The Voice of DC Cab Drivers, June 19, 2011: Wells Calls Off Hearing on Medallion Bill



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[You can hear the show live, not just on the radio, but also at or on your cell phone at (712) 432-6620. The Voice of DC Cab Drivers airs Sundays from 7:00-8:00 p.m.]

Today is not only Fathers’ Day, but also Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when slavery in the state of Texas ended, 146 years ago today.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who chairs the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, has decided not to hold a hearing on the controversial taxicab medallion bill before the D.C. Council’s summer recess.

[Tommy Wells]

Later in the program we’ll play my full extended interview with Mr. Wells from Wednesday. Then we’ll get a response from Haimanot Bizuayehu, board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers.

Appearing on NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt on NewsChannel8 this past Monday, At-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson described the medallion bill as “an awful proposal” that amounts to “a form of corporate welfare.” Mendelson said of his colleagues who are pushing for medallions, “I think they’re doing favors for lobbyists.”

[Phil Mendelson]

The medallion bill was introduced by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, At-large Councilmember Michael Brown and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, and it was co-sponsored by Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander.

In the District of Columbia, the most local elected body is the Advisory Neighborhood Commission or ANC. According to the D.C. Code, “each advisory neighborhood commission may advise the District government on matters of public policy.”

Monday evening, the Transportation Committee of ANC 1B unanimously approved a resolution in opposition to the taxicab medallion system. The resolution reads, in part:

“WHEREAS: The present number of taxicabs in the District of Columbia is over 9,000, the proposed medallion system would place an arbitrary cap on the number of taxicabs at 4,000, this restricts the supply and creates barriers to competition; and

“WHEREAS: The District of Columbia Chief Financial Officer’s Office studied in 2010 how the taxicab medallion system worked in other major cities and the study concluded that the system would result in windfall profits for a small group of people, an overall decline in service with longer waits and higher fares, [and] create a system more amenable to corruption in the District of Columbia.”

At Monday’s meeting, ANC 1B Commissioner Tony Norman described the medallion bill as an effort to “create a monopolistic system controlled by bigger companies [which] squeeze out the independent cab drivers.”

[Tony Norman]

Eric Fidler is chair of the ANC 1B Transportation Committee and also writes for the popular blog Greater Greater Washington. Fidler described the medallion bill as “something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

[Eric Fidler]

Several drivers attended Monday’s meeting, including Negede Abebe, chair of Grand and Travelers Cab Companies, and a board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers.

[Negede Abebe]

The ANC 1B Transportation Committee unanimously voted to approve a resolution in opposition to the medallion legislation. The full ANC is scheduled to vote on the resolution at their July meeting.

ANC 1B appears to be following the lead of one of D.C.’s oldest civic associations which unanimously passed a similar resolution. The Pleasant Plains Civic Association is bounded by “Florida Ave. on the south, Spring Rd. on the north, Georgia Ave. on the east and 14th St. on the west.”

Commissioner Tony Norman explained the significance of the votes of both the Pleasant Plains Civic Association, as well as the Transportation Committee of ANC 1B.

[Tony Norman]

The Voice of DC Cab Drivers is brought to you by Dominion of Cab Drivers, a member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers. The Small Business Association consists of Allied, Ambassador, Black Pearl, Camel, DC Professional Taxicab Drivers’ Association, Dominion, Grand, Luxury, Pleasant, Seasons, Swift, Travelers, UCC, Washingtonian, Welcome, and Wonder Cab.

This week The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers will be distributing fliers of the Sunday, May 22 Washington Post lead editorial entitled “Taxi trouble.” Here, the editorial is read by the following drivers: Akinola Adetayo, Harry, Muhammad, Pete Harman, Muhammad Aqueel and Ali

[Washington Post editorial]

If you’d like to help keep The Voice of DC Cab Drivers on the air you can make a check out to WUST and drop it off at any of the driver-owned companies that make up The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers.

Next week on The Voice of DC Cab Drivers we’ll hear from Brian Tierney, a local freelance labor journalist whose work can be found at Subterranean Dispatches. Tierney’s most recent article, published at Common Dreams and Counterpunch, is entitled “Taxicab Takeover: D.C. Drivers Organize to Defend Jobs.” This week I’ll be interviewing Tierney and posting it to and we’ll air the interview next Sunday here on WUST 1120 AM.

For listeners who speak Amharic there’s a popular telephone conference from 9:00-11:00 p.m. every Saturday night. The Amharic phone conference covers the latest issues facing D.C. taxicab drivers. The number for the conference is (712) 432-3100 and the code is 140 465.

The D.C. Taxicab Commission is scheduled to meet this Wednesday, June 22 at 10:00 a.m. The address for the meeting has changed several times. According to the DCTC website Wednesday’s meeting will be held at the U.S. Park Police at 1901 Anacostia Drive, SE (Anacostia Park), on the second floor in the auditorium.

We now turn to my extended interview with Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, chair of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, to which the medallion bill has been referred. Overlooking 14th street from his fourth floor office in the John A. Wilson Building, Mr. Wells discussed the controversial medallion bill and laid out the types of reforms to the taxicab industry that he is looking to advance.

[Tommy Wells]

I’m joined in studio by Haimanot Bizuayehu, chair of UVC and a board member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers…

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