[image via MrTinDC]
By Carl Pierre / @carlpierre
With the advent of the new startup accelerator, Fortify, positioning itself for launch in the District, it is distressing to find that one of it’s biggest supporters is cracking down on innovation in the city.
Even though Mayor Vincent Gray is one of Fortify’s biggest supporters, offering a $100,000 boost for it’s launch, his consistency with supporting disruptive companies is questionable. It seems to be a trend growing this week with two incidents implicating Mayor Gray and his office’s particular enforcement of D.C. regulations aimed at specific groups.
DC Food Trucks and Uber DC.
Earlier this week, DC Food Truck enthusiasts were startled to hear the rumblings of a possible new crackdown on those mobile eateries we have grown to love so much in the District. On Thursday, Food Truck Fiesta blogged about an incident involving DCPD harassing parked trucks, informing them that they will be ticketed if they don’t have a line formed in front of them. If there is no visible line directly into a food truck, DCPD have the ability to write a $50 ticket to the truck and dismiss them from the premises. District officials have cited that fines can reach up to $1000 with each additional violation. New regulations and laws will be officially posted on January 20th according to an aide from Mayor Vincent Gray’s office.
This morning, transportation startup UberDC was caught in a “sting” organized by Ron Linton of the D.C. Taxi Commission. During a hearing earlier, Linton vaguely alluded that Uber was operating illegally and that actions would be taken against them. Acting good upon his word, Linton setup a sting that found an Uber driver in violation of “incorrect hauling” and “improper charging” for failing to adhere to state lines when ferrying a passenger from DC to Virginia and not citing a fare before the trip began. Most passengers would find these charges to be both petty and insignificant but they were enough to impound the driver’s car and accrue fines for his tickets.
With all that said, it is interesting that Mayor Gray and his office are targeting innovative companies and organizations in DC after announcing their support for Fortify’s operations in the District. After ruminating on possible reasons as to why they would target such beloved organizations in the city, I can only assume it boils down to personal interests and finance. It would make sense to invest heavily in Fortify because it will bring more Tech and business to D.C., but I suppose with smaller organizations, such as the Food Trucks that aren’t as financially beneficial to DC government, can be thrown under the bus. In the case of Uber, with Mayor Gray’s heavy campaign contributions from the D.C. taxi industry it makes sense that this would be the favor Taxi companies would call in for that financial support.
It’s frustrating and upsetting to see these organizations being targeted in the District, especially since we just started to gather a burgeoning Tech scene with several startups coming to the area. All we can do is wait and watch to see how these stories play out. My only hope is that incidents like these will not drive prospective companies and innovators away from D.C.