Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A letter to the Jefferson Parish Council

Dear Councilman Templet

I was present for the August 10 council meeting and was hoping to speak.  However, as the ordinances concerning ride-sharing were delayed, it turns out that my 17-mile drive each way across the river and my entire morning were wasted.  It is my understanding that this has happened repeatedly, and for people who work multiple jobs, this makes it very difficult to have a voice in government.  And so I am writing this letter to you instead.  I may still address the council at a later time.

I have served as the pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Gretna since two weeks before Katrina. As with many other people, the skyrocketing cost of health insurance and other expenses has resulted in my accepting several jobs to make ends meet. 

I have driven for Uber since November of last year, and with Lyft since they began operations in our area.  Ride-sharing enables me to work a flexible schedule and still carry out a full-time ministry serving my congregation and my family.

Ride-sharing provides many benefits to our parish and to our community.  Most important is keeping drunk drivers off the road.  I have given more than 800 rides and have excellent ratings.  A majority of my customers have been drinking (they are mainly tourists, conventioneers, and college students).  In particular, my younger passengers often drink excessively, and it is not only money in my pocket, but also a community service to make sure they are not on the road.  I believe quite firmly that if Jefferson Parish regulates Uber and Lyft out of Jefferson Parish, many, if not most, of these young people will not call cabs.  They will get in their cars and drive. Their entire culture is lived out through technology.  They are used to very short wait times and being able to track their driver – as well as to rate their driver, and to know what they are paying up front, paying by phone app, and all without the suspicious use of a meter.  As a rule, they loathe taxicabs.

Studies have proven that Uber and Lyft significantly diminish drunk driving and thus save lives.  I urge you not to regulate us out of business and thereby cause the unnecessary deaths that would inevitably result.

This is also an issue of liberty.  For example, in my ministerial duties, I fly to other locations to speak and teach.  I have never been picked up at the airport by a cab. Instead, someone from the church will come and get me at the airport – a person whom I have never met.  There has been no drug test, background check, vehicle inspection, or check of driving record.  As an adult, I can choose whose cars to get into.  It is not the business of government at any level to tell me with whom I can ride, or whom I can drive. 

Ride-sharing is the wave of the future.  It is now possible and thriving due to technological innovation and the business culture of peer-to-peer marketing.  Government is not our nanny or our parents.  As the namesake of our parish wrote in the Declaration of Independence, government exists in order to secure our rights and to protect our liberties.  It is the duty of parish government – and all government – first and foremost to respect our freedom – which includes our freedom to travel and our liberty to engage in free trade.

I would also like to add that given that I am using my personal car – the one in which I drive my wife and children – there is greater incentive for me to maintain and keep my car clean. I am routinely told by passengers that Uber cars are cleaner and appear better maintained than taxi cabs – which are often smelly, dinged-up, and messy – government regulations notwithstanding.

Finally, in reading the arguments of the cab industry, this isn’t about safety.  Rather it is about a protection racket to bottleneck entry into the marketplace and thus inflate prices, a cartelization that is detrimental to the consumer and stifling to the economy.  It is not government’s job to economically manipulate an industry so as to inflate prices.  The fact that cab companies are not joining us to call for reduction or abolition of regulations is evidence of this fact.  They can afford the costs of compliance, where a part-time Uber or Lyft driver – perhaps a single mom, or a person saving to buy a house, or a professional person defraying healthcare costs – cannot.

Again, if a person feels calling an Uber or Lyft to be risky, he or she can continue to call a cab.  I still see a lot of cabs while I am out driving.  It is the nature of competition to increase innovation and cause prices to fall for customers.  By contrast, it is the nature of monopolies and cartels to stifle innovation and delink customer service from the product being offered.

In short, ride-sharing is here to stay.  It is not going to go away from Orleans Parish, but it could leave Jefferson Parish.  If that happens, count on tourists avoiding Jefferson Parish hotels and Jefferson Parish restaurants and bars – since they will have to take a cab instead of a ride-share.  Ride-sharing is used successfully around the country and world.  It is part of the evolving business model of peer-to-peer marketing.  Change is hard to navigate, especially for government, which itself is under no pressure to innovate and streamline.  But I do believe in this case, the people and government of Jefferson Parish will be well-served by welcoming Lyft and Uber, but will be ill-served by regulating them out of Jefferson Parish.

I would also like to make the political argument that Uber and Lyft are extremely popular.  This is an issue that people will not just shrug and walk away from.  If you kill ride-sharing, I do believe that you will pay for it at election time.  There are just certain issues that are political hot-potatoes.  I believe this is one of them.

I urge you to either deregulate the car-transportation industry, or take a minimalist approach (perhaps like Orleans Parish) with our commerce and thereby encourage and enjoy the benefits to our economy, to the people of the parish, to drivers, and to your own standing with your constituents. 

Thank you,

Rev. Larry L. Beane II

Note: If you would also like to write to the Jefferson Parish Council regarding what you think about ride-sharing and how it might affect your potential visits to Jefferson Parish, here is the info,,,

Christopher L. Roberts, Councilman-at-Large, Division A,
Deano Bonano, Assistant (East Bank),
Brett J. Lawson, Assistant (West Bank),
East Bank: Suite 1016, Yenni / Phone: 736-6615 Fax: 731-4646
West Bank: Suite 6200, GGB / Phone: 364-2616 Fax: 364-3499
Cynthia Lee-Sheng, Councilwoman-at-Large, Division B, CynthiaLeeSheng@JeffParish.netGreg Giangrosso, Assistant, GGiangrosso@JeffParish.netEast Bank: Suite 1018, Yenni / Phone: 736-6016 Fax: 736-6598
West Bank: Suite 6200, GGB / Phone: 364-2624 Fax: 364-2657
Ricky J. Templet, Councilman, District 1,
Terry Talamo, Assistant,
West Bank: Suite 6400, GGB / Phone: 364-2607 Fax: 364-2615
Paul D. Johnston, Councilman, District 2, PaulJohnston@JeffParish.netBryan St. Cyr, Assistant, BSTCyr@JeffParish.netEast Bank: Suite 1013, Yenni / Phone: 736-6607 Fax: 731-4433
West Bank: Suite 6300, GGB / Phone: 364-3446 Fax: 364-3417
Mark D. Spears, Jr., Councilman, District 3, MarkSpears@JeffParish.netCasey Jumpiere, Assistant, CJumpiere@JeffParish.netEast Bank: Suite 1011, Yenni / Phone: 736-6591 Fax: 736-6598
West Bank: Suite 6500, GGB / Phone: 364-2603 Fax: 364-3704
E."Ben" Zahn, III, Councilman, District 4, BenZahn@JeffParish.netJeff Zapata, Assistant, JZapata@JeffParish.netEast Bank: Suite 1015, Yenni / Phone: 736-6622 Fax: 736-6639
Jennifer Van Vrancken, Councilwoman, District 5,
Jeffrey Simno, Assistant,
East Bank: Suite 1014, Yenni / Phone: 736-6634 Fax: 736-6632
Eula Lopez, Parish Council Clerk
West Bank: Phone: 364-2626 Fax: 364-2633
East Bank Council Address
Joseph S. Yenni Building
1221 Elmwood Park Blvd., 10th Floor
Jefferson, LA 70123-2337
Receptionist: 736-6600
West Bank Council Address
General Government Building
200 Derbigny Street, 6th Floor
Gretna, LA 70053-5850
Receptionist: 364-2600

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