An email sent out by CM Stephen Costello:
Over the past few months, City Council has been discussing proposed changes to Chapter 46, the city ordinance dealing with vehicles for hire. I’ve listened during committee meetings and public sessions. I’ve studied the presentations and analyzed the data.
Most importantly, I’ve spoken to and read emails from my constituents from across the city – countless Houstonians from all walks of life who want and need more ways to get around our growing city.
I write today to speak out in favor of revising Chapter 46 so that new entrants to Houston’s transportation market may operate. Citizens overwhelmingly want more options, and I think it’s our duty to not stand in the way of competition and better technology and service. In the process, we can bring new jobs to our great city.
While I believe that government is not in place to create jobs, I do believe it should help foster an environment where the private sector can flourish and grow. By modernizing Chapter 46 we will be doing just that. Expanded free market competition will force current companies in existence to improve their product, while requiring new companies to find their own place in the market.
As a business owner myself, I know that we cannot underestimate the value of competition. In fact, on April 21st, the Federal Trade Commission released a relevant statement: “Competition is at the heart of America’s economy. Vigorous competition among sellers in an open marketplace can provide consumers the benefits of lower prices, higher quality products and services, and greater innovation. This is just as true for app-based transportation and other kinds of P2P services as well.”
I’ve heard a lot of talk about a level playing field. The status quo is not synonymous with a level playing field. The city will continue to ensure businesses that operate in our jurisdiction operate within our regulatory framework. While we must always protect the public good, it is not the role of the government to protect companies from competition, quite the opposite. We opened Hobby Airport to international flights to compete with Bush Intercontinental, and I will continue to advocate for business-friendly ordinances that will increase competition citywide.
Giving more options to the senior who needs a ride to the doctor’s office, the student who has to get to class, the person who’s had too much to drink and doesn’t want to get behind the wheel, the businessperson needing a quick ride to catch a flight is a good thing.
City government should not be picking winners and losers. I don’t want to dictate who gets the fare. That is up to the consumer, but that can’t happen unless we first update the outdated way we think and operate as a city. Houston shouldn’t lag behind. We should be ahead of the curve; we are a global leader.
I’m ready to move forward. I’m ready to work with my colleagues and the administration to update Chapter 46 to allow Houstonians, not city government, decide which private company they choose to rely on for their personal transportation needs.
Stephen C. Costello
As far as I know, CM Costello is the first Council member to publicly announce a position on revising Chapter 46 to allow Uber and Lyft and similar services to operate in Houston. The draft ordinance has been released, but as the Ordinance Feedback page says, there is no date for it to be brought before Council just yet. I suspect this is one part wanting to get the non-discrimination ordinance passed, and one part lining up support for the Chapter 46 revisions. I figure we’ll start hearing from more Council members on this shortly.