Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When Vision Is Hallucination

You might have difficulty guessing by the title that I am referring to the most recent taxi advisory commission meeting.  That it is tied to sentiments expressed in my last posting says it all.  My frustration has entered into a personal crisis mode and how that translates I am not altogether clear.  But before addressing the meter increase, which of course was the topic and purpose of the special session, I can report of some positive movement generated by King County.  At least in this isolated subject I couldn't be more pleased.  It shows that indeed folks in licensing have been listening to what the industry has been saying.  For those of us old enough to remember the good, old bad days of Ron Sims & Jim Buck, we can only exhale in a huge sigh of relief!

Before we began our meter rate discussion, Jodie Trueblood presented us with an outline of King County code changes.  There were two in particular that caught my immediate attention. Code 6.64.370 Vehicle Standards---Restricting Top Light to Taxicabs, which means that those "for-hire" cars will hopefully soon be forced to remove the "false" top-lights which are currently confusing potential passengers, providing the clear impression that they are legitimate taxis, which they are not.  They are a different species of commercial passenger transporting vehicle. 

The other noteworthy code was 6.64.690 Soliciting and Cruising Standards---Restricting Cruising to Taxicabs, which allows King County codes to match the City of Seattle which forbids "for-hire" cars to cruise and roam the streets like taxicabs are wont to do.  Previously there were no restrictions in place.  This new rule puts further emphasis on the original operating limitations applying to the "for-hire" industry, meaning that all passenger pickups must be made by prearrangement only. The cruising that has been so wide spread recently upon Seattle's streets will now also be forbidden on all King County streets.  I am assuming that also means that they will be barred from sitting on hotel stands,which would make sense. Both of these code changes means that the "for-hires", at least for the moment, have been thwarted in their attempt to receive the kind of official recognition recently awarded to New York City's livery cab industry.  During the recent explosion of new "for-hire" vehicle licensing, certain elements of that community whispered that soon they too would be given meters and allowed to act like normal and real taxis.  That this fantasy had no true basis in fact is too typical of my experience during my nearly 25 years association with the industry.  Reminds of all the promises made by the original leader of the Green Cab applicants a few years back.  He would tell people anything while taking their money.  In the taxi industry, honesty unfortunately hasn't always been the first policy.

And now returning to my intended subject, all I will say is that my framing of the issue appeared to be misunderstood.  For me, clearly it was the State of Washington and its agency, Labor & Industry who forced the taxi industry's hand by applying over six million dollars in audits to taxi companies both large and small throughout the state.  The response, instead of hiring a lawyer and suing, was one of compromise, which resulted in HB 1367 and the capitulation of the industry.  As I have noted in earlier postings, my involvement with the issue began during the very latter stages of the argument and negotiation.  If I had been enlisted earlier, I would have pressed for a legal fight, and would have of course involved my lease-driver brethren in the tussle.  Now all I am hearing is the predictable moaning and groaning, which of course achieves nothing whatsoever.  What I wanted the commission to do yesterday was to understand that our only real path toward success and viable conclusion would be to have both King County & the City of Seattle inform the State of Washington that they would not be implementing the meter increase, thus returning the entire mess directly back into Labor & Industry's bureaucratic lap.  That my proposal appeared obtuse to my fellow commission members, again, perhaps seen as a kind of conceptual hallucination lent further to my already raging sense of impotency.  Can I take this madness to its preordained illogical conclusion?  And of course, being a real "red-blooded" cabbie I can endure endless abuse.  But do I want to?  My answer is short and simple.  I do not!

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