How to Give Good Public Hearing

One of my fellow Rabid Lyft Lovers recently posted “that it is more compelling if we see fellow passengers (the consumers) speak up for ridesharing.”

My good friend is really wrong on this. It is not necessarily more compelling. The most compelling, fact-based testimony from ANY source providing well-received information to decision makers trumps whatever axes they’re grinding.

Consumers (passengers) are great for a public hearing. However, in addition, the whole point of a PUBLIC hearing is for public officials to hear from subject experts (ridesharing experts) at the same time with the same content.

Subject experts ALWAYS include people who offer testimony that is strongly biased towards their interests. Public officials are not stupid. They know the difference between testimony from passengers, objective experts like the Harvard economics professor explaining the value of surge pricing, pitches from stakeholders who would be seriously hurt by the proposed regulations (Lyft and Uber) and those who would benefit from the regulations a lot (taxi medallion owners).

This is Public Hearings Testimony 101.

Although the hearing was only announced the day before it was held, Uber’s Boston General Manager, Meghan Joyce  leapt into action. A 2013 graduate of Harvard Business School, Meghan is using her four years of toiling at Bain Capital and Bain & Company to inject The Bain Way into the veins of Uber Boston. Warning: never get in between Meghan and her food.

As Saul Tannenbaum noted on the Cambridge Community Television site:

…Uber’s hashtag activism produced 1298 tweets from 748 individual Twitter usernames…a City Councilor can get elected with just over a thousand votes. A one day campaign that engaged close to 750 people is a small earthquake when it comes to Cambridge politics…

Saul is a great example of a local citizen journalist that Bay Area-based companies should use more often as a resource to understand the tribal politics of Boston and Cambridge. Saul can be contacted 24/7 at HINT…HINT

Meghan sprung to action the night before the hearing and prearranged the opportunity to give testimony in a meeting she had with the License Commission’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Lint just seven hours before the hearing.

Uber’s rapid reaction tactics secured Meghan’s 28 minute engagement. She hit it out of the park, especially with Chair Andrea Spears Jackson.  Jackson is very Elizabeth Warreny, Cambridgey liberal, tech-savvy, and a passenger with at least one ridesharing company. I did my best during the three minutes of my testimony to add more fact-based material.

Before the hearing, Jackson didn’t know much about ridesharing. Now she does.

I also briefly spoke with Dennis Benzan, Vice Mayor of Cambridge. He was very interested in reviewing the CPUC TNC regulations ASAP. I emailed them to him the next morning.

MayorDavid Maher was just elected in January 2014, so he can ill afford to appear to be in the pocket of taxi medallion owners while opposing a tech enabled alternative that consumers prefer. Cambridge has an unusual system in which recently elected members of the City Council vote to decide who among them will be mayor. Maher was elected 5-4 after three ballots. Benzan voted for him.

Dennis Benzan is an up and coming 42 year old politician, attorney, graduate of Howard University and Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. He highlights his background by saying his “parents, immigrants from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republican, came to America because they had a dream.” Most importantly, he grew up in Columbia Terrace, affordable housing four blocks from Central Square.

If you’re from Greater Boston, you “get” where this guy is coming from.

In Boston and Cambridge we have a unique mix of street-savvy, self-made leaders who know what it means to work for a living and Harvard/MIT pointy-headed ultra-liberals who know how to club you over the head with an unassailable policy paper.

This is what makes Boston Strong.

SELF PROMOTION ALERT: I spoke with a Globe reporter for a while after the meeting. Among other things he asked me if I had experience giving public testimony, because I seemed to know the right way to do it. Just sayin….



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