Uber and out for taxi protectionism?

Years from now, public policy students or perhaps cultural anthropologists will sift through the history of the current debate in our capital city over what have become known as ride-hailing companies and this thing known as the taxi industry.

They’ll wonder how a government-run system was concocted that involved minting a limited number of small metal plates known as medallions, which then became quite valuable because of their limited number when affixed to a usually funny-painted car. These small plates were a path to payments, if not exactly riches, to the drivers of the funny-painted cars from strangers without cars at their disposal who nonetheless wished to get, as quickly as Boston’s streets would permit, from point A to point B. (Some drivers owned their own little metal plates and were small business owners worth sympathizing with. Many others leased their funny-painted cars from small-plate overlords, who owned many coveted medallions and cashed in handsomely on the arrangement, while drivers often toiled 12-hour shifts for paltry earnings.)

One day, small electronic devices that connected everyone with everything suddenly appeared in the land, and very many things changed very quickly. One was the ability to secure, for a fee, a car ride from drivers working outside the small-plate system. It became much easier to get rides, and it became much cheaper to do so than under the older system that existed for so many years.

This development, a regular feature of market-based economic systems, seemed like progress.

Unless you had a stake in the older system of limited-issue small metal plates attached to funny-painted cars. For you, this development posed an existential threat, one you vowed to fight any way you could.

It became a pitched battle, but the outcome was never in doubt.

That is the state of things now, as the region’s battered taxi industry digs in and looks for even the smallest table scraps while ride-hailing businesses feast on a booming market for their services.

Today’s battle: The ability to pick up passengers at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The House version of ride-hailing legislation now pending on Beacon Hill would impose a five-year ban on drivers for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing companies picking up passengers at the convention center. It would make Boston’s convention center one of only a handful in the country with such a ban, and officials from the center say it would put Boston at a competitive disadvantage in landing convention business.

Taxi industry representatives say some level of protection is the only way some taxi drivers will be able to stay in business.

State Rep. Michael Moran, who backs the House bill, offers a new wrinkle by expressing concern for banks that have made loans to finance taxi medallions, whose value is plummeting.

“We owe the medallion industry a little better effort than just saying, ‘Sorry, there’s new technology, and you’re out of luck,’” he told the Globe.

Rich Davey and Chris Dempsey had prominent roles on opposite sides of the Boston 2024 Olympics debate, but they are of one mind on this issue. They team up on a Globe op-ed today that calls for the state legislation to scrap any restrictions on where ride-hailing services are available, including the convention center and Logan Airport.

Blocking ride-hailing services “from high-demand locations is nothing more than protectionism; it contradicts the notion that the legislation seeks to create a level playing field,” they write.

In most cases where technology throws an old industry to the curb, government owes it nothing. The misgivings over the impact of the insurgent ride-hailing sector seem to relate to the fact that government had such a big hand in driving up the cost to enter a business that is now in free-fall.

It’s inevitable that ride-hailing firms will ultimately be allowed to operate everywhere. Like slogging through Boston traffic at rush hour, it’s the business of getting from here to there that will be messy and try lots of nerves.

–MICHAEL JONAS 

 

BEACON HILL

The Massachusetts Senate plans to take up legislation next week that would bar the sale of cigarettes to anyone under 21. (State House News)

House lawmakers are pushing funding for community policing to help deal with the opioid epidemic. (Gloucester Times)

Rep. William Pignatelli of Lenox is pushing a dental services plan to cut down on emergency room visits dealing with teeth issues. (Berkshire Eagle)

Former congressman Barney Frank thinks Gov. Charlie Baker is “inclined to be supportive on the merits” of a transgender rights bill but is waffling because he is “intimidated by the right wing of his party.” (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Worcester Redevelopment Authority unveils an ambitious urban revitalization plan for the downtown area. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Supreme Judicial Court overturned an Appeals Court decision, refusing claims by developers of a planned housing complex on Martha’s Vineyard that a 19th century Native American tradition gave them the right to cross other property to gain access to their landlocked parcel. (Cape Cod Times)

A local landscape company has filed a defamation suit against Mattapoisett conservation officials for wrongly claiming the company drained water from local waterways without a permit for its hydroseeding operations. (Standard-Times)

CASINOS

A prosecution witness says top Wynn Resorts officials were told in November 2012 that the owners of the land they were seeking to buy in Everett included a man with a checkered past. If true, Wynn officials would have known about the involvement of convicted felon Charles Lightbody more than six months before they said they knew. (CommonWealth)

Watch MGM Springfield move a church to make way for its casino. (Masslive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A federal court overturns a Virginia school’s transgender bathroom policy. The court ruling could influence policy in North Carolina, which recently passed a controversial law restricting transgender access to bathrooms. (Governing)

ELECTIONS

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get back on track with resounding primary wins in New York. (New York Times)

Trump shakes up his staff and his campaign strategist resigns rather than accept new bosses. (U.S. News & World Report)

Trump is flying in an unregistered jet because his company failed to send in the renewal application and pay a $5 fee to the FAA in January. (New York Times)

Republican New York congressman Peter King says he would “take cyanide” if Ted Cruz won his party’s nomination. (Boston Herald)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren unleashes a barrage of tweets at Cruz ridiculing him for complaining about the demands of a presidential campaign. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Intel, the world’s largest manufacturer of processor chips, will layoff about 12,000 people because of the global reduction in demand for personal computers. (New York Times)

Managers of a Bridgewater apartment complex are scooping up disregarded dog poop and sending it off for DNA testing with the intention of finding and fining the owners who failed to do their duty. (The Enterprise)

Email-driven gifts and recurring monthly donations have boosted nonprofit fundraising 19 percent, according to a survey of 105 foundations. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)

EDUCATION

Brockton school officials, facing a $10 million budget deficit, have recommended closing a full-day kindergarten that serves 260 children. (The Enterprise)

A Herald editorial dismisses complaints from the Boston Teachers Union about a recent study showing Boston teachers are paid far more than their counterparts in peer cities, saying the study isn’t propaganda; “it’s simple math.” (Boston Herald)

Opponents of Common Core education standards are gearing up for a November ballot campaign to repeal use of the benchmarks in Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Parents in Spencer meet with school officials on a student walkout to protest conditions at David Prouty High School. (Telegram & Gazette)

Adjunct faculty at UMass Lowell are planning to protest that they are paid less than their counterparts at other UMass campuses. (The Sun)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Partners HealthCare is mulling the closure of Salem Hospital’s cardiac surgery program and its consolidation with Massachusetts General Hospital. (Salem News)

Tufts Health Plan says it will cover the cost of expensive drug treatment for hepatitis C even for patients who do not yet show evidence of liver damage. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA probe of parking fee losses is expanding to more lots and involves at least one terminated employee who worked for the private parking lot operator, LAZ Parking. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

State Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack signed a two-year lease agreement last June with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy to provide $2 million in funding for the parkland, though her predecessor had vowed to wean the nonprofit off state funding. (Boston Herald)

A clean air advocate says California has the nation’s dirtiest air. (San Francisco Chronicle)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

In a sample, 87 percent of those diverted to drug courts in the state were non-Hispanic whites, a finding that is now the subject of a research study being conducted by the University of Massachusetts and the state Probation Department. (Springfield Republican)

Even as the city moves toward a pilot program of police-worn body cameras, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans says he hopes “the community can see more or less that maybe we don’t need them.” (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

The New York Daily News fires an editor for deleting attributions from a columnist’s work, making it appear the columnist was plagiarizing material. (Poynter)

Facebook is sucking all of the oxygen out of the internet and Dan Kennedy says that’s bad news for news. (WGBH)