From the KCGOP,
On Monday, the Seattle City Council voted to repeal regulations they previously placed on the ride-share industry—companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The repealed regulations “limited the number of drivers allowed to use each of Seattle’s ride-sharing services at any one time to 150.”
The City Council spent a better part of a year debating the “best way to regulate services like Lyft, Sidecar and UberX, which the city has dubbed Transportation Network Companies, or TNCs.” All that debating resulted in an expected vote to place strict regulations on Seattle’s ride-share industry earlier this year. The fact that the special interest led Seattle City Council targeted innovative transportation services in order to accommodate Seattle’s taxi monopoly was, after all, no surprise.
The vote to repeal the ride-share regulations marks the City Council’s willingness to consider a compromise recently brokered by Mayor Ed Murray’s office between representatives of the ride-share industry and Seattle’s taxi monopoly. Murray’s compromise places no limits on the number of ride-share vehicles allowed to operate in Seattle. It also “includes licensing and insurance requirements for [ride-share vehicles] and also involves doling out 200 more taxi licenses and allowing flat rate for-hire drivers to pick up people who hail them on the streets.”
Why would Murray have sanctioned negotiations that threatened to unravel an ordinance benefitting special interests? He was forced, of course.
“After the council and the mayor approved the ordinance, however, Lyft and Uber poured money into a campaign for a ballot referendum, which would have allowed voters to decide on whether to maintain or toss out the new ride-sharing rules. After enough signatures were collected to get the referendum on the ballot, the ordinance was automatically suspended until the vote could take place.”
Let’s be clear, the Seattle City Council’s vote to repeal their stifling regulations was not due to a sudden change in political perspective or priorities. Rather, their vote reveals the determination displayed by ride-share companies and power of public opinion—both of which helped combat the City Council’s hostility toward innovation and rigorous defense of special interests (the taxi monopoly).
Across the country, ride-share companies operating in Democrat-led cities face similar opposition to innovation and deference to unions—a tension that threatens to loosen the left’s urban grasp. Reuters,
“Democrats are facing a tough choice. A big part of their base is the unions now facing off against such disruptive innovations as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and charter schools. Do Democrats support the regulations pushed by taxi and other unions that help to protect the status quo but can also stifle competition? Or do they embrace innovative technologies and businesses that expand transportation options, create jobs and are increasingly welcomed by another key Democratic constituency: urban dwellers, particularly young urban dwellers?”
Reuters goes on to point out that, as the past indicates, Democrats will likely continue to side with special interests. Democrats have proved time and time again that they are all too willing to implement stifling regulations that hurt innovation—and key segments of their base—in order to benefit unions, which heavily fund their campaigns. Liberal city leaders will likely continue to take their cue from President Obama who, when faced with renewing an education voucher program that was “extremely popular with parents because it has allowed thousands of children from low-income households to escape failing schools” in D.C., chose to let the program expire rather than anger the teachers’ union. Of course, “it took the efforts of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to save it.”
“Politically, this presents an opportunity for Republicans to make a comeback in cities. By championing the often disruptive share-economy businesses, defending them against the status quo and focusing their political campaigns on these issues, the GOP can show it is the party that embraces companies that improve the quality of life in cities.”