A Fare Solution

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Recent news that the city has been slow in addressing the concerns of its taxi drivers is a bothersome sign that suggests the city is not doing everything it can to help its businesses succeed.

The taxi drivers, some of whom have formed an advocacy group titled "The Berkeley Taxicab Association," have multiple complaints and say that they reached out both to City Manager Phil Kamlarz and Chief Michael Meehan of the Berkeley Police Department last October. Though members of the association have met with both Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Kriss Worthington, they have not been able to meet with the police department.

At issue is primarily enforcement of a city ordinance prohibiting non-Berkeley-registered taxi cabs from picking up passengers in the city. Though the association has asked the police to enforce this ordinance, Berkeley Police Department has claimed that they are uninvolved in any such enforcement.

We are having trouble understanding why the city would pass an ordinance but not ensure that it is actually being followed - especially if the ordinance was designed to protect Berkeley taxi drivers and their livelihoods in the first place. Why should taxi drivers be forced to subject themselves to an inefficient permitting system if they derive no benefit from it?

The city also needs to clarify its tax requirements. This year, in their annual letter detailing renewal procedures, the city stated that a new business license cost $215 per company, as it had previously. However, drivers who went to renew learned that the city is charging $215 per vehicle - the amount required by city statutes but never enforced.

It's not fair for the drivers if the city enforces one law that hurts them - levying the tax - and ignores another that helps: the Berkeley-only ordinance.

The city should either enforce all of their ordinances or not punish the taxis financially. A strike would be detrimental for everyone - it would inconvenience Berkeley residents and potentially even cost the city at least 120 jobs by allowing Oakland- or other locally-based taxi companies to fill in the resulting vacuum.

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