Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting Everyone's Attention

Originally I thought today's posting would be all about last Friday's City Council hearing but a surprise announcement made Saturday upon Mayor Murray's blog altered that.  In whatever fashion it has occurred, we in the taxi industry have gotten the mayor's attention.  It also seems clear that certain city council members are becoming more focused upon issues impacting taxi drivers and owners.  We might suddenly be reaching a turning point. 

This all coming, after Friday's session, when I had begun conversations about how and when we needed to respond to what the council was proposing.  I am not saying that eventually we won't respond but it appears clear that our next move is to just wait and see how everything plays out the next two weeks.  The next Seattle City Council hearing regarding taxis, etc is scheduled for Thursday, February 27th, 2014 at 4:00 PM.  Again, as always, it will be important we have a large taxi industry presence.

What was different about the February 14th hearing is that it was a full session, allowing me for the first time to both hear and gauge opinion from all of the council members. It was revealing, identifying both potential allies and the present scope of knowledge pertaining to the taxi industry.  Amendments to the proposed taxi, for-hire and ride-share bill were discussed.

Later this week I will be more specific but suffice to say much that was tossed around are proposals anathema to the well-being of the taxi industry.  Does anyone like hearing that they want the for-hire vehicles to be given the legal right to do what they are now doing illegally, grabbing our customers off of Seattle's streets?  And instead of capping the TNC (ride-share) drivers at 300, they are talking about expanding that to 600 drivers.   All of this can change, and from an industry point of view, must deviate to something approximating workable reality.

And if it does change, we can thank Mayor Murray for inserting some coherency into the conversation.  Briefly, he is proposing a temporary 12 month cap upon the TNC industry.  One aspect really getting my attention was Murray saying it was necessary to appoint outside experts and a panel of local taxi representations assuring that the taxi industry is properly served and its needs understood. 

This is, at least from my experience, is the very first time anyone from Seattle City Government has expressed both concern and insight in relation to our issues.  His words are potentially a real beginning toward permanent resolutions.  Only time of course will tell where this all leads.  It would be great to see something become easy as opposed to the usual.

Potential Trouble in Olympia: WA State Senator Cyrus Habib

It looks like Lyft, Sidecar and Uber have a friend in Olympia.  On Wednesday, February 19th, 2014, at 1:30 PM, State Senator Habib, representing the 48th Legislative District which includes Kirkland, Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Hunts Point, Medina, Redmond and Yarrow Point, will be introducing HB 2152 to the state senate for consideration.  Essentially designed to allow independent contractors to opt out of L&I coverage, what it really appears to be is a poorly disguised attempt exempting the TNC industry from L&I costs.  If you don't think this is true, I suggest following the croissant crumbs and they lead directly to the prominent Seattle law office of Perkins Coie, where his primary duties are related to technology start-ups. 

Habib's background says much about who he his and overall life priorities.  He is a Rhodes Scholar who went to Yale where he edited the Yale Law Journal.  He teaches at Seattle University's Law School.  When he ran for office, he set a Washington State record for local campaign fund raising, netting over $340,000 dollars.  Big money, big East-side money is backing this guy. Next thing we will be hearing is that he is running for Congress.  That should be an easy prediction.  If anyone has the time, you might want to make it down to Olympia Wednesday.  Watch out for wolves in liberal Democratic clothing, sharp teeth biting all the same.  I know he will be saying he is the taxi driver's friend.  If you believe that then all I can say is that fairy tales are your favorite source for interpreting reality.  Watch out for the poison apple.  Even a home grown apple at that!


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