Policymakers face Uber dilemma

State and local policymakers don’t know what to do about ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft that are steadily destroying the taxi industry. The apps are transforming right before our eyes a business in which rates have traditionally been regulated and competition restricted. The apps have been good for consumers, but bad for taxi drivers, who increasingly find themselves unable to compete.

In most instances where technology leapfrogs regulation, policymakers would just change the regulations to put everyone on the same footing. But they can’t do that easily with the taxi industry, because the regulations were crafted in such a way that undoing them is nearly impossible.

In cities such as Boston and Cambridge, regulators require taxi drivers to carry medallions. Since only a set number of medallions exist, they have dramatically increased in value over the years. Buying one is like purchasing a fairly large house in a very nice neighborhood. But with the arrival of Uber and Lyft, the neighborhood is going to hell, and the value of those medallions is starting to fall.

The situation is only going to get worse. Uber is introducing new services that will grab more riders. Word is also starting to spread. Uber has already caught on with younger people who are accustomed to managing their lives through their phones. But now the service is catching on with tech troglodytes who simply like the convenience and lower cost of an Uber ride.

How should policymakers respond? Some officials, including Gov. Charlie Baker, want to do as little as possible because they don’t want to be perceived as standing in the way of innovation. Others want to apply the same regulations that apply to taxis to Uber and Lyft. ABoston Globe editorial suggests a limited buyout of medallions may be the best way out of the regulatory nightmare, but it’s hard to see policymakers recommending that taxpayer dollars go to resolve a problem they created.

Cambridge taxi drivers staged a one-day strike on Monday to draw attention to their plight, but not everyone was sympathetic. “You guys realize the constituency that supports Uber is the majority and you’re the minority, right?” said Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen, who uses Uber every day. “The state is about to make Uber legal – it’s about to make it fully legal, OK? And you guys are about to be in an even worse position.”

BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

Secretary of State William Galvin files a ballot question to revamp the workings of the Public Records Law, but it would not extend the law’s reach to the Legislature, judiciary, or governor’s office. (Associated Press)

Top fundraisers for Gov. Charlie Baker are going to receive a weekend retreat on the Cape. (Boston Globe)

An Eagle-Tribune editorial calls for a change in law to allow the names of domestic abusers, including police officers, to be made public.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

An Item editorial contrasts the development styles of Lynn and New Bedford and concludes Lynn’s slow and steady is better than New Bedford’s pursuit of the quick hit.

Telegram & Gazette columnist Dianne Williamson gives her take on three men who flexed their muscles, including Tim Murray of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, and State Police trooper Corey Benoit.

Two women and a man were shot in a brazen midday attack at a Roxbury housing complex. (Boston Herald)

Haverhill’s inspectional services office has shut down 31 construction projects over the last few months for failure to obtain the proper permits. (Eagle-Tribune)

With a casino and Olympic sailing now off the table, New Bedford leaders say they’re focusing on fundamentals like schools and public safety that can help revive their city. (Boston Globe)

Rat sightings are on the rise in Quincy, triggered mostly by an increase in construction that is displacing the rodents from their lairs in old buildings. (Patriot Ledger)

CASINOS

A Suffolk Superior Court judge rebuked Boston officials over their litigation challenging an Everett casino, saying the city has been improperly using court filings as a public relations tool in its battle against the state Gaming Commission and Wynn Resorts. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, setting up a showdown in the fall that could threaten a government shutdown. (New York Times)

Squaring off over the issue of immigration policy, improbably: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal versus Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone (who likens Jindal to Gomer Pyle). Meanwhile, new legislation filed on Beacon Hill would make it harder for state agencies to share information on undocumented immigrants with federal authorities. (Boston Herald)

ELECTIONS

Fourteen of the 17 candidates for the GOP presidential nomination attended an awkwardly staged forum in New Hampshire that shows how unwieldy it will be going forward to organize debates with a multitude of participants. (National Review) The Globe‘s James Pindell offers five takeaways from last night’s forum. Obamacare and immigration policy were popular targets, writes the Globe‘s Matt Viser.

Joan Vennochi thinks Hillary Clinton is vulnerable, and Joe Biden knows it. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Count Keller@Large as one who cheers the decline of audiences for R-rated comedies and hopes it sends a message to Hollywood about what the people want.

EDUCATION

Jacqueline Moloney moves up to the top spot at UMass Lowell, replacing Marty Meehan,who is now president of the entire UMass system. (The Sun)

A new YMCA summer program in Gloucester mixes studies and play to keep kids on track for second grade. (Gloucester Times)

HEALTH CARE

Six nonprofits are vying for Framingham officials’ support to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the town. (Metrowest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

Cambridge cab drivers take to the streets to protest ride-hailing competitors like Uber and Lyft that the drivers say aren’t made to play by the same set of rules. Next in the relentless march of app-based transportation firms, Uber plans to announce a carpool service in Boston that will let passengers heading in the same direction share a car. Unlike standard Uber and Lyft services, which cut directly into the taxi industry’s business, this lower-cost service could peel customers away from public transit. (Boston Globe)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

In Dracut, the public unloads on a pipeline proposal from Kinder Morgan. (The Sun)

State officials deny Peabody a waiver that would have allowed the town to dredge Crystal Lake without obtaining an environmental permit. Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt said the setback won’t deter the project, which seeks to turn the lake into a recreational area. (Salem News)

A group of conservative lawyers, businessmen, and Republican activists have been working with the US Chamber of Commerce for more than a year to form opposition to President Obama’s climate change policy long before he unveiled it Monday. (New York Times)

Globe columnist Derrick Jackson discusses his book about Project Puffin, a scientific effort that returned the colorful seabird to Egg Rock and two other islands off the Maine coast. (Greater Boston)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Brockton man facing gun charges is the latest from the Annie Dookhan class who had his drug case dropped because of criminal malfeasance by the former drug lab technician. (The Enterprise)

A Boston City Council hearing tomorrow will consider the pros and cons of equipping police with body-worn cameras. (Boston Globe)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson has deputized military recruiters in the area and ordered his cruisers to do drive-bys of recruiting offices after the shootings last month in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that killed four Marines and a sailor. (Standard-Times)

Victor Canaan, a former youth worker in Lynn, pleads guilty to child rape. (The Item)

MEDIA

Matthew Gilbert considers the game-changing legacy of Jon Stewart, who signs off from the Daily Show on Thursday. (Boston Globe)

Masslive is looking for freelance reporters to cover high school football games this fall.