Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Factual? Yet To Be Seen & A Schell Post-Script

Part of the history, or potentially part of the story behind the Seattle City Council's abrupt disavowal of its own hand-crafted bill, was whispered to me by a trusted confidential source.  Whether this truly unravels part of the mystery I don't know but in the public interest I think it is important to provide a peek behind the drawn governmental curtains.  Aren't these folks supposed to be working for you and me minus hidden or contrary agendas?  While theoretically that's probably true, in actual practice it appears to be another story altogether. 

This is what I was told:

Working behind the scenes with City of Seattle legal staff, an individual associated with the local taxi industry crafted an agreement where the City Attorney's Office would officially back the legal challenge to the Uber referendum effort.  What happened was:

1)  Within the highest echelons of Seattle's governmental hierarchy came the word to

2) A second tier authority to quash any and all legal ambitions which

3)  Was relayed to the Seattle City Council who essentially acquiesced to the command structure.

By reading between the taxi lines it should be clear who told what to whom.  Ultimately the question remains is just why did the dominoes fall the way they did?   Who provided the motivation for this chain of linked events?  I certainly wish the local media would pick up the mantle and investigate what I believe could result in a very revealing story.  Anyone interested in a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting?

PS: More Schell

A small obituary mention in today's Tacoma News Tribune has prompted a few more lines upon the late Seattle mayor.  Call this a little post-mortem remembrance.

While much is made about Schell's contribution to Seattle's library system and the arts, nothing is said about added functionality, Seattle's main DT branch externally is a real architectural beauty but internally is where the questions arise.  Why spend hundreds of millions of dollars resulting in less not more efficiency, an enduring if not quite sensible legacy?

Articles also make reference to the WTO riots occurring during his administration's tenure.  Working the WTO conference like any other large revenue generating event, I was driving my taxi in the curfew-bound DT and greater Belltown and observed a small squadron of armor-clad police bear down upon some crack dealers who clearly had not gotten the word to get out of there.  I turned the corner quickly, not wanting to observe the inevitable.

A little bit later, now driving down Broadway East on Capitol Hill, two very conservatively dressed black business women jumped into my cab, having just been accidentally gassed by the SPD.  Turning west onto East Mercer, then north upon Harvard East I stopped at the corner of East Roy and Harvard East only to come across a platoon of fully-outfitted Seattle police officers marching east up Roy in complete drill-like unison, precisely lifting their clubs in machine-like orderly fashion.  The Sargent in front, noticing my presence at the stop sign, lifted up and pointed his shotgun directly at my wind shield.  I was astonished!

Yes this is all true, thanks to Schell's disjointed response I might have received a face full of shotgun pellets.  My passengers, by the way, were horrified.  Once the cops passed by, we got the hell out of there.  The gas victims kept asking how did this all happen?  Why, didn't they know, courtesy of Seattle's voters, who else?  How else did this fiasco occur?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Giving It A Rest & Comments Upon A Late Mayor

Not that I expected it but I haven't heard anything new today about reviving a challenge to the Mayor's bill.  Being the ever optimist I hoped that some new resistance might spring up but alas, no, all that remains is composing a taxi obituary.  But given the level of business this weekend you would never know the patient is terminal.  It was amazingly busy and profitable, even for a summer Seafair/Torchlight parade and Capitol Hill Block Party weekend.  At one point I had three Sea-Tac airport fares in a row, giving me five total for yesterday. 

Saturday morning got off with a real bang, my third fare taking me to that beautiful little town nestled in the near Cascades, North Bend.  Dropping off my passengers near looming Mount Si, the early morning was truly breathtaking, a pervasive misty, low hanging ground fog providing further enchantment to an idyllic dawn.  I didn't want to leave, further reminding I have had enough of taxi, quite ready to to be in the middle of nowhere and staying there for months at a time. 

But ultimately, Bless you, taxi, I will always wish you the best the world has to offer.  I just wish you wouldn't ignore the obvious but I know that's asking more than you can do.  I give up!

Comment Upon A Former Mayor

Today's Seattle Times announced the passing of former Seattle Mayor Paul Schell who had led Seattle from 1998 to 2002.  He died from complications relating to heart bypass surgery.  I note his passing due to a statement he made during his administration, Schell advising Seattle's citizenry to utilize taxis as their second car.  This sounds good unless you experienced the local terror campaign perpetuated upon the taxi driver community by Seattle's police, this started under another good liberal, Norm Rice.  I am not exaggerating when I say SPD would stop the local cabbies for the most minor of offences, like picking up and dropping off customers. Perhaps ineffectual Schell was completely unaware of SPD's tactics, which wouldn't be surprising, the good mayor forever dreaming of leafy Provence. 

During his initial winning campaign for mayoral office, it came out that the ex-Port of Seattle commissioner was travelling quite often to Europe on official business only to somehow end up visiting his quaint cottage located in southern France.  How did this guy ever get elected?  RIP! Mister Schell, you make the current mayor look good.  Weather you love or hate Murray, you can't say he isn't effective.  He is mover, getting things done minus popular opinion.  Weather this translates into a second term, or like Schell, only sticking around for four years, remains to be seen.  What is my opinion?  Guess!?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Don't Uncork The Champagne-----There Ain't Gonna Be Any Revolution

Maybe it was divide and conquer, offering one part of the local taxi industry incentives they couldn't refuse.  Maybe it was the fear of retaliation and retribution.  Or was it indifference to individual fate, a fatal attitude of taking what ever comes, living or dying with final and evolving results?  Why do I think no one showed up for a meeting where, one way or the other, a decision concerning a referendum attempt or some similar strategy was to be made?

 My answer is just good, old fashioned taxi dysfunction, something I know too well.  One participant's sputtering excuse was not convincing.  Another continues to be a human kaleidoscope, changing arguments and scenarios with the turn of a wrist.  Another was completely believable, a bell taking him out of the area. 

The one individual who showed up, the person potentially financially backing any effort, remained confident but time is rapidly vanishing, Monday leaving a scant 17 days to gather 30,000 signatures.  Divine intervention anyone?  In other words, Mayor Murray's bill will be law in 20 days and the deregulation of Seattle's taxi industry begins.  There is little to nothing left to say.  I can only hope that only a small minority are damaged.  That is the best I think that can be hoped for.  Thank goodness firing squads have been outlawed is my final commentary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Thief In The Night---Or Oops! I Meant 9:45 In The Morning!

One thing I will give Seattle Mayor Ed Murray full credit---he is one shrewd politician.  He knows the turf.  And to that end, on Tuesday morning at 9:45 AM, on the tenth floor of the King County Court Building, KC council member Pete von Reichbauer's Government Accountability and Oversight Committee was pondering the mayor's new taxi/for hire/TNC bill, subjecting it to committee scrutiny before forwarding it to the full King County Council for a vote.  By the way, Murray's fellow Democrat, KC Executive Dow Constantine, has requested that the KC council accept the bill as written minus any changes.  I will let you decide the reasons why.

This is all necessitated by local regulatory authority being a two-headed monster, Seattle and King County sharing in the fun.  Over the years it has been suggested more than once that the regulators should be consolidated but for the moment you will discover any number of cooks in the governmental kitchen.  This is when I can joke about the many burnt offerings, indigestible dishes never to be found, in say, a local Tom Douglas restaurant.  Who comes up with these recipes anyway?

Amazing to me, that unlike all the Seattle City Council hearings, which were often jam-packed, standing-room-only affairs, literally no one from the contending parties, TNC, flat-rate for hire or the taxi industry were in attendance.  The media certainly wasn't there.  And of course the explanation is simple.  No one was told about this very important session. 

I believe this had to be intentional.  Why would the mayor want any obstacles obstructing his Uber-favored legislation?  None is the obvious answer.  Boy! it was funny to note a TNC lobbyist's surprise seeing me sitting in the front row.  Doesn't he know I have sources?  Regardless, I found the hearing instructive and glad I attended, allowing me to report upon something that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.  I can only guess that KIRO TV, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly missed their morning coffee, sleeping through the clanging alarm. 

Both me and my colleague Chris were given ample time to explain our concerns.  The committee Chair, Pete von Reichbauer, asked his assistant to begin researching the issues we brought up, searching for collaborating details.  Joining von Reichbauer on the committee were council members Reagan Dunn, Dave Upthegrove and Rod Dembowski.  I trust, due in part to our testimony, that the mayor's bill and its long-term consequences will be thoroughly examined.  It seems TNC insurance coverage is a potential concern.  Now why would anyone say that?  I wonder........?


Later in the afternoon a discussion was held examining the odds, the pros and cons of responding appropriately to the mayor's Uber advocacy.  Weighting the possibilities, an agreement was made to meet again.  As early as Friday a decision could be made.  Stay tuned!

PS: A good friend called me quixotic.  I am not offended.  Every good cabbie is accustomed to being called every name beneath the taxi sun!  I accept that moniker.  Just point me in the direction of the next windmill and off I charge, lance in hand! 

Monday, July 21, 2014


Tonight's entry is a shortened version that will be continued either later tomorrow or midweek due to two events scheduled for the morning and afternoon hours.  Later you will understand my secrecy.  Instead I will quickly touch upon typical taxi in all its tainted glory.  What I find sadly amusing is that thanks to 478's security camera I could notify the police and voila! instantly I would have the evidence necessary to have the young ladies arrested if so desired.  Again, why is Mayor Murray insistent about removing something keeping Seattle's cabbies safe and sound?  To this date, there has been no explanation. 

First they requested I pick them up in the alley.  Once there I waited and waited.  Finally four very overly painted young woman strode out balancing upon fashionable but unwieldy high heels. Calling them animated and loud would be kind.  Like screaming sirens they entered the cab, fueled by unknown substances.  Taking them down to Belltown I was repeatedly subjected to multiple grabs and touches, behavior in part prompted by altered and deranged minds.  Adding a final insult to injury, when paying me my twelve-dollar fare one of the not-so-lovely lovelies accused me of stealing her twenty-dollar bill.  Leaping out of the cab and acting like they were not going to pay I said I would have them arrested.  Thankfully the young idiots paid me and vanished into the disco night.  It's a lot of fun being molested.  You should try it sometime!   Again, welcome to the taxi I know and understand all too well, an experience rhyming with hell!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spat Upon

Greeting from Albany/North Berkley, California, where I am rubbing elbows and sharing Chinese and Indian with "she-who-can't-be-named."  A side note of interest is that, though being the individual responsible for this blog's existence, she now refuses to read a single line.  As stated somewhat recently, like so many others she has had enough of taxi, hating what she feels is my continued involvement in unending madness.  She began howling in pain when I started listening to yesterday's Seattle City Council hearing.  She finds the abuse and injustice appalling.  How can I disagree?

As I always say, linger long enough beneath the top-light and you will experience everything  imaginable or in this particular case, deplorable.  Late Sunday morning, while rushing a very late couple to the Portland-bound Amtrak, I encountered a group of young guys jaywalking in the middle of Second Avenue South.

Voicing my objection, one very misguided individual spit at me through my open window.  Slamming on my brakes, and leaping out of 478, I made it extremely clear that he had just made a very serious error.  Though famously an official  pacifist, the idiot was spared a sound beating only by the urgency of getting my passengers to the train and his companion's quick intervention, firmly grabbing my arm while apologizing for his stupid friend, understanding I was potentially ready to do some serious damage. I told him to hit his friend for me.  He just might have, understanding that the spitter had endangered all of them, having promised one of the friends equal treatment.  After dropping off my customers, I washed myself off, wiping away a momentary indignity.

Yesterday, another insult took place, the Seattle City Council voting to make the
mayor's wish list public law.   I am pleased to report that Council Member Mike O'Brien attempted to send the entire bill back to the original committee for further review, questioning in part the removal of the security cameras.  Thank goodness there was some resistance to the mayor's political maneuvering.  That bodes well if the taxi industry stops the bill from becoming law during the next 30 days, thus opening new avenues for negotiation.  While at the moment that might seem fantastical, anything might happen.

This is all I can say for sure.  Those of us who truly speak for the entire local industry want our collective voices heard.  As I said in an email to the entire city council today, this is not an end but only a beginning.  I only hope I am not speaking through my taxi hat.  Somebody has to have some credibility.  Someone has to be speaking the real and unadultuated truth.  All I can say is that I am attempting to bring about some rational conclusion.  As I keep saying, stay tuned.

And by the way, the Seattle Weekly on-line edition has a good article about yesterday's city council hearing.  There is picture of Mayor Murray signing the bill soon after it passed.  What was the rush anyway!?

Friday, July 11, 2014

BIG RED HOT RUMOR Plus Other Recent Taxi Topics

A well-placed source orbiting somewhere in the local taxi universe informed me today that given the expected results from Monday's upcoming July 14th City Council hearing, a major Seattle "taxi organisation" has committed to fund a referendum reversing the council's decision.  Clearly I am not the only one objecting to the mayor's and the council's recent actions.  Many I have talked to in the taxi community have said that last Monday's City Council's actions are completely unacceptable.  This after repeated comments from council members that the mayor's new proposals resulted from an inclusive mediation.  Nothing could be further from the truth and they know it.  How can they believe that we accepted remaining "capped" while Uber, Lyft and Sidecar enjoy unlimited entry into our regulated market?  This belief, plain and simply, is total fantasy and nothing else.  Does the mayor and the council think we are suicidal?  I can strongly affirm to the contrary that we are not.  They're making this into a war.  We have been left no alternative but to defend ourselves. 

I personally know this kind of lopsided battle, having beat the Federal Government over my Selective Service Status back in 1972.  I view this current argument as a repeat, powerful government entities dictating my fate and the fate of my friends.  It was not acceptable in 1972 and it isn't anymore acceptable now in 2014.  Just like in the 1960s, justice and morality will win out, right always winning out over wrong.  Power to the people!  Power to the oppressed!

Tuesday's Legal Ruling

Clearly the council's quick actions on Monday were designed to sidestep the legal challenge to the Uber referendum.  On Tuesday, the court ruled the issue moot due to the  council's dumping of it's own bill.  One opinion I have read states that the judge didn't rule "on the substance" of the bill, meaning there is still an opportunity for the judge to decide, with a declaratory opinion, on the issue's substance.  A request has been formally filed.

Another Reason For The Security Cameras

Splashed all over the news this week was some idiot taxi driver's groping of a passenger.  Having security cameras protects both driver and customer.  Kind of obvious you would think, that is if you are thinking.  Amazing is all I can say!  Enjoy the great summer weather!  I have seen Seattle summers that were more like January. Stop complaining and break out the suntan lotion.  Soon enough the moss will again be growing atop your head.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Breathtaking Political Theatre----The Seattle City Council Throws Away A Year's Work

Walking over to the City Hall this afternoon I was apprehensive, truly not knowing what to expect.  Reading the first agenda item, repeated in full here, I got the chills even on a hot 80 plus F. summer day, understanding I was about to witness the public beheading of the taxi industry.  It turns out I was correct, the Seattle City Council launching their invisible but quite palpable razor-sharp guillotine, lopping the taxi cranium onto the chamber floor.  No one else may have noticed but I did, hearing the screams.  It was quite unpleasant.  Agenda item number 1:

1.    C.B. 118139           

                                        Relating to taxicabs and for-hire vehicles;
                                        repealing Ordinance 124441 relating to
                                        companies and drivers of a new type of for-
                                        hire vehicle in order to create a pilot
                                        program for transportation network
                                        companies and affiliated drivers and

This political gobbledygook was introduced June 30th, 2014 by City Council President Tim Burgess.  Given past statements made by Burgess, the writing was on the bureaucratic wall.  We were doomed.

A 20-minute public comment period was allowed, and thankfully I got my next to last 2 minutes, telling everyone that the mayor's mediation committee was not representative of the over 3000 lease-drivers, and that the issue came down to one primary point, that what we were dealing with was an "illegal incursion into a regulated industry" and nothing else.  I made a similar statement to a KIRO TV 7 interviewer prior to the hearing.  I doubt greatly if I will receive my obligatory "10 second" soundbite

As I said, it was exceedingly clear that the city council, having been thoroughly briefed by the mayor and his staff, and perhaps Uber, were ready to scuttle their legislative vessel that was over a year in the making, letting it sink before entering turbulent seas. Why would the city council throw away a combined ten or more hearings plus hundreds of hours of research, interviews and governmental scrutiny?  That is not a sensible response.  Clearly, from my perspective, somebody somewhere changed the underlying agenda.  Who could have done that?

Could part of the answer be that this morning Wall Street announced that Uber overall valuation was now 18.5 billion dollars, up from a mere 17 billion?   Why concern yourself with a handful of scruffy cabbies when instead you can be wined and dined by the cultural upper crust!  The choice is obvious.

Something persistently enjoyable has been Uber's presentation as the victimized and misunderstood party.  Pathetic but humorous.  Wonderful to picture an abject billionaire crying upon Mayor Murray's shoulder.  "There, there," Ed Murray soothes, "don't worry, soon everything will be okay, I promise you."  Touching picture, don't you think?

Today's true dramatics began with Sally Clark, the prime and once proud Ordinance 124441 architect, giving what could be described as an eulogy upon her own creation, something that must be unavoidably euthanized.  As today's title suggests, it was a breathtaking performance, personally finding it simultaneously confusing and sad.   After that, it was all perfunctory theatre, the conclusion preordained, Council Bill 118139 winning by a 6-3 margin. 

What comes next is a week of "negotiation" with the defining vote concerning the mayor's proposal to be taken next Monday at again 2:00 PM.  Thankfully I will be in San Francisco, having a good excuse not to be in attendance.  I'd rather be eating Chinese any day of the week.

RCW 8172.10

This obscure statue might be the basis of potential legal action.  Line 6 says:

"Any other requirements adopted to ensure safe and reliable taxicab services."

Stay tuned!