Cab owners apply some heat

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 6:30pm
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There was some heckling. At a Motor Vehicles For Hire meeting.

However boisterous the crowd may have been, the issue before those in attendance was serious: Changes to local taxicab ordinances and new regulations that could impose penalties up to something as serious as having one’s license revoked.

As the members of the MVFH started the process of reviewing among themselves the changes to the regulations that had been asked for by the commission and written by Town Attorney Kathy Merolla, a few hands shot up.

“Can we get an explanation of the fines?” someone asked from the back of the room.

“What is the proposal?” asked cab owner Champ Starr.

“This has been talked about for 15 years, to be honest,” said commission Chair Brad Marthens.

“Does anyone know what’s going on,” someone else in the back said.

“Who is going to enforce this?” asked another owner, Ed McGovern. Since there were regulations about fines being imposed for clothing violations, McGovern added, “Some of these regulations — no flip flops, the clothing thing — who will enforce?”

“That’s where a complaint has to come in to the commission, to be honest,” said Marthens.

“So we can keep wearing flip-flops as long as we don’t get a complaint,” asked driver Allie McCabe.

“I can’t answer that,” said Marthens.

McCabe then asked if the attire she was wearing to the meeting, including her sneakers, was appropriate. “Is this neat enough for you?” she asked. At this point, the crowd was a little raucous.

Owner Cathy Payne asked each of the members how long they had been on the commission, with the four members who were present giving an approximation of the length of their tenures.

“Power concedes nothing without demand,” said Payne, who then repeated the phrase. “This is ridiculous, embarrassing and childlike behavior.” She then added that the commission was “wasting my time and you’re out of control,” and then left the room.

There was some concern in the audience as to how these regulations, once codified into the local ordinance, would be interpreted by future members of the commission.

“We’re depending on common sense. You guys do, but maybe not in five years from now. Can you stop this now and do it in the fall?” asked owner Sue Millikin.

“We’d have more time to think about it,” said owner Judy Clark.

It was Marthens’ turn to get a little heated. He said that these regulations had been discussed in open meetings for some time. “Not everyone is here during our meetings and then everyone shows up. We have plenty of meetings where there’s crickets,” he said.

When there were more calls to postpone the vote, Commission member Vin McAloon, who is also a cab owner, and one of two year-round drivers, asked the audience “What’s going to happen in six months?”

“We need to be careful what we put into writing. I understand the reasoning, but being penalized and to lose your license over things that are not important?” said Millikin.

“This is just defining what’s in the regulations,” said Marthens. He said some violations wouldn’t apply to the three strikes rule leading to loss of license.

“In your opinion!” several people shot back.

In the end, the board decided to approve new language for the ordinance that dealt with penalties for violations, the fines that would be imposed, and the inclusion of the loss of license language.

What was tabled until the fall was how certain regulations would be defined, such as sanitation of cabs, driver attire, presence of pets and children, how rates are displayed in the cabs and so forth.

“I really am sincere,” said McAloon after the vote. “When we have that meeting, I hope we have the same people in the audience.”

Marthens also encouraged further participation. “If not,” he said, “You’re leaving it up to us.”