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EDITORIAL: The nanny blows his top

New York’s famous Mayor Bloomberg can’t get a taxi

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2013

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is still smarting from the court rebuke he got in March for trying to prohibit sales of "supersized" sodas. He blew his top last week at a second judicial slight. A judge scuttled Hizzoner's scheme to require all of Manhattan's Ford Crown Victorias and other cabs to be replaced by the "Taxi of Tomorrow."

Mr. Bloomberg, as reported by The New York Post, told a taxi company owner: "Come Jan. 1, when I am out of office, I am going to destroy your [expletive] industry." That sounds like a New Yorker, even an ersatz one from Boston, but it isn't exactly the way a mayor is expected to talk.

Gene Freidman, chief executive of the 925-cab Taxi Club Management, says he gently suggested the mayor calm down and talk about a solution, and Mr. Bloomberg "got back in my face and said, 'After January, I am going to destroy all you [expletive] guys.' " The problem is that the New York City code requires a hybrid car be approved and available for taxi fleets. But the "Taxi of Tomorrow" is not a hybrid.

From his sputtering reactions to the soda ban and overturned taxi schemes, it appears that His Nannyship, who likes to make the rules, doesn't always like to follow rules, particularly if they conflict with his many pet causes.

To be fair, taxi mania isn't limited to the Big Apple. In the nation's capital, the D.C. Taxicab Commission is once more trying to put Uber, an innovative private car and taxi service, out of business. Instead of holding out an arm to catch the attention of an approaching taxicab, D.C. residents can use a smartphone app to summon a car and driver from Uber. The app takes care of everything, including payment by credit card.

The upstart company thought it had finally worked out a deal with the city late last year with an ordinance sponsored by D.C. Councilman Mary M. Cheh. Last week, however, company CEO Travis Kalanick warned that because of a newly adopted D.C. Taxicab Commission regulation, "UberTaxi will disappear on June 1." Mr. Kalanick says the commission's latest rules "will ban fuel-efficient vehicles from [the livery service], require Uber to hand over enormous amounts of data on your rides, and require Uber to jump over regulatory hurdles every year just to exist." Among those "regulatory hurdles" is the requirement that Uber have its iPhone app reviewed and sanctioned by the Taxicab Commission each year.

This extra scrutiny has nothing to do with the safety of Uber vehicles or whether the company is ripping off customers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Limiting competition from upstarts like Uber is about keeping the cost of hailing a taxicab as expensive as possible. This is cronyism writ large for all to see. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the council should intervene on the public's behalf to reverse this. And Mr. Bloomberg, like the D.C. Taxicab Commission, should try a little deep breathing. He'll need to do that if he ever steps out of his limousine to hail a New York taxi.

The Washington Times

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