The Voice of DC Cab Drivers, July 31, 2011: Gray Names New Taxicab Commission Chair


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[In addition to listening to The Voice of DC Cab Drivers on the radio, you can listen live at or on your phone at (712) 432-6620.]

Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray announced Ron Linton as the new chair of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. Linton replaces Dena Reed, whose three months as interim chair were marked by controversy.

Gray released a statement announcing the new Taxicab Commission chair which stated, “Ron Linton has a distinguished career in the fields of transportation and public affairs and brings the special brand of well-seasoned knowledge, communication skill and leadership that the Taxicab Commission so desperately needs at this time.

In introducing the newest member of his administration at a press conference at the John A. Wilson Building on Wednesday, Gray said, “In Ron Linton we have selected a gentleman who has absorbed more about public policy and administration than most of us will ever hope to know. He learned the ins and outs of the taxicab industry while serving as a member, vice-chair and then chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.”

We begin with Mayor Gray’s announcement on Wednesday at the John A. Wilson Building, followed by remarks by Linton, who then took questions from reporters.

[Mayor Gray and Ron Linton]

Directly following the press conference, I caught up with Linton and began by asking him his thoughts on the future of D.C. Taxicab Commission.

[Interview with Linton]

Linton replaces Dena Reed, whose tenure as interim chair lasted just three months and was marked by controversy, particularly over the arrests of two journalists – myself and Jim Epstein of Reason TV – at a public meeting of the Taxicab Commission.

Dena Reed, however, won’t be going far, but instead will continue on as general counsel for the Taxicab Commission, a position she held under former chair Leon Swain.

Under Swain, then-general counsel Reed attempted to ban Fox 5 photojournalist Jason Smith from recording a public meeting of the Taxicab Commission.

[Reed attempts to ban Fox 5]

Reed, who served for three months as interim chair, will now return to her position as general counsel.

In one of her final acts as interim chair, Reed extended the $1.00 gas fuel surcharge through November. A statement from the D.C. Taxicab Commission reads, “The fuel surcharge of one dollar ($1.00) per trip has been extended beginning 12:01 am (EST) on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 through 11:59 pm (EST) on Thursday, November 17, 2011 (unless earlier terminated by the commission), by order of the DC Taxicab Commission, Dena C. Reed, Esq., Interim Chairperson.”

In another of her final acts as interim chair, Reed published her proposed amendments to chapters 10 and 11 of Title 31, the regulatory code that governs the taxicab industry. The statement in the D.C. Register, published Friday, July 22, reads, “The Taxicab Commission hereby gives notice of its intent to issue final rules in not less than thirty (30) days after the publication of this notice in the D.C. Register.”

Reed is pushing forward with her attempted changes to Title 31 despite the fact that she cancelled the Taxicab Commission’s July meeting. What’s more, the controversial June meeting ended with no reporters and few drivers in the audience.

Even Washington Post columnist John Kelly was prevented from returning to the June meeting after he followed protesting drivers out of U.S. Park Police headquarters, where the meeting was being held.

The following day in his column, Kelly wrote, “When I tried to go back in to the meeting, a very large uniformed Park Police officer barred my way. Just following orders, he shrugged. I don’t know if there were any reporters in there while Reed and the taxicab commission finished their business. Hmm. I wonder if that’s what she wanted in the first place,” wrote Kelly.

So, despite holding a June meeting where press access was denied and cancelling the July meeting, Reed continues to move forward with proposed changes to Title 31. Some of the previous amendments Reed attempted to push through include forcing drivers to buy a new car every five years and giving further power to hack inspectors, who routinely abuse what authority they already have, according to numerous drivers.

New Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton appears to be taking a more democratic approach. Linton said, “Every rule and regulation should be subject to reopening whenever there is a problem with it.”

We now turn to a conversation on the new chair of the Taxicab Commission. Ron Linton has a long and distinguished career in public service. According to his bio at the Carmen Group, where he works, Linton “specializes in transportation and water resources… He worked on John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign and was later named director of Economic Utilization Policy at the Department of Defense.”

Continuing from his bio at the Carmen Group: “Ron [Linton] has a distinguished record in civic affairs… He is the author of the book Terracide: America’s Destruction of Her Living Environment. He has served as a visiting fellow in urban and environmental studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; has been chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; and in 1996, headed a task force on the future of Washington’s New York Avenue, a major entryway into the capital city. For 25 years he has been a reserve police officer in the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, rising to the level of assistant chief.”

Joining us on the line to discuss Ron Linton’s appointment as Taxicab Commission chair is veteran D.C. journalist Dorothy Brizill, who is executive director of DC Watch and has known Linton for many years.

And joining us in studio is Ali, a member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers and of Dominion.

[Conversation with Brizill and Ali]

This is The Voice of DC Cab Drivers, 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 the following driver-owned cab companies and associations: Allied, Ambassador, Black Pearl, Camel, DC Professional Taxicab Drivers’ Association, Dominion, Grand, Luxury, Pleasant, Seasons, Swift, Travelers, UCC, Washingtonian, Welcome, and Wonder Cab.

For those interested in becoming a member of The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers you can find out more information by visiting the offices of the driver owned companies that make up The Small Business Association, such as UCC, Luxury and Grand.

For drivers interested in staying up on the latest in the industry, you can join the Saturday night 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. phone conference which is conducted in both Amharic and English. I work with Ermias Wosenu to produce the English segment of the phone conference. You can join in each Saturday night from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. by dialing (712) 432-3100 and then entering the pass code which is 140-465.

We’re going to take a quick music break and when we return we’ll be joined by Lucinda Babers, Director of the District Department of Motor Vehicles. Tomorrow [Monday, August 1] the DMV begins a ticket amnesty program for tickets issued prior to January 1, 2010. If you have questions for Director Babers you can ask her directly by calling in at (703) 534-9878.

[Music break]

That was Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” As Democrats and Republicans fight over whether to raise the debt ceiling, amazingly there is almost no discussion in the media about the cost of war. From Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya to Pakistan, the U.S. spends approximately as much on its military as the rest of the world combined, yet somehow it’s social security and other social programs, not the Pentagon, facing harsh cuts.

This is The Voice of DC Cab Drivers, and yes we cover local issues. At the end of the program we’ll be crossing over the D.C. line into Prince George’s County to discuss the major victory drivers there won this week.

But first we speak with Lucinda Babers, Director of the District’s DMV, which begins a ticket amnesty program tomorrow, Monday, August 1. Welcome Director Babers.

[Phone conversation with Director Babers]

We finish up the program by turning to Prince George’s County, where the Taxi Workers Alliance won a major victory this week. The County Council recently passed an anti-driver bill which prohibits medallions from being issued to independent drivers.

But the anti-driver legislation, CB-3, has not yet gone into effect and independent drivers still have a chance at getting a medallion which allows them to no longer work for the handful of big companies that have a stranglehold on the county’s taxi industry.

In a July 3 op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post, Prince George’s County Councilmember Mary Lehman wrote, “This is a classic David vs. Goliath struggle… In Prince George’s County, what has stood between independent drivers and economic security is a system that is reminiscent of the sharecropper system in the Old South in which poor white and black farmers could never get ahead. While cab companies pay the county $200 per year per licensed vehicle, drivers who affiliate with those companies pay a staggering $335 per week – or about 50 percent of their earnings – to essentially rent the license from the corporate holder.”

Appearing on The Voice of DC Cab Drivers, Councilmember Lehman discussed the anti-driver legislation known as CB-3.

[Councilmember Lehman clip]

You can listen to the full interview with Councilmember Lehman at Also taking part in that phone conversation was Henock Wogderse, who is one of the lead organizers of the Prince George’s County Taxi Workers Alliance and is joining us on the line.

[Phone conversation with Henock Wogderse]

Past Shows:
Examining Taxi Issues in D.C., Prince George’s and Arlington, July 24, 2011
A Discussion on Service Animals in Cabs; Wells Removed as Chair of Transportation Committee, July 17, 2011

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