Staying at the top of the list

Cab owners debate the license waiting list
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 5:00pm

The members of the Block Island Motor Vehicles for Hire commission worked its way through a thorny issue at its most recent meeting, after an individual who had moved to the top spot of the waiting list for a new license asked if she could defer getting one of the available licenses without losing her place in line.

Island resident Shirlyne Gobern had written to the commission saying she was simply not ready to start as a taxi cab driver, but, having waited almost two decades for a license she asked if she could not lose her spot.

This put the commissioners in a tough spot, with Chair Brad Marthens repeatedly warning about setting a precedent that would lead to a situation where people could routinely turn down licenses but never lose their places in line.

Ultimately, the commissioners voted to allow Gobern a window of five days to either accept or reject the license, which she could then pick up before the deadline of June 30. This would give Gobern time to ready her taxi service if she could, but also allow the next person time to get a cab ready for the upcoming season. That person was island resident Rich Tretheway, who said he was “neutral” on what the commission did with Gobern’s request, but said if offered the available license he would be ready for the 2019 season.

There was some debate as to whether simply not being ready to take on the license was reason enough to allow a person to not accept it yet still maintain their position on the list. People have been allowed to not accept licenses in the past, but for specific reasons, such as a health issue.

“I don’t think we should set a precedent just because someone says ‘I don’t want a license,’” said Marthens.

Cab owner Champ Starr said he believed that anyone who has moved to the top of the list should be ready. If not, they should move back to the bottom of the list.

“You have the waiting list and people have been on it for 17, 18, 19 years,” said Starr. “If you’re on the list and at the top, you’re going to get a license eventually.”