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Cab Abandoned at City Hall to Protest Rule Requiring Video Cameras in Portland Taxis

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An unknown Portland taxi driver, angry over a likely City Council decision to double taxi license fees paid by drivers and require them to install video cameras in their taxis, abandoned his cab at the front door of City Hall overnight Wednesday. Around midnight, the man drove his cab over the curb onto the City Hall patio, left the lights and flashers on, locked the doors and walked away, stunning curious members of the Portland Peace Encampment across 4th Avenue who looked on.

A flustered City Hall security guard told an Indymedia reporter on the scene that he was not permitted on the patio of City Hall. When the reporter replied that the security guard was sorely mistaken in his understanding of the law, the guard retorted, "Why don't you just go away?" and walked back into the building to call police.

Several minutes later, a number of Portland police officers arrived to investigate, asking onlookers if they knew the identity of the cab's owner. The officers seemed oblivious to the reason for the cab driver's action and were unaware of the proposed rule requiring video cameras in all Portland taxis by July 1, 2004. Informed of the most likely reason for the action, cab drivers' resistance to the massive fee increases and the invasion of privacy of cab drivers and their passengers, one officer commented that the driver faced towing costs for the vehicle's removal.

About 170 of the city's 650 licensed cab drivers signed a petition against the fees and presented it to the city council during the Wednesday morning council meeting where the rule change was discussed. Four of the five council members, all except Dan Saltzman, said they would vote for the new rule following some minor changes. Commissioner Randy Leonard spearheaded the new law, inspired by a similar requirement in New York City and the recent murder of Portland cab driver Grigory Rogozhnikov.

Drivers who oppose the rule say the increased fees will be a huge economic burden in a poor economy where many drivers are already struggling to make a living. They also are worried about being watched and recorded while on duty and fear that members of the public will opt for other means of transportation to avoid being taped in cabs. Commissioner Saltzman worried that people such as drunk drivers will opt to drive when they might otherwise take a cab.

The rule supposedly limits the use of the tapes to the Portland Police Bureau for use in criminal investigations, but the meaning or limitation of 'criminal investigation' remains unclear. Whether the videotapes would be accessible to agents of the Portland police or the federal Department of Homeland Security for surveillance of non-criminals remains to be seen, but the USA Patriot Act would seem to give a green light to further erosions of personal privacy through the collection of conversations held in Portland's cabs.

A sign placed in the window of the abandoned cab read, "City Turns Deaf Ear to Taxi Issues". The sign also contained an email address:  TaxiActivist@hotmail.com. An email sent by an Indymedia reporter to the email address seeking comment was not immediately returned.

A tow truck from A&B Towing arrived on the scene about 30 minutes after the cab was abandoned and towed the vehicle away. One female Portland police officer stayed on the scene for over an hour, talking with three members of the Portland Peace Encampment about topics ranging from the American war in Iraq, police overtime for working antiwar protests, police brutality, health care, and pResident Bush's upcoming visit to Portland. The officer confirmed that Bush would be in town on August 21 when she said she will be working overtime on her day off.

Great article! 07.Aug.2003 23:14

-

thanx Jayson! ... thanx Taxi-Activist Superheroista!

This is... 08.Aug.2003 01:46

James

...One of the best write-ups I've ever seen on Indymedia. Brought something I've been oblivious to to my eyes, good writing, good information and pictures to boot. Kudos.

Cameras not the only issue... 08.Aug.2003 14:20

black_robe

Fellow readers and writers,

The protest presented with this driver's actions aren't limited to just cameras in the taxis.

As a close friend of mine is one of the taxi drivers involved in the general protests, I've heard my share of the troubling issues. The PDX community doesn't seem to be fully aware of the pressures and corruption with which the city and taxi dispatching companies burden our taxi drivers.

Pockets are being lined folks, and you and your fellow Portland area citizens (you, me, the drivers) are getting ripped off. I can appreciate the generous work that Jayson (byline) has given this subject and I hope to see more!

Thanks for listening!

br

PS
It's best you get the details first-hand, so feel free to contact  taxiactivist@hotmail.com for more information or to schedule an interview.

The solution is simple: require cash-less payment 09.Aug.2003 10:39

rider

The problem: Cab drivers getting bumped off for their cash.

Solution: make the system for payment non-cash. That's what the city does with it's parking meters (those debit/credit card meters they have now). Just like for the trains and busses.....there can be machines that will sell coupons for cab rides just like we have for the busses.

Or just make the CAB COMPANIES install debit/credit machines in all the cabs.

I haven't figured out what to do about tips......they sure do rely on the tips. Maybe a lockbox like they have at 7/11s where the cashier shoots big bills down a vacuum tube into a safe.....so the till doesn't have more than X dollars in it at any given time.

There are solutions.....but these cabbies can't afford to pay these increased fees. Absurd. And besides......it keeps the money in the cab and that's the problem.

There have been 144 bank robberies in Portland so far this year. NOt only are there videos there......but there are also armed security guards (isn't there?? Maybe that's the prob)/

Whatever the solution that is used.....the cabbies should not have to pay for it! How's about Yellow Cab Co!! If they can't keep their people safe, then force them to sell their company to the employees. Harrumph!

Corruption? 10.Aug.2003 03:04

anonymous

Corruption? Pockets being lined? Why not post those details here? Or get one of the taxi drivers to do so for a first hand account. Asking us all to correspond with an email address is a little odd and uncomfortable. As far as I know posting here is pretty anonymous...

If there really is corruption, the only way to fight it is to expose it.

I parked the Cab 15.Aug.2003 15:18

Michael Davis TaxiActivist@hotmail.com

I am Michael Davis, I parked the cab on City Hall


Ok, so here's the story -

I have been trying to protest the grossly unfair rules the city has set for the taxi drivers and owners. While lobbying for new regulations I have come under attack from the company I pay for dispatch services, Green Cab.

In these attacks, ( I should say I BELIEVE Green Cab is behind them since I don't want to get sued or something), I have had my radio time cut off unfairly (four times with one permanent even though I was paid up past that time), been called a "liar and a cheat" over the air by a dispatcher, been threatened and assaulted by a driver that was a dispatcher until less than a week before, had tires slashed on my cab, and had an attempt to take my cab from me by force.

I have been organizing taxi drivers into an association called "Portland Taxi Drivers' Association". Once I got to over a hundred drivers enrolled and took possession of the taxi I was buying the problems started.

The issue is that the city regulations allow only the "taxi companies", which are really just dispatch services, to posses city permits to operate taxis. I was allowed to own a "taxi cab" but I was required to use the permit from a dispatch company to operate as a cab.

Since the dispatch companies know they are the only source for the permits they know they have owners over a barrel. The "lease" for services from a company are set so high that the only ones that make any money are the dispatch companies. The city of Portland supports this extortion by turning their deaf ears on any complaints from drivers or owners.

I asked the manager of Green Cab, Cheryl Noonan, why the lease id so high. She says a substantial portion of the lease goes to insurance. When asked how much that is she refused to say, saying it is company business. I wrote a written request for my lease charges to be itemized but it was ignored.

When I checked city regulations I found there is no requirement for a taxi owner to get insurance from the dispatch company. I called John hamilton, the city taxi supervisor over all taxis in Portland to ask about this. he told me the city attorney had ruled that we have to get insurance from the companies to make it easier for the city to keep track. This way the city only has to deal with the companies and not individual cab owners. I asked about the possibility we could supply our insurance papers to the company but he nixed that idea.

I have checked and I can get insurance of the same type (just covers the passengers, and minimum liability) for $1,800 a year. Now the lease I paid to Green Cab works out to $23,868 based on 52 weeks of a $459 per week lease. If I take $1,800 from that I still am paying $22,068. This does not seem to be a substantial amount of the lease for insurance.

I smelled a rat. Somewhere the regulations and those that enforce them were not working in the interest of fairness. As I dug deeper and found more injustices, I wrote letters to educate those that have an interest in good taxi service to alert them of the economics of the taxi business and how this affects the quality of service.

The fact is that it is very hard to make a living driving a cab in Portland. There is plenty of business but the, by far, largest portion of the money goes to the cab companies for the dispatch services and insurance. When I drove a cab in San Diego, which is much larger and has much more business, I paid $482 for a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week lease on a cab. I was NOT responsible for maintenance. I took home around $35,000 a year there.

When you cannot make a living at driving a cab then you find that most of those that drive a cab have some other reason for doing it. I knew, (just in Green Cab) drug dealers, pimps and panders as well as those that had no problems with cheating customers in other ways. I was trying to improve the quality of service by making taxi driving pay a respectable income through fair lease prices and better marketing while forming an association that could offer group rates for various insurance plans as well as other benefits.

What happened was I got run out of the business with strong arm tactics that border on Mafia type tactics while City officials looked the other way. I have been told by those that have been driving cab here longer than I that this is common practice against those that try to buck the system.

I believe that there is something fishy about how this system is allowed to continue when the City knows, through many protests and lobbying efforts, about the issues.

Michael Davis


Lease Ripoffs 31.Mar.2005 17:08

conspiracynut84 conspiracynut84@netzero.com

I used to drive for both Broadway and Radio, and I agree completely that the drivers are getting ripped off. I left Portland in 2001, just before 9-11 and moved to Phoenix. Here the cab business is wide open. I drive for Discount Cab, the largest company in the Valley. At Discount Cab a 24 hour lease is $112 a day or $540 a week. Owner ops are paying $420 a week.

In Phoenix, the cab business is booming. While I was used to sitting for long periods between calls, here my wheels are constantly moving. Also, the taxi business is wide open here. Anyone can start a cab business. The only requirements are that you have a certified meter and liability insurance. There are no required permits or fees. It is not even necessary to have a city business license. As to insurance running around $1,800 a year, that seems pretty low, even though this comment was posted two years ago. I recently considered putting on my own cab and I was quoted $1,000 to $1,500 a month.

MICHAEL AMADO CEDENO IS DEAF. 25.Feb.2006 17:13

MICHAEL AMADO CEDENO IS DEAF. ced_12281988@yahoo.com

hello, people! i am 18 age. my test driver, not yet. i'm in. i want taxi job. i wish........i'm deaf taxi! ha!ha! i'm goofy off! heh..........? please, you send me? you dont my e-mail! from mr. m.c.'s house in north miami.