D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Ron Linton adjourned the commission’s monthly meeting earlier today after about an hour as hundreds of cab drivers loudly jeered him—-the latest sign that the acrimonious relationship between taxi drivers and the city won’t be healed anytime soon.
“This is [Linton’s] attitude,” said Taxicab Commissioner Stanley Tapscott, who’s been a driver for more than 50 years. “He’s got a belligerent, nasty attitude.”
Linton called off the meeting during the lengthy public comments period, for which speakers are required to bring written testimony because, as one commissioner put, the “language barrier” can make it hard for the commission to understand the drivers.
The drivers largely spoke out against the new modernization requirements, which include mandatory dome lights and credit card readers—-and they invariably received a loud applause from the audience of cab drivers. Linton warned that if the crowd continued to react to the speakers, he would adjourn the meeting.
“This is our Dred Scott decision,” cab driver Nathan Price said to a standing ovation, implying that the expansive compliance required of cab drivers threatened to make them lesser citizens. “You’ve targeted us, it’s time for us as drivers to turn the table and target you.”
All the while, a group of cab drivers protested outside the One Judiciary Square building, rendering nearly inaudible many of the speeches inside the building. Organized by the Teamsters, cab drivers also protested before the meeting.
Later in the public comments period, Linton relayed a bad experience that a frequent rider sent to the commission. The cab, Linton said, smelled of smoke and was freezing. The audience booed, and Linton said this “may be why you have problems.” He then abruptly canceled the meeting.
Update, 2:06 p.m.: Taxicab Commission spokesman Neville Waters says the meeting was near adjournment when the chairman ended it. “I was delighted that drivers want to be engaged,” he says. “But on some level it is frustrating that they are engaging now, and not a year ago, or two years ago.”
Photo by Perry Stein