Baltimore City Government: None Dare Call Them Competent
If you want a sneak peek into what 50 years of one-party rule will do to a city, I present you with this:
— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) January 28, 2019
Yes, this was actually a real story that was a real thing in Baltimore for a time. The city immediately backed down, as The Sun updated the story:
Trending: Jacobins on the St. Mary’s
The Baltimore transportation department said Monday it would amend legislation that could have exposed people who ride a rental scooter too fast or on some city sidewalks to a month in jail and a $1,000 fine.
German Vigil, a spokesman for the department, said officials’ intention is for riders to face $20 citations if they violate a set of proposed rules. He said they had never expected a scooter rider to face jail time. Vigil said the department would offer an amendment to the proposal “to eliminate any possibility that criminal penalties could apply to a rider.”
The criminal sanctions are included in legislation the transportation department asked the City Council to consider regulating the companies that provide dockless rental bikes and the electric-powered scooters, which appeared last year on Baltimore’s streets, and to impose rules of the road on riders.
But Vigil said the department’s intention had been for the criminal sanctions to apply to companies if they broke the rules that would apply to them.
“For a criminal penalty to be imposed, a court would need to find that a violation of the law was so egregious that a criminal penalty is deserved,” he said. “That situation was never expected to arise for a rider, but potentially might arise for a provider of a vehicle for hire.”
Now, it may be true that the Baltimore Department of Transportation did not intend to subject riders of electronic scooters to 30-day jail terms. But that begs the question: what is a 30-day jail sentence doing in a bill regulating the use of electronic scooters at all? Why does the city want providers of scooters to be subjected to criminal penalties, as Vigil suggests?
On top of it, the bill wants to heap even more regulations on top of the scooters companies, including a 10-cents per ride tax (which of course will be passed onto the consumer) and “require the transportation director to ensure equitable access to the scooters and bikes by people throughout the city.”
Now I’m not a fan of the scooters to start with. They’re super annoying, much like those cyclists who want to follow their own set of cycling rules. But none of that excuses what the city is trying to do here. City government is trying to regulate the scooter industry, another disruptive technological industry, out of business. Even if you were to accept the ideas of a per-ride tax going to the city or the requirements to ensure “equitable access”, what right-thinking scooter company would want to do business in Baltimore knowing that they would potentially face criminal sanctions?
Seriously, who actually thinks that people should be sent to jail over a scooter?
And that says nothing about what’s going on in the Baltimore City Department of Transportation. Their spokesman says that there was never an intention for the legislation to be introduced with potential penalties for scooter riders included. So how in the world did this legislation get introduced with the criminal penalties for riders included in the bill? Who wrote the legislation? Who approved it for submission to the City Council? What did Mayor Catherine Pugh know about this legislation?
At best, this snafu was a mistake that potentially subjected scooter riders to severe criminal penalties. At worst this was a city department that operating without any competent leadership in its policy shop or in its executive offices, and without any reasonable oversight from Mayor Pugh. This is the kind of lazy, incompetent government Baltimore City gets on a routine basis after fifty straight years of one-party rule.
Baltimore deserves a lot better than what they’re getting.