Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whatever This Is, It Is Not Democracy

As recent events in Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela and the Ukraine have shown, voter plurality doesn't necessarily translate into functional, fair governance where the interests of all citizens are considered above any and all competing agendas.  Too often it appears government officials, both elected and appointed, feel they have been given a personal mandate to do whatever they want.  In Egypt it was a Koran-based constitution.  In Thailand it has been old-fashioned nepotism and self-promotion.  In Venezuela it has been rampant mismanagement after a broad nationalization of private and international assets.  Recent developments in the Ukraine have displayed governmental corruption leading to an avoidable massacre. Too typically, while Ukraine's economy floundered, the now deposed president was amassing personal wealth and a lifestyle Julius Cesar would have recognized. 

While not reaching that level of governmental malfeasance, we in the local Seattle and King County taxi industry have faced a regional and municipal authoritarianism dictating to us our operational reality.  One very recognisable historical facet of authoritarian rule is that the same individual or groups protesting a wrong or problem are blamed for the very same grievance they are complaining about, and in the aforementioned examples, risking their lives.

If you don't think this is happening in Seattle, think again, as the democratically elected Seattle City Council are making up rules "right-out-of-thin-air" and applying them to the taxi industry.  Monday's 02/24/2014 Seattle Times editorial complains about what they call the "taxi monopoly," implying we are to blame for everything, stymying competition and innovation, while portraying the illegal ride-share industry as victims.  Anyone familiar with fascism see this as an old game.

Everyone should remember that in the 1930s Germany blamed its cultural and economic woes upon the Jews.  Just this week Uganda activated an anti-gay/homosexual law dishing out life sentences, joining 38 other African nations banning gay and lesbian lifestyles.  Similarly, taxi drivers across the United States are being targeted and ostracized publicly, demonised as less than civilized. 

Recently, KIRO Television did a news feature about taxi drivers calling it "The Big Stink."  My complaint to them was never answered.  Does anyone see a pattern developing?  Taxi drivers smell and are greedy, in other words dehumanizing us as a group.  Read the Nazi propaganda from that era and compare and see if I am exaggerating?  Ask the folks at the Seattle Times and KIRO and in the city government and they will all join in a chorus denying any bias or prejudicial attitudes.  And after their denial they go back to what they were doing beforehand.

What everyone is missing is that we in the taxi industry have been obediently following the rules for years.  We pay our fees yearly.  Sometimes we have been deregulated.  Other times, like it is currently, we are regulated.  We are given little say either way.  Usually, and historically, our requests concerning our own destiny are ignored.  When we have requested that more taxi licenses be released, we have been told no, they are not needed.  Then just over three years ago, over two hundred very similar "for-hire" licenses were released without explanation.  When these same fellows began operating illegally, taking our customers, nothing essentially has been done for the past three years to stop them.  Now the city council is now planning on sanctioning them by allowing them to pick up on the streets.

While all this has been occurring,  Uber, Uber-X, Lyft and Sidecar came upon the scene disregarding all rules and regulations, in a sense their own "Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) moment, telling everyone in the taxi industry to move out of the way, they are here to stay.  What has been the response?  Just like they responded to the "for-hires," the City of Seattle suspended any real enforcement and are about to sanction their illegal incursion into taxi operations.

While the Seattle Times editorial stated that the market should be allowed to determine itself, they are missing that it already has.  What they don't see is that there isn't a growing customer demand for taxi-like services, despite what was stated in the Mundy/Coooper study.  There are at least two city council member advocating for no caps upon the ride-shares.  You can be sure that they have never driven taxi and never will, knowing next to nothing about our business reality. For them it is perfectly okay to flood our market with unneeded drivers.  They will not be the ones sitting in the taxi freaking out, wondering how they pay that day's lease, never aware of the pain and suffering they have caused.

And why should any industry, taxi or otherwise, accept an illegal invasion?   Would Weyerhaeuser allow anyone to start harvesting timber off their land?  Of course not.  And if anyone thinks that the Seattle Times editorial staff would support illegal logging on Weyerhaeuser property, you are lying.  The Seattle Times would instinctively support the rich timber company, which is why I see their current stance as dishonest.  Uber etc have all the money.  In last Sunday's edition Uber published a full page ad asking for political support.  How much did that ad cost anyway?  Then the very next day we see the editorial supporting Uber and friends.

If anyone views the treatment of the taxi industry as democratic, please think again.  Grab your political dictionary and look up the definition.  Rules are, and always have been forced down our throats, bureaucratic force-feeding.  So how do they expect us to respond?  Does the City of Seattle really think we are going to accept 800 plus new quasi-taxis and continue on as usual?  Think again, folks, think again!



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