Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Regulatory Protection? Regulatory Failure!

As is often said, distance creates clarity and my nearly twelve days in Mexico City and Puebla assisted new perspectives upon a known subject.  It is not an exaggeration to state that the next two to three months will potentially imprint the local Seattle and King County taxi industry for years if not decades to come. Any and all incorrect addressing of our current and present issues will be disastrous. Our course then must be correctly tacked or suddenly we will find ourselves wrecked and floundering upon a reef of our own creation, permanently stranded and forever at the mercy of oncoming tides.  We do not want this to happen.

Paramount above everything else is understanding how we got here.  Nothing here is accidental, instead the momentum of years bringing us to where we are.  Briefly then I will outline a regulatory history dysfunctional and contradictory.  The regulators and administrators assigned and elected to protect us have simply failed.  Worse they have at times operated completely contrary to our best interests, making misinformed decisions weakening and compromising our ability to grow and prosper.  They are about to do this again.  It would be foolhardy to allow them to think that what they have done and plan on doing is in anyway acceptable. 

Beware of  hidden agendas disguised as constructive dialogue and cooperation.  I remind everyone about the Munich Agreement of 1938 when Great Britain, France and Italy agreed to Germany's annexation of Western Czechoslovakia, all in an effort to avoid war.  Remember how that worked out?  It was a complete miscalculation by Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier.  We in the taxi industry cannot be similarly naive.

History shows us that Seattle and King County first creates a problem, then perpetuates the problem, and finally, in a blaze of bureaucratic glory, assigns the blame to the victimized parties themselves.  We cannot let this kind of history to repeat itself, drinking poison offered as healing balm. That my friends is suicidal. 

I want to remind everyone of a basic psychological premise.  Foolishness, instead of being a lack of fundamental wisdom as usually portrayed, is in reality a series of active choices.  You are deciding to be foolish when the option not to be can be easily taken.  You don't have to be dumb.  Instead you are deciding to be.   I unfortunately see the perilous direction the discussion is taking.  I suggest we do otherwise.

As stated in my last posting, the situation concerning the for-hire vehicles and the lack of regulatory response toward the ride-share services is solely self-created by Seattle and King County itself.  The City did not HAVE TO RELEASE the for-hire licenses.  The City did not HAVE TO ALLOW unregulated services like Lyft, Sidecar and Uber-X to operate.  All of this has been completely voluntary, City regulators and administrators making INTENTIONAL choices contrary to our best interests.

I want everyone to understand a very basic premise.  Since the taxi industry is a regulated industry which is required to pay fees and obtain licenses, we are both under the scrutiny and the protection of City and County agencies.  It is clear that we are NOT being PROTECTED by the very agencies created to manage and oversee our interests.  Too often instead they have acted in direct opposition to our needs and wants.  This should not and can not continue.

Take the training of new drivers.  They make the new drivers pay fees and take a required training course.  And what do the new drivers receive for their time and money?   A badly structured program leaving them ill-prepared for what they are being licensed to do.  Making it worse is that they then blame the new drivers and the overall taxi industry for the City & County's own sanctioned incompetence.  An example from Saturday night spells out the prevailing reality.

A couple from Alaska complained to me that during their three previous taxi rides earlier that evening, that

1) the driver was not familiar with their destination and how to get there, and

2) that THEY themselves had to research the destination address, and

3) then and only then did the driver insert the destination address into his GPS device and take them to where they needed to go.

In short, all three drivers were clueless, left totally unprepared BY THE CITY & COUNTY TRAINING.  This clearly is just one example of the kind of regulatory failure perpetuated by the City & County.  And who gets the blame?  Why of course the victimized drivers and the industry in general.  The passengers from Alaska even wondered if I knew where the Alexis Hotel is.  Somewhere on planet Mars I think, just a few blocks west from our City Hall, where space aliens makes decisions for us unsuspecting humans.

In summation, the correct party must be held responsible for the mess we are facing.  All fingers point to the City of Seattle and King County.  What we in the industry can not do is in anyway cooperate in what is a bureaucratic charade.  We can not allow them to hold us responsible for problems created solely by them.  The Seattle City Council will do this if we allow them to.  We must communicate that we will not be holding hands and walking down their prescribed path.  Their path leads only to a precipitous cliff and we will fall to our deaths.  It is beyond time to say No, we will not be agreeing to anything but the elimination of the for-hire and ride-share services.  We will also require that we are compensated for our losses. 

And the reason why?  Because the City & County regulators failed to protect the taxi industry.  And while criticizing and punishing us, they have failed to acknowledge their own culpability.  This is not acceptable.  And my question to everyone is, how can it be?

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