Council Debates Smoking, New Cab Rules
Taxi Commission to Be Formed
The City Council last night took a step towards ending the perennial controversy over the regulation of the Cambridge taxicab industry by imposing a 60-day delay on new rules that would have taken effect tonight.
On a second consecutive Monday night, about 100 drivers attended a council hearing on their objections to a series of proposed revisions in the industry's rules.
The drivers departed last week's hearing with little more than a chiding for their lack of organization. But this week, in an effort to solidify industry opposition to the regulations, the newly-formed Cambridge Taxi Association (CTA) arrived with five elected representatives and a lawyer.
And the CTA left with a 60-day guarantee that neither the council nor the License Commission will impose new rules without giving the industry a chance to help form them.
CTA counsel Beryl Cohen said the group, which was formed on Saturday, needs time to prepare bargaining positions on the regulations that satisfy all of the city's 900 taxi drivers.
The regulations, proposed by the Cambridge License Commission, would have imposed bureaucratic procedures and requirements for the cabs' condition that many drivers have called excessive. It would also create a Taxi Commission of drivers, owner/drivers, frequent taxi passengers and city officials that would mediate disputes and address complaints. A further regulation would have forbidden the creation of monopolies.
Michael Seguenza, a vocal spokesman for CTA, said the group's five-member committee hopes to work with the License Commissioners to revise the rules, and later to become a component of a Taxi Commission similar to the one already proposed.
Cohen said the drivers are willing to accept "the hard medicine" of regulations that would increase driver identification and guarantee that cabs will be available for ill-paying short trips.
But another issue awaits resolution tomorrow night, when a three-month moratorium on the sale of taxi medallions ends. The city's taxis have been under this ban since December, and Yellow Cab, the second-largest taxi company in the city, will also emerge from a special three-year ban on the sale of medallions from its fleet.
License Commissioner James T. McDavitt said last night that the latter ban was imposed to prevent Yellow Cab's owner, Arthur Goldberg, from forming an effective Cambridge monopoly by selling the fleet to Frederic Suazo, owner of Yellow Cab's chief competitor, Ambassador/Brattle Cab.
Tomorrow night, McDavitt said the License Commission will permit some medallions to change hands. However, he said he does not know whether the four-member commission will permit Goldberg to sell his medallions, either to Ambassador/Brattle or to other individuals.
In a lengthy discussion of medallion transfers, Councilor Saundra Graham charged that Goldberg had already agreed to sell his 26-cab fleet to his competitor, an allegation that he denied.
Councilor William H. Walsh criticized McDavitt for proposing in a private meeting that Goldberg give ten of his medallions to the city in return for permission to dispose of the remaining 16 as he wished. "We're asking him to make a $600,000 donation to the city," he said, noting that a taxi medallion, sold singly, can cost up to $60,000 in Cambridge.