Posted tagged ‘taxi regulations’

Does Burning Money Increase MoCo’s Carbon Footprint?

28 April 2014


Council member Roger Berliner sponsored a set of environmental bills that made it through the council last week.  The worst one — which was passed, of course — requires the county to purchase 100% of its electricity from “clean fuels”.  The current requirement is 30%.

This initiative is all cost, and no benefits.

Based on the county’s fiscal impact statement, the law will increase the county’s energy expenditures in the range of $279,000 – $545,000 per year.  That gets over a million easily, in less than four years.Plaudits to Nancy Floreen, who argued for looking at this from a budgetary standpoint.  None of the other council members thought that was worthwhile.

And what do we get for those millions of dollars? Nothing.   The incremental change from this bill is so infinitesimally tiny that it adds up to nothing. No change in greenhouse gas emissions, no impact on climate change. Zero. Just a meaningless statement and bit of bluster.

So if the environment is not improved, who does benefit from those millions of taxpayer dollars? Well, council members like Berliner and George Leventhal get to crow about their wondrous accomplishment. (Leventhal excelled at playing the pompous windbag on this one.  He called it “the most urgent public policy challenge that we face.”   Really, George? More urgent than homelessness? Crime? Poverty? Educational failures for low-income neighborhoods?)

And certain energy producers, politically favored, get a more than tripling of the subsidy they currently receive. These producers are too expensive to compete, so they work through the political process to extract funds from MoCo taxpayers.

I can understand wanting to reduce emissions from fossil fuels.  I can understand reasonable policy proposals to do that.  But anyone with a lick of sense can also see what is purely symbolic, useless, and wasteful.This is a useless and expensive heap of corporate welfare, that allows the politicians to beat their chests, but accomplishes nothing. Nothing, that is, except take away funds from needs that really are urgent.



Regulators Block Access to Health Care

19 October 2012

Adventist Health Care has been planning for years to open an 83-bed hospital in Clarksburg, right off the booming I-270 corridor.  This area is experiencing great population growth, and the need for health care in the area is strong.  However, the Maryland Health Care Commission has taken action to prohibit Clarksburg Community Hospital from opening.

How does this happen?  In order to open a new hospital, the state has to be satisfied that there is a “need” for the facility.  In this case, the state decided that only one hospital was needed – and the bureaucratic processes of the MHCC would decide which facility would be allowed to exist.

Can you imagine this in any other business?  Instead of Target and K-Mart, for example, competing for business – doing their best to satisfy customer wants at the best price – the fate of the business would be decided by a political process.

The arrogance is striking, too.  The commission rubber-stamped the recommendation of the commission chair, Marilyn Moon.  She, and she alone, ruled on the best interests of not only county residents, but even of the hospitals and their management.

“I have concluded that Adventist HealthCare’s priority over the next few years must be assuring the long-term viability of Washington Adventist Hospital,” said Maryland Health Care Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Moon in her recommendation for a denial of a certificate of need for Adventist’s plan to build a new hospital in Clarksburg. “This task, critical to restoring Adventist HealthCare to robust financial health, is large enough that it should not be put at risk by simultaneously attempting to establish a new hospital.”

The mission of the MHCC is described as: “[T]o ensure that informed consumers hold the health caresystem accountable and have access to affordable and appropriate health care services through programs that serve as models for the nation.”

In this case, the MHCC decided to “ensure access to affordable and appropriate health care services” by prohibiting a hospital from offering those services.   Making these decisions through political processes, rather than allowing hospitals to provide services, only limits access to affordable health care.

Let the hospital open, and let the people decide where they want to go.

Where Washington Governs Better than Montgomery — for now

28 September 2012

I’ve maintained that there are (at least) a couple of things that the DC government does better than Montgomery County government:  charter schools and taxi regulation.

It would seem that Washington is upset about this, and has been moving to make taxi service worse than it has been.  (I still think it would take a while to descend to MoCo’s level, though).

The main difference has been Washington’s unwillingness to impose anything but minimal restrictions on entry to the market.  Anyone passing some very simple safety and competence standards can operate a taxi service in the District.  The healthy competition means that it’s easy to get a cab downtown.  It also means that a relatively small investment allows people to work for a living; the more you work, the more you can make.  In MoCo, it can be very difficult to find a cab, since regulators kowtow to the cab firms, and restrict new competition.  (Basic economics: restrict supply and restrict price, and the market never clears.  Consumers are left demanding more taxi service than the government will allow.)

Last year, the City Council was considering shifting to a medallion system like New York’s, which would sharply restrict the availability of taxis.  Fortunately, they heeded a study which demonstrated the likely results: Longer waits for service, higher fares, increased corruption   – and a windfall for those firms already in the business.    Like much economic regulation, taxi regulation is designed to benefit those who are already in the business, and protect them from competition.

One thing regulators can’t stand is someone rising up and succeeding, despite them.  Sedan service Uber has been bringing in a lot of customers, and the taxi owners are complaining.  The DC Taxi commission is proposing a new set of regulations to drown the successful service.  The regulations would limit the participation of small business or individual owners (seriously – only fleets larger than 20 cars would be allowed to engage in the business).  It would also prohibit pickup or dropoff outside of DC (so there goes the idea of picking up the sedan in Takoma Park or Bethesda to ride downtown).


Taxis: DC and Montgomery

17 October 2007

Cabdrivers in Washington are trying to organize now, in protest of a coming decision that may change the required fare measurement system, from the zone maps to a metered system. Personally, I don’t have an inclination for zones or meters – or any other system. And I don’t that anyone in government should be deciding how businesses charge their customers. We don’t go around telling groceries whether they should charge for rutabagas per piece or per pound, do we? Let each company decide how it wants to charge people – and each passenger decide whether they want to use that cab or not.

But the cabbies in the District have a legitimate beef: They fear that the County may decide to impose a metered system and make other requirements, leading to a kind of bureaucratization of the industry. The cabbies enjoy their status as independent operators in the District. The Gazette reports that “(t)hey fear that meters and other regulations will put DC taxis into the hands of big business.” Another concern is that customers will be driven away by meters, since meters will increase fares, inasmuch as congestion raises fares under a metered system, but not under the zone system.

In other words, they fear ending up with a regulatory system like the mess we have in Montgomery County taxi industry:

– insufficient number of cabs (because the licenses are very restricted)

– no independent operators (four companies own all the cab licenses in MoCo)

– no chance for an individual to break in to the business and compete.

The county regulations preclude consumer sovereignty from operating in Montgomery, and the DC drivers are afraid that the DC government is heading in the same dysfunctional direction.