Sunday, June 24, 2012

“Call Me A Cab.” Here’s Another Fine Mess We’re Getting Into

The 1930 Laurel & Hardy film, “Another Fine Mess” contains a funny scene where Oliver Hardy, posing as the Lord of the Manor of a mansion they have entered illegally calls to a slightly tipsy Stan Laurel, dressed in drag as the manor’s maid and says to Stan, “Call me a cab.” Stan looks him square in the eye and says, “Okay, you’re a cab.”

One of many funny moments in the film, but also shows how we have long taken for granted that if we need transportation somewhere, we just pick up the phone, call the local Taxi Cab company and very soon, a Taxi is waiting at our door to take us where requested for a small fee.

Those days are in danger of ending soon, if some in our city and the bully to our south, Portland, Oregon get their way. On June 19, 2012 I was copied the following email to some of our elected officials,
“We at Clark County Cab Svcs. along with our Portland based competitors were called to a meeting with Vancouver City staff to discuss the Taxi Ordinance on Thursday. City staff is recommending to Council to pass the taxi industry off to Portland to run and enforce via an inter-local agreement. We have a HUGE problem with this and quite frankly this may be the Straw that breaks our backs as well as a double handed slap in the face from our own city. Radio Cab and Broadway both voiced that they highly doubt Portland will be able to do this in a way that is good for Vancouver Drivers or Owners given their own enforcement issues. According to Rae Miles President of Broadway Cab, Portland can’t even handle its own enforcement issues and doesn’t understand why Portland would even agree to this given their own problems. All payments, fees and revenue from our industry will go to Portland. In addition to the money taken in for licenses and certificates the City of Vancouver will pay an additional $9000.00 to Portland for legal and enforcement that will never happen. Where is that $9000.00 coming from? Given the increase of an aging population over the next 25 years and the projections for senior transportation needs along with general growth in the community, wouldn’t it make more sense to create a program and system that works for our City by our City? The City created an Ordinance and system in haste and without any forward thinking in an effort to get one lady off of their backs who isn’t even in business anymore and we are now left to deal with the aftermath. We have suggested several times as has Broadway to create fees that would allow the program to pay for itself but fell on deaf ears and now here we are. My Business is in Vancouver Washington and the money I pay to run and have my business in Washington should stay here. Period! I'm not located in Oregon, nor do I take business from Oregon therefore I should not Pay Oregon to operate in Washington!!!!! Other options open are streamlining the ordinance or repeal it all together. City Staff doesn’t want to deal with the Taxi industry anymore and are pushing for the Portland Option.”

Shannon Stewart
Clark County Cab Svcs
Vancouver, Washington
A subsequent email copied to me on June 20, 2012, sent to city staff as well as members of the city council that goes into much greater detail regarding Portland regulating our taxi companies can be read here.

At issue is a Memorandum to be taken before City Council Workshop June 25, 2012 with the stated objective of, “Obtain City Council direction to staff regarding continuing the Vehicle for Hire Commission suspension, repealing the Vehicles for Hire Ordinance or pursuing another option.” That “other option?”

Yes, you read that right. If sources are correct, this is the “preferred option,” placing more of Vancouver under the control of Portland, Oregon. Instead of seeking a workable solution to what is largely a non-existent problem with our small local cab companies, who comply with all state regulations on their own, we see city staff favoring choking them out for the larger Portland monopoly cab companies who do not adhere to our local ordinance or pay any revenues to our city.

Unlike large megalopolis cities, we remain a fairly small community resting in a gray area between the states of Washington and Oregon, neither of whom seem to pay much notice to us other than when they want our votes or money. Portland, although just across the Columbia River, is in a different state with different laws, ordinances and a tax hungry city leadership who sees Vancouver as a source of revenue and one they do not need to serve in any way, just suck up revenues from our local economy to feed theirs.

Since we are a smaller community, we do not have set taxi stands around the city nor do we have taxi cabs freely roaming the city awaiting being flagged down by fares. That is just not the market in a smaller community, ours or any other. Yet a few years ago, our local cab companies saw their insurance rates increase to some three times the state required minimum, as would be necessary for the larger cities that do have taxi stands.

We must wonder why, given how we are always hearing from elected officials of working to improve our local economy, local cab companies are held second to Portland’s monopoly cab companies who at best maintain dual permits for Vancouver and Portland and may claim small offices in Vancouver, choking out local companies on our side of the Columbia River.

Past reviews of Portland’s regulating their taxi cabs shows the intent is more to protect cab company profits over protecting consumers. You may read more on Portland’s stand on their taxi companies from 1998 here and from 2012 here.

Given Portland’s proclivity to protect the monopoly cabs in their city, would they even give Vancouver cab companies any fair shake at all? I find it highly doubtful.

But even more importantly, why should any Vancouver, Washington business, set up to operate solely in Vancouver and Clark County have to answer to Portland, Oregon or travel to Portland just to operate within their own community?

City Council has not made any decision on this yet, but we often see them following the recommendations given them by staff. It remains to be seen just how it will be presented at the June 25, 2012 workshop.

But, given that we are not a subdivision of Portland, Oregon and are even in a completely separate and sovereign state, any recommendation of placing any Vancouver business under the control of Portland, Oregon must be defeated, if we are to remain a separate city with our own individual identity.

We need to cut the political umbilical cord to Portland, not strive to be even more dependent on a large out of state bully city who only sees across the river for untapped revenue to be taken, giving no services in return.

Laurel & Hardy gave us a laugh with the “call me a cab” line.

City staff seems more intent on giving us heartburn while we watch local business dry up.

I urge you all to review this memorandum, contact city council members and most of all, let’s rely on our own Vancouver Cab Company.


Storm'n Norm'n said...

If I wanted a Taxi operator's license in Vancouver would I have to go to Portland to apply

Sorry if I'm confused...just read thru this rather fast and it appears to be some hanky panky going on between the politicians from both cities...

LewWaters said...

You guessed right, Norm. This is just the latest effort to have Vancouver, Washington succumb to Portland, Oregon rule.

ketz said...

We need to cut the governmental umbilical cable to Beaverton, not endeavor to be even more reliant on a huge out of condition intimidate town who only recognizes across the stream for low compertition income to be taken, providing no solutions in come back.

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