“The regime trembles at the sight of a smartphone.”* That quote comes from Portland-based independent journalist and world traveler Michael J. Totten. One might guess that he wrote it about Portland’s city government and its aversion to ridesharing services like Uber that rely on smartphone apps to put riders and drivers together. But he didn’t.
He wrote it about the Cuban government after his visit to Havana last year. He summed up his observations in a lengthy piece he titled “The Last Communist City.” Hopefully, now that President Obama is taking steps to liberalize relations with Cuba, Havana may not be a communist city much longer.
But as we celebrate a new year, Portland still seems mired in the past. City regulators first tried to fine Uber for picking up passengers without official permission in December. Then the Mayor agreed to form a Task Force to revise its antiquated taxi regulations. Uber agreed not to initiate rides within city limits until April 9, by which time the City hopes to figure out how to accommodate the modern app economy.
Still, given how upset Portland officials were when Uber entered the city unannounced, the next question one might ask is:
Which city will welcome Uber and other ridesharing companies to serve their citizens first: Portland, Oregon or Havana, Cuba?
* Letter from Cuba: To Embargo or Not, Michael J. Totten, “World Affairs,” March/April 2014
Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.