The Taxi Link airs on WUST 1120 AM. Listen:
Just as suddenly as it was announced, registration for taxi licenses was halted. “Because so many people chose to come here tonight and create chaos to some degree, we are going to close registration,” Sharon McInnis, an official with the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said over a police cruiser’s public-address system.
McInnis’s comments were directed at a peaceful crowd of more than 200 would-be cabbies gathered outside the taxi commission’s offices in Anacostia Friday night. The driver-hopefuls were prepared to spend the night in order to be among the first in line for a hastily scheduled opening of the taxi license registrations, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. the following morning.
The commission planned on registering the first 250 in line for cabbie-classes on a “first come, first serve” basis. “When they get here on Saturday, after the 250th goes through, if that line is still out there, they’re going to have to come back next month,” taxi Chairman Ron Linton told TheFightBack during a Friday morning interview.
Linton’s actions took his fellow taxi commissioners by surprise. “As a common courtesy, you’d think he’d tell us what he’s doing,” said Commissioner Stanley Tapscott. “[We] knew not one thing about it… not one whispering word,” Commissioner Anthony Muhammad said as he stood with the crowd outside the Commission’s office Friday night. Muhammad said it was “unacceptable” to “be put in the dark on issues that should be presented… [to the] Commission.”
A number of the would-be cabbies waited with documents in hand. Their paperwork indicated they’d completed a course at the University of the District of Columbia in late 2008 or 2009, for which they said they’d paid $375. A number of driver-hopefuls, including Negussie Legesse, had a letter from UDC which stated:
“Congratulations on passing your Qualifying Exam for the Taxicab Driver Pre-License Training Course at the University of the District of Columbia. This accomplishment represents a great stride toward achieving your goal of becoming a licensed DC Taxicab Operator. It has also earned you the opportunity to register to take the District of Columbia Hacker’s Exam at the D.C. Office of Taxicabs.”
Legesse and others are upset that the commission would simply disregard what it did four years ago, when they were told they had earned the right to take the taxi-test. “We waited and something happened, they closed it,” said Legesse. “Then four years later, they just call us here and say, ‘Hey, the course you took four years ago was just disregarded.” Commission officials appeared to be unaware of the UDC class and exam.
“There is no forethought on the part of the Commission,” said The Taxi Link co-host Tony Norman. “You shouldn’t have had hundreds of [would-be] drivers out there the night before… like [a] Black Friday sale,” he said. “This is an embarrassment to the city. ”
Mechal Chame, board member of The Small Business Association of D.C. Taxicab Drivers, questioned the Commission’s push to increase the number of taxis when D.C. already has the highest number of cabs per-capita. “On top of that, there are various and numerous new taxicab and transportation services approaching right now,” said Chame. “We vehemently oppose and protest the decision of the Commission.”
After the cancellation, the Commission’s website was updated and now says, “Further information about how to obtain a Taxicab and/or Limousine Operator’s License will be posted by August 23, 2013.”