Monday, April 11, 2016


For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Acts 19:24-27

[UPDATE: The Statesman has more here.]

Yesterday, the local chapter of the League of Women voters held a forum on the upcoming Prop. 1 initiative (ie. the Uber/Lyft referendum).  It was an informative event that cleared up our last few unresolved questions.  Council member Ellen Troxclair (D8 - Southwest Austin) and a representative from Ridesharing Works for Austin spoke in favor of Prop. 1, while current and former council members Delia Garza (D2 - Dove Springs) and Laura Morrison spoke against.

Garza and Morrison attempted to re-frame the debate into whether or not 'corporations' should be 'allowed to write their own regulations.'  This sleight of hand ignores that this debate only exists because of regulations the taxi cartel put into place decades ago.  Morrison shrieked about whether the council or corporations would run the city.  Garza bragged about the amount of 'public input' that went into the ordinance.  Of course, she neglected to mention that the overwhelming majority of said 'public input' opposed council's actions.

Troxclair correctly pointed out that Uber and Lyft's political involvement is defensive in nature, and that they only got involved in the political process after they were attacked by the council majority.  On the subject of public interest, 65,000 people signed the petition calling for this vote.  If council had listened to the public, this election wouldn't be necessary.

As to the alleged public safety component of this discussion, Troxclair noted that "fingerprinting does not make you safer."  If anything, fingerprinting can create a false sense of security.  Garza and Morrison, meanwhile, claimed the fingerprinting requirement came from APD and DPS, who recommended them as 'best practices.'  Of course, as anyone who has followed government for more than five minutes can attest, the phrase 'best practices' is a meaningless bureaucratic platitude.  Garza and Morrison also made a mountain out of the molehill that Uber maintains partial operations in a couple of cities that have fingerprinting requirements (while neglecting to mention that Lyft doesn't operate in any of those cities).

It was left to Troxclair to explain that in Houston, where Uber maintains partial operations despite fingerprint requirements, there are fewer than half as many drivers as Austin despite Houston both covering a larger geographic area and having a larger population.  Naturally, the result is higher fares and longer wait times for consumers, but fewer competitors for the taxi cartel.  But don't you DARE say this discussion is really about economic protectionism....

Troxclair made one point we wish she would have elaborated further upon.  During her opening statement, Troxclair pointed out that the regulations under consideration wouldn't "level the playing field" between taxis and TNCs.  A level playing field would require eliminating caps on the number of drivers.  Of course, the taxi cartel doesn't want that.  As Troxclair noted, there are corporate interests on both sides of this discussion.

This election came about because the council majority has repeatedly refused to listen to the public.  We were happy with the TNC regulations that existed prior to December 2015, and we made that very clear last fall.  The council majority didn't listen.  When the council majority ignored the public, Uber and Lyft helped spearhead a DEFENSIVE political effort with which at least 65,000 Austinites agreed.  Then the council majority refused to listen to those 65,000 Austinites a second time and instead chose to trigger this election.  The regulations in question have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with economic protectionism.  Kudos to Ellen Troxclair for her cogent explanation of these issues at yesterday's forum.


Update: Apparently, there's video....

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