DC Councilman Leaves Cab Union Rep's Business Card In His Stack Of Anti-Uber Amendments

from the regulatory-cabture? dept

Uber’s ride-sharing service has proven to be a handy measuring stick for corruption levels in local governments. Chances are that if there’s serious opposition, it’s tied to incumbent service providers — cab companies and other for-hire services that aren’t interested in making room for competitors.

Uber’s move to the Washington DC market does strange things to the “corruption index” curve. The city is politics on top of politics, a nightmarish thicket of regulatory capture and bureaucracy for its own sake, powered by the perpetual motion of revolving doors and back scratching.

The DC city council voted yesterday on legislation (“Vehicle-for-Hire Act“) that clears a path for Uber and Lyft to enter more markets, but asks for plenty in return. The standards codified by this bill would make Uber and Lyft drivers subject to more screening than national security contractors.

[T]he bill requires background checks on Uber drivers going back seven years, annual safety inspections, a prohibition of street hails by UberX drivers, and $1 million in liability insurance when a driver is en route to a rider and when the rider is actually being transported.

Another amendment gives DC cops and cab inspectors the right to search drivers’ phones for evidence of illegal hails. (And issue fines if such “evidence” is found.) Fun stuff, that.

Councilman Jim Graham tried to push through a few amendments of his own, heavily skewed in favor of incumbent cab companies.

The only stumbling block for the bill at the meeting came when council member Jim Graham proposed an amendment to set a floor for ride prices so that Uber and Lyft couldn’t undercut taxi prices, but the amendment was fairly quickly voted down. Many of the taxi drivers who had come to the council meeting… left once Graham’s amendment failed.

Poor Jim Graham. Not only did he fail to win one for the “home team,” but he also wore his heart alliances on his sleeve planned amendments. Martin Di Caro of DC’s NPR station WAMU captured this priceless screenshot of Graham’s markup sheet, which included a business card for the cab union’s treasurer, Nessibu Bezabeh.

If you can’t see the tweet, it says:

Someone forgot to take @Teamsters business card off eighth page of CM Graham’s amendments to Uber bill.

Here’s a closer look at the unfortunate scanning accident:

Yeah, that’s a little embarrassing. Or maybe it isn’t. This is how business is done in the Beltway, after all. The treasurer “works” with a council member towards a “mutual goal” and hopes for the best. And Graham did his part by striding fearlessly to the plate and promptly striking out. Hey, it happens. The important thing is that he tried. And left behind a paper trail that clearly shows the motivating force behind his consumer-unfriendly amendment.

He’ll have to live with that now, but considering one of his fellow council members managed to salvage a political career from the bottom of a crack pipe, there’s a good chance this too will soon be forgotten.

Filed Under: , , , , , , , , , ,
Companies: teamsters, uber

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Comments on “DC Councilman Leaves Cab Union Rep's Business Card In His Stack Of Anti-Uber Amendments”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You and I know completely different types of junkies.

I can trust a junky, because I know what they want and I know how they might try and get it.

A junky is a fixed point.

It’s other people who I worry about.

Junkies are known to be dishonest, so you always have your guard up around a junky. It’s everyone else you tend to let your guard down around and then pay for it after the fact because you weren’t expecting something the way you might’ve with a junky.

Jon Renaut (profile) says:

He's a lame duck

Jim Graham is my councilmember and he’s already lost the primary, so he’s on his way out. This is not the first time he has seemed to be a bit fuzzy on ethical issues, but nothing concrete has ever been found.

And while I have no excuse for Marion Barry – it’s a huge embarrassment to many DC residents that he’s still holding elected office – I have to mention that a lot of DC politics is at the mercy of the federal government, where we have no meaningful representation.

Finally, the real solution here is not more regulation for Uber and Lyft, but LESS for the incumbent cabs who don’t want to compete. The DC Taxi Commission is the real problem. For example, they forced all cabs to take credit cards, which is a benefit for riders, but limited it to a small number of card processors, many of who didn’t pay the drivers in a reasonable amount of time (if at all).

TheResidentSkeptic says:

Uber & Lyft should immediately agree to this...

By forcing the new guys to have all of this – do they not have a clue that it will bite them in the ass really really hard?

Hey – thanks for making us do this, and now, our new marketing campaign:

“Our drivers have passed a 7-year background check, complete annual inspections, and carry $1M in insurance. Their drivers? Well…”

With accompanying images of a well-dressed driver with an immaculate car and shots of “normal” NYC taxis and drivers.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, no. Citizens United did not rule that corporations and people have the same rights in general. It ruled in a way that was consistent with the (already bad) precedent that corporations can be considered people for certain purposes. The precedent that CU set was not about corporate personhood as such, but the double whammy of badness is “money == free speech” and “corporations have the same rights to free speech as actual people”.

I disagree with both of those assertions, but neither are really new, and neither are as bad as a blanket “corporations == people” ruling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

We’re talking about people here, not corporations: Drivers having their phones searched by cops. Regulated field or not, police searching drivers’ phones without a warrant is highly problematic.

Remember: driving is itself a regulated activity. Commercial drivers aren’t the only ones who need permission to drive a car. Could the government make driving contingent upon allowing cops to search drivers’ phones.

Anonymous Coward says:


I think the presence of the business card simply indicates who in fact authored the text of the ‘councilor”s’ amemdment. Like many bills, it was probably simply written by the lobbyist/etc. I do believe there should be attestation at the beginning of every bill, signed (under penalty of perjury) by the bill’s sponsor, indicating who in fact authored the text of the bill.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Authorship

I’d second that idea, would be nice if it was written down just who was writing the text on bills and laws, so everyone could see exactly who is buying the laws.

‘A pharmacutical company writing a bill to make knock-off drugs more expensive? Who’d have seen that coming? A cab company writing a bill to make any potential competition jump through more hoops than government contractors? Well isn’t that surprising.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Passenger who pulled gun on Uber driver turns out to be cop

‘Do you want to live or die?’: Passenger who pulled gun on Uber driver turns out to be cop

“federal police officer pointed a gun at the head of an Uber driver last week in Salt Lake City, authorities said.


Driver James Brothers said he picked up a group from a bar Oct. 20 and dropped off a man and woman at a party after they had a disagreement with a third passenger.

He said the remaining passenger, later identified as 44-year-old Byron McDonald, acted paranoid after he attempted to make small talk.

“Typically I’ll ask people where they’re from or from out of town, but he just wouldn’t give me any info,” Brothers said.

Then the passenger began asking strange questions in a slurred voice.

“He asked, ‘Do you want to live or die?’”

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