Portland government playing monopoly – tells young entrepreneur “do not pass go”

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portland city council monopoly on taxi serviceNot since the Supreme Court ruled disabled golfer Casey Martin could ride one during PGA tournaments has a golf cart created this much controversy.

It all started back in the early part of summer 2009, when Peaks Island (part of Portland, Maine) summer resident Matt Rand, a 19 year-old Tufts University student, decided to embrace the American dream and put his entrepreneurial skills to work. Ferry loads of folks would head to Peaks Island, primarily in the summer, to visit their summer homes, stay on vacation or just sight see for the day. At the time, there was no way for these ferry passengers to get around the Island, which is a meager 2 miles long and 1 mile wide.

So the clever Mr. Rand decided to offer a shuttle service of sorts, using the family golf cart to transport ferry passengers around the island, even giving the occasional tour. He doesn’t charge folks anything for the service, but the entrepreneur in him certainly won’t turn down a tip when it’s offered. After all, textbooks for those Tufts University classes can’t be cheap.a young entrepreneaur had his golf cart taxi shut down

Just two weeks after the successful golf cart taxi got going, the local governments decided to set up there own transportation venture, under the guise of a “non-profit” called the “Island Transportation System”. The non-profit group bought a Dodge Grand Caravan, thanks to a $20,000 handout from the city, and hired a full-time driver, who was allowed to keep any of the money the “non-profit” earned, after expenses.

Before long, the government-run taxi business flopped (a nice little preview of Obamacare I’m afraid) and drivers started quitting for lack of profits. That’s when the bullying from big brother began in earnest, including a police officer issuing Matt a summons which was later rescinded on the advice of the city lawyer. But the city hasn’t stopped there.

Citing the “need” for $5,000 liability insurance, and under intense pressure from the city-funded taxi service, the city council voted specifically to require that people who offer rides on golf carts for tips on Peaks Island be licensed taxi drivers and carry insurance like any taxi operator. The vote was 5-3.

Matt says is going to finish the summer providing rides for folks, since the law doesn’t kick in for another 30 days. But the reality is that the $5,000 he would spend on insurance would go along way towards his tuition, so this will probably be the last summer he operates his genius little business. The Portland city council has effectively stamped out the competition that has outdone their feeble government-run program.

So sadly, Maine adds to the string of recent government takeovers that include the auto industry, our health care system, banks, and a lemonade stand run by a 7-year old girl in the other Portland. It’s a tragic day indeed when a young man with an entrepreneurs mind is squashed by a jealous, overreaching local government playing Monopoly and changing the rules mid-game  in their favor.