Tisbury taxicab drivers propose revised regulations
In response to protests two weeks ago from taxicab company owners and drivers that the town's new regulations are too strict, Tisbury selectmen held a public hearing about taxi driver licensing regulations Tuesday.
Attorney Daniel Larkosh of the Edgartown firm of Larkosh and Jackson, representing AAA Taxi, Able Taxi and Tisbury Taxi, presented the selectmen with proposed regulations he said were drafted from criteria submitted by taxi drivers. He assured the selectmen they reflected the Tisbury police department's and town's concerns about focusing on public safety.
Although taxi regulations were reviewed in a hearing during a meeting last November, the selectmen did not hold a separate hearing on the driver licensing regulations. As a result, cab drivers said they were unaware that the selectmen had agreed to turn the licensing review process over to the Tisbury Police. The new rules were adopted in December 2006.
At the selectmen's meeting two weeks ago, many long-time cab drivers told the selectmen that their applications for operator's licenses were denied under the new regulations. Chief Cashin explained to the drivers and taxi company owners that under the new regulations, which called for much stricter background checks, he had no choice but to deny many of their applications.
The selectmen agreed to hold another hearing this week to address the issues with the cab company owners and drivers. In the meantime, they extended for another 21 days the licenses for those who were denied.
Tuesday, Chief Cashin said on first review of the cab drivers' revised regulations, he had reservations about a proposed point system for approving or denying licenses, particularly in regard to differentiating between a charge of operating under the influence (OUI) charge and a charge of negligent operation.
One significant difference between the new regulations and the taxicab drivers' amended version concerns section five. The current regulations state that the police department "...shall conduct an inquiry of any criminal or driver history record, which may disqualify the applicant from acquiring such license."
The cab drivers are proposing that an applicant must score 14 points or fewer to meet minimum requirements, in order to qualify for a taxicab operator license. Under the proposed point system, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs would be assigned up to 15 points (if within the last two years), while negligent operation of a motor vehicle would be assigned up to 12 points (if within the last two years).
"I would not separate an OUI from negligent operation," Chief Cashin said. "A well known plea bargain is to go from a OUI to negligent operation. I would include any type of recklessness or OUI, on or off duty."
Selectman Tom Pachico remained quiet during this week's hearing, except to comment that the point system might work. He did not announce that he had recused himself from the selectmen's review of the new rules. Mr. Pachico made public, during the meeting two weeks ago, that his son drives a cab.
Under the existing licensing regulations, that is, the rules that were adopted in December, Chief Cashin told The Times yesterday, Mr. Pachico's son would have been denied his taxi driver's license. But, the chief said, he had renewed his license before the new regulations went into effect in early April. Chief Cashin said that the existing regulations do not preclude those who are denied licenses from applying again the next year.
In a follow-up phone call yesterday, Chief Cashin said that in comparing the existing regulations and ones proposed by the taxi drivers, "There are some things I'm not willing to give up."
As one example, "If a person has been a thief, arrested or convicted of petty larceny, that says something about his character," he said. "I expect people to be treated honestly and fairly when they get into a cab, and I don't think that's indicated when you have a history of stealing or behaving in a disreputable manner." He would also weigh charges of physical violence very carefully, he said.
"There have to be standards set out of interest for public safety, and I don't believe they can regulate themselves," he said yesterday. "There needs to be some oversight on the part of the town.
Chief Cashin said he welcomes the public's opinion on the regulations and encourages townspeople to attend the selectmen's meetings and speak up. "Ultimately, they are the ones we're trying to serve and protect - I'm interested in every perspective I can get," he said.
The selectmen concluded Tuesday's hearing by agreeing to extend a grace period to the taxi drivers' licenses for another two weeks. Mr. Pachico participated in the vote to approve the grace period. In the meantime, Chief Cashin said he will reevaluate all of the license applications using the taxi drivers' proposed new regulations and see what can be worked out for discussion at the selectmen's meeting on June 12.