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.
— Martin Di Caro (@MartinDiCaro) October 28, 2014
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.