Despite the hopes of many, the July meeting of the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission (MTC), which regulates for-hire vehicles in Saint Louis City and County, ended without regulatory changes that would allow cheap ridesharing to enter the Saint Louis market.
However, the lack of results does not mean the meeting lacked drama. From start to finish, emotions were running high and irregular procedures were constant. Just some of the oddest moments:
- Commissioner Chris Sommers, who has been supportive of Uber, had not received any advanced copy of proposed changes to the taxicab code at the time the meeting started (although other commissioners and the mayor’s office apparently had. He had to ask for a copy on stage.
- Commissioners gave speeches to defend their actions and attack a perceived “PR campaign” out to smear the commission. One commissioner said he took the whole debate personally, and thought critics were implying the MTC was a bunch of “jamokes.”
- Following a non-statement from an Uber representative (who had not seen the proposed changes), the chair moved to cut off public comments after only about 25 minutes. This resulted in commotion from the audience. One audience member called the chairman a coward and others called on him to resign. The chair threatened, multiple times, to clear the room.
- A representative of the mayor’s office requested that the MTC not vote on rule changes (which we still have not seen), instead proposing new negotiations between Uber, the MTC, and regional political leadership. The chairman then put a stop to motions to vote on rule changes that day, over the objection of other commissioners. Commissioner Sommers also objected to voting that day, as he had had no time to read to proposed rule changes. The meeting abruptly ended to boos.
After a meeting like that, one has to ask, is Saint Louis best served by a commission that arbitrarily cuts off public debate and takes disagreement personally? By a commission that engages in offensive public infighting? By a commission whose leadership thinks the demand for ridesharing is "white privilege"? Is this commission going to be effective in writing, and enforcing, sensible ridesharing regulations?