Be careful what you wish for.
City Council has spent a lot of years trying to turn sleepy Portland into a bonafide big city, and they are nearly on the verge of getting what they wanted. But with “big” comes “modern” and it doesn’t seem our city leaders are up to the task of guiding Portland into the future.
Tuesday night’s vote on allowing private-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft to operate within city limits is a prime example of a council lagging behind the times. One by one each council member proudly declared they had never used Uber and never would. Commissioner Fritz even went so far as to say that in her day “girls were taught never to accept rides from strangers,” placing her thinking firmly in the middle of the last century.
Meanwhile, advances in technology have done what they have always done: disrupted industries. The telephone displaced telegraph operators, and the love affair with new-fangled automobiles made the streetcars of the early 1900’s come to a screeching halt. Some industries adapt and some simply make way for the new. It is government’s job to make sure that the public is protected but should not use that same mandate to shield any group of businesses from healthy competition in the market place. Certainly government regulations should not be used to bludgeon new emerging markets just because the council members don’t like some of the players.
Having a city council firmly entrenched in a world before the invention of smart phones and smart cars puts Portland at a disadvantage in the modern marketplace. Times have changed, but our City Council has not. Our next election gives us the chance to appoint leaders who are not only familiar with changing technology, but are able to help our laws to adapt to a modern world.