Sunday, June 4, 2017

Zahn, Kenner Council Bring the Circus, and Price-Fixing, To Town

I'm sure you've heard the line, "Elect a clown, expect a circus".
Despite the recent shuttering of Ringling Bros. Circus, the circus is alive and well in Kenner.
Just when you though that Kenner Politics has hit rock bottom, the Kenner City Council, under the watchful eye and tutelage of Lyin’ Ben Zahn, takes it even lower.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured a Mayor who was stalking teenage boys, following them into public restrooms and kissing and fondling them (all well campaigning for his next job).

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner endured an ethically-challenged interim Mayor who never should have been elected dog catcher, let alone to the City Council.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner had to endure Lyin’ Ben Zahn, doing anything and saying anything he could to get elected.

As if it wasn’t enough that Kenner has to endure Council meetings where Lyin’ Ben lashes out at a Councilman and his wife (while I disagree with the Councilman’s wife and her personal attacks, every citizen has a right to speak at a Council Meeting and cannot be censored by anyone, let alone someone with as little personal integrity as Ben Zahn).

Now, we have this – a Mayor and Council approving an ordinance that would essentially drive out an industry due to onerous regulations, a short-sighted money grab, and an attempt to fix prices.

That’s right: a “Republican” Mayor and a “Republican” majority Council engaged in price-fixing.

As I noted in my prior post, I had several issues with the new Kenner ordinance (approved by a 6-1 vote) that regulated Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft.

One of the points I disagreed with was that the City of Kenner was now attempting to tell Uber and Lyft what they would be required to charge passengers on trips to and from Kenner and Armstrong International Airport and other points.

Essentially, Kenner wants Uber and Lyft to charge the same amount as a taxi.

This is big government price-fixing at its worst, and it was done by “Republicans”, allegedly the pro-business party and it’s something that even Marxist Mitch Landrieu and the inept New Orleans City Council didn’t attempt.

Yet, there are no emails or statements of outrage or condemnation emanating from the Jefferson Parish or Louisiana Republican Party. Certainly, no outrage from our Republican Sexual Predator-In-Chief Mike Yenni.

No, the Parish and State Republican Party leadership continues to let fake Republicans run roughshod over businesses and economic theory that they clearly don’t understand and add more and more regulations, instead of cutting government and letting the market (and consumers) decide.

During the public comment about the TNC ordinance, representatives from Uber, Lyft and the airport implored the Council to defer this ordinance and stated on more than one occasion that they (Uber and Lyft) would be unable to continue to pickup passengers at Armstrong and in Kenner if the ordinance were allowed to become law.

Despite being 2/3rds of the committee that was formed to discuss and provide input into the TNC ordinance, District 4 Councilman (and Council President) Lenny Cline and the afore-mentioned ethically-challenged District 2 Councilman Mike Sigur, are clearly clueless when it comes to understanding how Uber and Lyft operate.

Several times, Cline discussed the imposition of a $50 “Occupational License” for Uber/Lyft drivers.

“If your fare from the Airport is $36, one fare almost covers the cost of the license,” Cline said.

Except for the fact that the driver doesn’t get the entire $36 from the fare. Cline obviously forgot that Uber/Lyft get their cut first.

But, the amount of money a driver receives per fare isn’t the issue or the point.

The point is, you can’t regulate an industry without having a basic knowledge of it.

District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud is in the Heating and A/C business. I’m not qualified to inspect repairs and installation of the heating and cooling units his company services and sells. I couldn’t tell you the proper amount of tonnage that a unit should have to properly cool a 2,000 sq. ft. home.

Similarly, after a year of discussion and countless hours of meetings, input and debate, this Council (and Zahn) still don’t get it.

After spending Thursday night and most of Friday listening to complaints about the ordinance, Zahn has (rightfully) called for a special council meeting on Monday to reconsider the ordinance.

But what did Zahn, Cline, Sigur and the rest of the council expect would happen?

First, while the TNCs, particularly Uber, whine and complain about any regulation imposed on them that would impact their profits, this ordinance went way beyond the line.

And Zahn should have known that.

Now Zahn is attempting to spin this and make himself out to be the good guy – the guy that will make certain that Uber and Lyft don’t leave and the Mayor that will straighten out what the City Council screwed up.

He’s already begun trying to distance himself claiming that the Council is responsible since they are the Legislative Branch and the Mayor simply implements the rules and regulations that the Council gives him.

Don’t believe that line of bs for a second.

While the council, particularly Cline and Sigur (as well as Councilman-At-Large Tom Willmott who was the 3rd committee member) are to blame for this debacle, the ultimate blame rests upon Zahn.

As Cline mentioned several times during the council meeting, “This council, the Mayor and his administration have spent countless hours working on this ordinance.”

The ordinance was written by an Assistant City Kenner appointed by Zahn.

Zahn, as Mayor, holds agenda meetings with council members before the council meeting to discuss the items that are coming up for a vote.
While Lyin' Ben may want you to believe that he is blameless, clearly his fingerprints (and foreknowledge) are all over this ordinance.

If Zahn had the foresight and leadership that is required of a Mayor, he could have stopped this ordinance in its tracks and we would have never gotten to this point.

Each time that an ordinance regulating TNCs was deferred, Zahn bemoaned that fact that, even if all the Council did was impose a $.50 pickup fee on Uber and Lyft, that $.50 would be better than the nothing the City was getting now.

As I’ve said from the beginning, the TNC ordinance was NEVER about Public Safety and always a money grab for Zahn and the Council.

Lyin’ Ben, Cline and Sigur just tried to keep pushing beyond $.50.

What City in America, let alone one as small as Kenner, has successfully passed a law telling Uber and Lyft what to charge its passengers?

While we can debate Uber and Lyft, their business models, and whether they are good or bad for the transportation industry, one thing that is not up for debate is that TNCs like Uber and Lyft have been good for consumers (even if they are woefully bad for drivers who aren’t savvy enough to realize that they are being taken advantage of).

Case in point: Last Summer, during the peak of my eye issues, I used Uber to go from Kenner to Gonzales to visit my mom for a week. The cost, one way, was $50.

When I wanted to return to Kenner, I was unable to use Uber since they didn’t have any drivers that originated in Gonzales. I had to use a Kenner taxi company for my return trip. The cost: $120 one way.

On the return to Kenner, I heard the taxi dispatcher discussing pickups with drivers. The dispatcher was offering drivers $80 to pickup a passenger in Laplace and drop them off at the Airport.

“Make it $90 and I’ll do it,” one driver said.

“Standby,” the dispatcher said.

“$90 it is,” the dispatcher said when he returned.

I wonder what Zahn and the Kenner City Council would have to say about that kind of “surge pricing”?

As I’ve said, clearly, while I believe that TNCs like Uber and Lyft are really unregulated taxi companies and require some regulation, it is anti-competitive, business unfriendly (and certainly not consumer-friendly), anti-free market and anti-American, for Zahn and the Kenner City Council to tell a business how much they can charge consumers.

If Zahn and the Council didn’t know it then, they surely know it now.

The question is, why didn’t they know it before embarrassing Kenner yet again?

And when are we, as voters, going to start holding these people accountable, stop electing and promoting the same clowns and accepting the circus that they give us?