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Taxi Cab Issues Still Unsettled in City

The Alexandria City Council deferred acceptance of a task force report on the operation of taxicabs in the city when the two co- chairs said that it did not reflect the work of their group.

Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland and Councilwoman Joyce Woodson were appointed by Council to convene and work with the group 14 months ago.

“I have several concerns about this report,” Woodson said at the Nov. 26, City Council meeting. “First, the report does not accurately reflect the tone or tenor of the meetings. Second, conclusions are drawn in this report that cannot necessarily be drawn from the task force discussions. And third, this report does not address the issues that the task force was convened to address. If this report is a reflection of the work that we have done over the past year, then I have wasted my time.”

Woodson agreed that the five recommendations listed in the report were those on which the task force voted. That vote was unanimous. The group proposed a two-tier system for taxicabs in the city: one group of airport only taxicabs and another of local radio dispatched cabs. The Traffic and Parking Board approved this recommendation.

The task force also recommended that there be a system of limited certificate recalls that would allow the creation of a certificate pool. The Traffic and Parking Board rejected this recommendation.

The task force addressed the issue of disputes between drivers and the taxicab companies by recommending that cab companies be required to institute a dispute resolution procedure. The Traffic and Parking Board also approved this recommendation.

The fourth recommendation was that there be a slot for a taxicab driver on the Traffic and Parking Board. That body rejected this proposal.

Finally, the task force recommended that staff study developing a mechanism whereby long time drivers (those who have driven in the city for five years or more) be issued their own certificates. The Traffic and Parking Board rejected this proposal.

“I am completely baffled,” said Councilman David Speck. “I don’t recall a situation like this ever occurring where we have convened a task force, developed recommendations, taken them to the Traffic and Parking Board and brought them here to Council only to have the two co-chairs say that this is not their report. Somebody needs to explain to me what’s going on.”

Woodson attempted to do so, saying, “These are indeed the five recommendations that we voted on,” she said. “However, the analysis in this report and the conclusions that have been drawn from that analysis, laying out the advantages and disadvantages of each recommendation are not necessarily accurate,” she said. “Also, I submitted comments and none of those are reflected in this report. Nor have I yet to be called to discuss those comments. That is very disturbing to me.”

Mayor Kerry J. Donley asked staff to respond to Woodson’s comments. “Councilwoman Woodson raises some important issues about content and accuracy,” said Richard Baier, the city’s director of Transportation and Environmental Services. He and his staff were responsible for drafting the task force report for the city manager’s review, prior to submission to Council. “I believe that the report accurately represents the majority view of the task force. However, if Council would like us to redo the report, we are happy to do that.”

DONLEY HAD A suggestion. “Why don’t we give staff an opportunity to redo this report and to include Ms. Woodson’s comments,” he said. “Staff should also consult with Ms. Woodson and Vice Mayor Cleveland as they are preparing the report.”

The motion to defer accepting the report was approved unanimously, resulting in applause from a number of taxicab drivers who were in the audience. A group representing a number of the drivers, Alexandria United Taxicab Operators, Auto, had opposed the report. They submitted a letter to Council asking that the matter be deferred as well, to give them time to submit their own recommendations.

“You haven’t really won anything,” Donley said to the drivers who were applauding the decision to defer. “Staff is simply going to look at the report again and bring it back to us.”

There is no date for when that will happen.