thursday I made it to the top of a small mountain, Oril Kamien. The view was wonderful but my favorite part was on my way back,. noticing a very "solid" older Polish farmer staring at me like I had just appeared to him in a vision. As I approached he spoke, with me pointing back from where I came. Nodding, shaking my hand with his very large and cold hand, pleasantly remarked back to me in incomprehensible Polish. He then waved ggodbye. I liked our interaction a lot, showing humanity at its best, displaying the many levels of what can be construed as "positive" communication. Who needs language when you can smile?
Friday afternoon I took a bus to nearby Lesko, rented a bicycle and explored the adjoining countryside, finally napping in the autumn sunshine next to the River San. A historical moment later in the day was my entering the one few surviving synagogues in the area, a weathered but lovely building just off the Lesko town square. Prior to WW II, Lesko's population was 60 percent Jewish. By the wars' end they had all been murdered by the Germans.
Yesterday I walked the first leg of what is known locally as the "Trail of the Ikons," a three km jaunt along the river taking me to Miedzybrodzie, a Greek Catholic church dating from 1899. Along with a grey onion-shaped dome, the two parallel windows held matching red crosses, late sunshine lighting up the northern-facing window. Beautiful!
Tuesday I finally leave Sanok after 12 restful nights and head south to hike in the high grasslands in Bieszczadki National Park. Friday will find me back in Krakow. Sunday I fly back to Paris. October 21st back to the USA.