Saturday, June 25, 2016

Taxicab ordinance deserves strict scrutiny, public comment on first reading

LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN
ST. AUGUSTINE CITY COMMISSIONER
(2006-2010)
(HCN)

Our Nation's Oldest City's namesake, Saint Augustine, said, "an unjust law is no law at all." I oppose banning older taxicabs as a measure lacking data and legal support.

Public comment must be allowed on the first reading of the ordinance on Monday June 27, 2016 during the discussion of the ordinance, rather than cabining it in general public comment.

Banning older taxicabs is an unjust law -- yet another bad idea from St. Augustine Commissioner LEANNA S.A. FREEMAN, who:
o rents her law office space from bald eagle nest molester PIERRE THOMPSON;
o is the former law partner of former City Commissioner SUSAN BURK;
o was propelled into office with support by ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR., a/k/a LEN WEEKS, destroyer of 62A Spanish Street, ex-Mayor and once Republican Lord of All He Surveys.

There is no principled reason to ban cabs with more than 250,000 miles or ten years of service. No data. No nexus.

St. Augustine City Commissioner LEANNA FREEMAN does not ride taxicabs.

Dingbat FREEMAN's 'hopelessly provincial," as my grandmother would say.

For 42 years, I've been riding cabs since I was a freshman at Georgetown University at age 17.5.

Due to arthritis, I do not drive.

Thus, I've ridden cabs in some thirty (30) places in the USA and Canada, including:
+ Washington, D.C.
+ New York City
+ Philadelphia, PA.
+ Southern New Jersey
+ Northern Virginia
+ Baltimore
+ Rehobeth Beach, Del.
+ Sacramento
+ San Francisco
+ Seattle
+ Portland
+ East Tennessee
+ Memphis
+ South Florida
+ Denver
+ Chicago
+ Loa Angeles
+ Atlanta
+ Las Vegas
+ Houston
+ Phoenix
+ Tucson
+ Albuquerque
+ Amarillo
+ Austin
+ Boston
+ Montreal
+ Toronto
+ Honolulu
+ and right here in St. Augustine, Florida

I've always talked to cab drivers.

Some of my friends are cab drivers.

They've told me about ripoff unethical employers, including UBER, et al.

I've seen good and bad taxis -- like those that rip off tourists in places like Washington, D.C.

I've reached a few conclusions about taxicab regulations -- conclusions I was forbidden to share with the City Commission in 2009, when corrupt Mayor of St. Augustine, Florida JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. a/k/a JOE BOLES forbade me (or anyone else not with the taxicab "industry" to speak on taxicab regulations.

Here's my five recommendations:

1. Inspections, yes.

2. Background checks, yes.

3. Fare regulation, yes.

4. UBER regulation, yes -- the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment require it.

5. Ban smoking, yes -- it's a workplace and covered by our state law and constitution.

But there is no data and no principled reason to force older taxicabs off the road.

This is anti-competitive and violates antitrust laws.

It is being done at the behest of one wily demanding cab owner, a new entrant who has Commissioner LEANNA S.A. FREEMAN's ear, and that of City Attorney ISABELLE LOPEZ.

Enough.

SAX TAXI owner JAMES HOWARD and his then-lawyer JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE, were once improperly given time to speak when citizens were forbidden to speak, illegally, violating Equal Protection, following in the Bolesian tradition.

Enough.

I'm appalled at rebarbative Republican LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN'S louche lack of logic -- as my Gay libertarian friend and fellow Georgetown School of Foreign Service graduate Richard E. Sincere once said in a radio debate, "the plural of 'anecdote' is NOT 'data.'"

I'm appalled at LEANNA FREEMAN'S ignorance of the taxicab "industry."

She's appalled that taxicabs cruise and look for fares -- there's nothing wrong with that, and her buddies at SAX TAXI DO IT.

FREEMAN should stop being a hick hack in the proverbial sack for JAMES HOWARD.

CITY COMMISSIONERS MUST ALLOW PUBLIC COMMENT ON ORDINANCE FIRST READINGS.

The fact that it was forbidden under ex-City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS DOES NOT JUSTIFY CONTINUING THIS "TRADITION."

I agree with Norman Dean and independent taxi owner Robert Dalton's letter and comments in the Record:

Letter: Thoughts on politicians and taxi cabs
Posted: June 23, 2016 - 11:40pm

By NORMAN DEAN
St. Augustine
Editor: I enjoyed the editorial June 22 concerning politicians. I am old enough to understand that what they have to say about helping us citizens is mostly BS, as all they care about is being elected to do mostly nothing. Rubio is a prime example, and all those dropping out of his Senate race clearly show that their only interest is a place at the feeding trough.

Sen. Bill Nelson is an outstanding example of what a politician is supposed to be.

Also, I fail to understand the thinking of the city commissioners and the county concerning taxi cab rules. A person driving a car with a passenger for hire is driving a taxi cab. Uber and others operating off the net are operating a taxi operation, pure and simple. A person paying for transport in any vehicle is a paying passenger, be it a train, bus or airplane. The persons or businesses providing the transport should all be required to abide by the same rules for the mode of transport. Uber and its competitors are operating a taxi service the same as Yellow Cab and the company and drivers must abide by the same rules and be licensed. This is only fair to cab drivers.

St. Augustine

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Taxis could get tighter rules in St. Augustine
Posted: June 22, 2016 - 11:29pm | Updated: June 23, 2016 - 9:48am
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Local taxi drivers riled over Uber

By SHELDON GARDNER
sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
Stricter rules and more detailed safety standards could be coming for taxis that do business in St. Augustine.

The proposed rules would cap the age of cabs operating in St. Augustine at 10 years, and the mileage at 250,000, with time given for existing cabs to adjust.

At least one cab driver isn’t pleased with the idea.

“That’s pretty harsh,” said Bob Dalton, owner of Bobby D’s Eco Taxi, which operates in St. Augustine. “My car’s 11 years old, but it’s like one of the cleanest ... cabs.”

Dalton said the cabs should be considered on an individual basis without regard to miles or age, assuming they pass inspection.

The mileage and age restrictions are rolled into an ordinance coming to Monday’s City Commission agenda for first reading. The ordinance also defines and outlines basic standards for pedicabs and low-speed vehicles such as golf carts.

Pedicabs have to have a headlight and taillight, a schedule of fare rates and a warning device, with some additional details. Also, low speed vehicles have to be equipped with seat belts, head lamps and a number of other features.

Cab company owners had conflicting opinions on the new rules, and one also questioned why the city hasn’t crafted regulations on ride-sharing services such as Uber or why some golf carts seem to be allowed to operate without added safety features.

“Uber’s getting a free pass. Now we have extra stuff we have to go through?” asked Dalton, who said he has taken a break from operating his cab but could return to operating in St. Augustine.

Assistant City Attorney Denise May said she believes the city’s regulations already affect services like Uber — the city can’t stop an unregistered vehicle for hire from coming in from out of town and picking someone up.

But they’re not allowed to circulate the city and look for rides, May said. However, the new ordinance isn’t intended to address Uber, she said.

The city has golf carts, pedicabs, Segway people movers, scoot coupes and other forms of transportation moving around the city.

The ordinance is in response to a request by city commissioners for action to improve safety and equipment standards for taxis, May said.

The restrictions in the proposed ordinance focus on cleaning up cabs that are registered with the city.

It’s a change that is welcomed by James Howard, owner of local company Sax Taxi, though he indicated he thinks the proposed ordinance gives too much time for aged cabs to remain in service.

Howard said “lack of professionalism” and a “lack of standards for vehicles themselves” have been an issue for the cab industry in St. Augustine.

Other proposed rules dictate that cabs will have to pass inspection by a mechanic certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence before they can operate in the city or renew the operation medallion.

The ordinance also details basic standards for a number of things, like door handles (they have to operate correctly), seat belts (they have to be in “operating condition, easily accessible, clean and free of grease and other objectionable substances”) and other vehicle components.

City Commissioner Leanna Freeman said she gets feedback from county and city residents occasionally on the condition of some taxis in St. Augustine.

“About them being old and mechanically not sound. Dirty. Smoky,” she said.

Freeman said she’s not set on a direction in the matter. She also said she believes St. Augustine fell below the average taxi standards of other cities, and she said she doesn’t think that should be the case, especially since the city attracts a large number of visitors to the area.

COMMENTS
oystercreek 06/23/16 - 08:58 am 52Super sketchy
The cabs in this town are a joke; busted old crown vics with insane drunks behind the wheel; I laugh overtime i go by Broudys liquor and the cabs are lined up at the drive thru.
They speed through my neighborhood without stopping at any stop signs like they are above the law; great opportunity for the eco cabs and Uber to take over this town

martystaug
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POINTS
martystaug 06/23/16 - 05:14 pm 20" low speed vehicles have to
" low speed vehicles have to be equipped with seat belts, head lamps and a number of other features" I assume by slow vehicles they include the tour trains. Where are their seat belts?
I know what this town needs, a Monorail, just like DisneyLand. Isn't that what they are striving for?

JoeJoe 06/24/16 - 07:35 am 20Marty, in case you haven't noticed
The world has gone insane. It is legal for adults to ride in the back of pickup trucks, but you will have to have seatbelts to ride in a golf cart. Just utter insanity.

martystaug 06/24/16 - 08:26 am 00Like Pedicabs
I actually like the pedicabs. They are quiet, and fun. They are less intrusive on traffic than some people claim, and I like helping some hard working young folks earn some extra cash. They are not noisy like scooters and scooter-cars. Applying restrictions to try to force everyone but taxis out of business it just wrong. If pedicabs need seatbelts, then so do the horse carriages and the tour trains.

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Local taxi drivers riled over Uber

By SHELDON GARDNER
sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
While Uber has been around for a while, the service seems to have only recently begun ruffling the feathers of local taxi cab drivers.

Uber allows someone to arrange a ride from a driver via an app on a smartphone, and the customer is directly charged for the ride on a credit card. No cash needed.

Drivers register with the company as independent contractors and pick up rides through the app. Prices are generally lower than what one would pay for a cab.

While it is unknown how much influence services like Uber have in St. Augustine, several taxi cab drivers recently complained to the City Commission.

Some are looking for officials to regulate the ridesharing service. Some said Uber drivers don’t have to play by the same rules and pay the same costs. The debate could come at the state level, too, where a bill has been filed to establish statewide criteria and preempt local control over services like Uber or Lyft.

Bob Dalton, owner of local company Bobby D’s Eco Taxi, was among the drivers who approached the commission on Monday. Dalton said he believes more Uber drivers are coming to the area, and he described overhearing people ordering an Uber ride at a local hotel.

“Uber is basically taking money out of our pockets,” Dalton said. “... That was my money that guy was taking as far as I’m concerned.”

Dalton said he pays annual fees for licensing and inspection under city regulations. He also said he pays more than $3,000 a year for insurance coverage.

Outside of insurance coverage, cab companies must pay $50 for the first car and $20 for each additional car for the business license and $50 per car for vehicle inspection, according to the city. Drivers have to pay a $25 driver-for-hire fee and $10 to renew each year after that.

If the city doesn’t regulate other services such as Uber in the same way, Dalton wondered why cab drivers should have to bother with the fees. He said he wants the city to address Uber use. He also said the city should address it sooner than a Dec. 14 workshop at City Hall.

The public workshop, which begins at 4 p.m., will also include discussion on regulating other forms of transportation, such as golf carts, pedicabs and Segway Personal Transporters, officials said.

Keith Winstead, owner of A1 Cab Co., said services like Uber charge less and incur less operating expenses and that their presence does have an impact on business for traditional cab drivers.

He also cited concerns with security.

“[Riders] don’t know who they’re jumping in the vehicle with,” he said.

Uber, which did not respond to a request for comment, requires background checks for drivers and carries insurance that covers rideshare drivers, according to the company’s website. Certain Uber services are provided by commercially licensed and insured drivers.

Also, drivers and riders can rate each other.

Though cab drivers called for local action, any rules made by the city of St. Augustine could eventually be overruled anyway.

State Rep. Matt Gaetz recently filed a bill to establish statewide standards for ridesharing companies like Uber or Lyft.

The requirements would include insurance coverage and a $5,000 annual state-issued permit, among a series of other requirements. The bill would also preempt local government control over taxing and licensing. That bill would not apply to taxi drivers.

Gaetz said he does not think local governments should be able to put “predatory ordinances” in place that would stop ride sharing in Florida and stifle entrepreneurship.

“I want Florida to be a home for innovation,” he said.

4 comments:

David Nails said...

It's the Old City. There's no reason we can't have older cabs. If they take those off the road, then they need to take off the Hearses, the Trolleys, and everything else the public rides. Instead, let's embrace the older things, keep them going and out of the landfills.

JJ said...

I am one of the local cab drivers in St Augustine and from experience, it only takes 500 days for an average cab to reach 250,000 miles and that's on a brand new car. That's 16 months. This is not Russia in the 1980's and there is a thing called free enterprise. So, unless the city places these same restrictions on every public transportation vehicles including Sunshine Bus, the Ghost Tour vehicles and all the trains, and let's not forget all the Uber drivers running gypsy cabs; then leave us alone and allow us to continue to support our families. Shutting the cabs down here will only hurt the city of St Augustine, the locals that rely on us to go to work, the businesses that rely on us to get their employees to work, and the tourists that visit our city.

Steven Ciccantelli said...

And some companies are just ignoring the rules in place.

Steven Ciccantelli said...

The compaNY behind this making the most noise for personal benefit,may want to look at its own business practices.