Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: End Public Transportation Commission's ride

America's free-market system is well and fine unless it hurts the bottom line of Hillsborough County's taxicab industry. That's the guiding ethos of the Public Transportation Commission, the agency that oversees for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough. The Legislature should disband the agency and hand its narrow task to county government.

The chauffeur service Ride Command is trying to bring a service to Hillsborough that a similar company tried to and failed because of a PTC rule that artificially limits competition for the benefit of the cab industry. As the Tampa Bay Times' Susan Thurston reported last week, Ride Command lets customers use a mobile phone app to order a ride right away, or to put future rides out to bid to get the lowest price. But premium car services, which operate limousines and high-end SUVs and sedans, are prohibited from soliciting walkup customers on the street. The PTC requires they charge a $50 minimum fare, even for short distances, which serves only to protect the taxis.

The PTC says it is trying to separate everyday taxi service from the luxury providers, but that makes no sense. The private car services are subject to the same regulatory oversight as the taxis — the same inspections to ensure the vehicles are safe, the same background checks on the drivers. The difference is that the taxicabs benefit from a publicly imposed price support that gives the taxicabs a $50 jump on any business. The rule was suggested by the industry (no shock there). And PTC staff oppose the mobile phone service on the ridiculous notion that it disenfranchises poor people who need a hired ride but lack a smartphone.

The price-fixing policy is wrong, bad for consumers and business and counterproductive in terms of what customers are looking for today when it comes to value and convenience. It also undermines the great need to get the taxicab operators to improve their levels of service. If clients want to hire Ride Command, they should be able to under the terms the company offers, not beholden to the arbitrary rules the PTC imposes that have nothing to do with safety.

The commission was created by a special legislative act, and its stand-alone authority to regulate for-hire vehicles in the county is the only one of its kind in the state. But the PTC does nothing special; dissolving the agency and moving its handful of staff under county government would be easy and make the operation more efficient and accountable. The inspections would go on, but the move would bring greater public scrutiny to a pricing and regulatory scheme that fosters an uneven playing field. The bill to disband the commission should be a priority of Hillsborough's delegation for next year's legislative session.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17