Taxi chair agrees to town hall


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The Taxi Link airs Sat. 7-8 pm on WUST 1120 AM. Listen here: 

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D.C. taxi chair Ron Linton has agreed to do a town hall with The Taxi Link (details below). “I appreciate this opportunity,” Linton said. “I’m really looking forward to [it] and I hope there’s a good turnout.” Linton is attending Wednesday’s town hall despite concerns over The Taxi Link’s recent show focusing on the complaint process against drivers, an issue that’s sure to come up. 

Driver safety is another topic that’s likely to be raised, particularly after last month’s murder of Solomon Okoroh, a 57-year-old father of five. Despite financial challenges, the Okoroh family has finalized funeral arrangements (details below). The city of Glenarden has assisted the family by donating space for the services.

Solomon Okoroh “would pick up any passenger… [at] any time of the day,” said Evelyn Ruiz, owner of Classic Cab, the company for which Okoroh drove for fifteen years. Since her friend’s murder, Ruiz has spoken out forcefully on the issue of driver safety and challenged the notion that cabbies are biased if they don’t pick up all passengers at all times. She’s weighed in on this contentious subject despite the fact that “English is not my first language.”

“Drivers pick up complete strangers at all times,” Ruiz previously told The Taxi Link. “They are just hoping and praying that all fares that they pick up are legitimate passengers. They go out on the street to make money. These drivers do not discriminate. They are not biased. They are not racist. When they see a passenger, they pick [them] up. However, there are some times that their gut says that this is not a good fare, it’s not a legitimate fare.”

Leading the way in portraying cabbies as discriminatory is WUSA 9’s Russ Ptacek. He’s conducted a series of sting operations which purport to show that D.C. cabbies pass by 25 percent of black passengers and half of all disabled passengers. While the stings are high in shock value, The Taxi Link questions whether Ptacek is placing a greater emphasis on obtaining dramatic footage over objective data.

In a recent tweet to the Paralyzed Veterans of America and two others, Ptacek wrote, “looking for a war vet who uses a service dog to help us test cabs.  can you help?” If such an individual were denied a cab, it would almost certainly make for compelling video. What’s less clear, however, is the objectivity of such an approach.

In response to The Taxi Link, Ptacek replied over Twitter, “next time you refer to my reporting as ‘reporting’ it’d be reasonable to include me, I’d think.” That’s a fair point and The Taxi Link would like to extend an invitation to Ptacek to join us on next week’s show.

Turning to Alexandria, cabbie Eyob Abay has started a petition that calls on the mayor and council to give drivers “the freedom to leave abusive, unfair companies.” Alexandria cabbies contend that, as independent contractors who own their own vehicles, they shouldn’t be required to stay with a company for two years, as the city currently requires.

“When you’re stuck to one company that company can do whatever they want,” Abay told The Taxi Link. “The only thing we’re asking [for is] basic rights, basic freedom to move from company to company.”

Elsewhere in northern Virginia, Fairfax and Prince Williams County police are investigating a series of at least six taxi robberies since December that they say are connected. The robberies have taken place in the early morning hours between 2 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. After parking, cabbies report being approached by two armed men who may be driving a stolen taxi. WTOP has posted descriptions of the six robberies.

And in Prince George’s County, protests continued outside the Gaylord, the largest hotel on the east coast. While the Gaylord provides its transportation vendor, the French multinational corporation Veolia, with prime parking directly in front of the hotel for its fleet of vehicles, taxis are forced to pay $60 a month to wait on the third floor of a parking garage, across two streets and a field from the hotel, out of sight of guests.

Cabbies say Prince George’s County police and hotel security prevented them from picking up passengers on hotel property for several hours on Wednesday. The Gaylord says that’s not so. The incident comes in the wake of the county police’s ticketing of cabbies who honked their horn in solidarity with the protests outside the Gaylord.

–  The Taxi Town Hall with chairman Ron Linton will take place Wed., July 10 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at 600 L St, NW. The discussion will be moderated by The Taxi Link co-hosts Pete Tucker and ANC commissioner Tony Norman. The event is open to the public.

–  Classic Cab Company owner Evelyn Ruiz provided the following information on Solomon Okoroh’s services. For more information or to make a donation (to date, the company has raised $1,810 for the family), contact Ms. Ruiz at (202) 399-6815.

Friday, July 19 from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. – “Service of Song and Wake Keeping” in the Gold Room of the Glenarden Municipal Center, 8600 Glenarden Parkway, Glenarden, MD 20706.

Saturday, July 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon – Viewing (9 – 10:30 a.m.), followed by the funeral service (10:30 a.m. – 12 noon) at J.B. Jenkins, 7474 Landover Road, Landover, MD 20785.

Also on Saturday: The internment will take place at Maryland National Memorial Park at 13300 Baltimore Avenue, Laurel, MD 20707. Immediately afterwards, there will be a repast back in the Gold Room of the Glenarden Municipal Center, 8600 Glenarden Parkway, Glenarden, MD 20706.

The Taxi Link airs Saturday 7-8 p.m. on WUST 1120 AM. The show is sponsored by The Small Business Association of DC Taxicab Drivers, hosted by TheFightBack’s Pete Tucker and D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B chairman Tony Norman, produced by Will Martin and engineered by Mark Taylor.

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