Hacks Against Fenty!

Mr. T in DC

A district taxicab.

The Washington Post has an interesting article about one group of Gray supporters and how they pitched in yesterday: cabdrivers.

The city’s roughly 6,000 taxi cabdrivers, a group made up largely of African-born immigrants, have long been upset with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) over his 2007 change from the city’s zone fare system to meters. On Tuesday, they waged what one union leader called “the fight for our very lives.”

I take cabs frequently and I can vouch for this; by this summer, drivers were inquiring about for whom I’d vote and asking if I’d like more information about their take on the race. When I discovered that many of them didn’t live in the district and thus, couldn’t vote themselves, they’d only get more vocal about their inability to do so– and my need to be educated before I cast my ballot.

While the article examines the dynamic of African immigrants focusing their ire on an African American mayor, I met several African-American cabbies who had been born and raised in D.C., who had lived in this city for six or seven decades, and they were passionately disappointed with Fenty, too.

Many of these drivers had voted for Fenty in 2006. That year, a few dozen cabbies drove Fenty voters to the polls for $150 a day, said Nathan Price, chairman of the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association.

This year, hundreds of cabdrivers offered their services to Gray for free.

Drivers even offered to turn off the meter (for that portion of the trip), if a fare wanted to go vote.  And speaking of those meters– even though they seem to tick furiously while I’m watching them, it turns out that ours are still cheaper than those in other cities, hence the ire.

This was my favorite part of the article:

The city’s taxi drivers include many Ethiopian immigrants who are politically savvy, and the rhetoric against Fenty has been fierce.

At an informal meeting of cabdrivers Monday afternoon inside a public library off of Rhode Island Avenue NE, Price called the Fenty administration’s toughening of Taxicab Commission rules part of an “economic genocide.” Others likened Fenty to political figures from their homelands.

“He’s definitely a dictator,” said Alazar Waka, 52, a cabdriver originally from southern Ethiopia who has worked in the District since 1998. “We liked him at first. He was nice. But after he took power, he changed. He’s like an African with absolute power, like [Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles] Zenawi. We know him well.”

“Economic genocide”? Ouch.

Incidentally– our new Mayor’s father drove…you guessed it…a cab.

  • JusticeforDCTaxis

    There are a number of errors and potential racial bias or xenophobia in the Post story.

    1) the story says there are 6,000 cab drivers (actually there are more like 8300)

    2) the story says cab drivers are angry over the switch to meters (actually they are angry about how they are being treated RIGHT NOW by the administration)

    3) the story says passengers were “surprised” with offers MID-WAY to take them to the polls (how often did this happen? most drivers got calls rather than made offers other than handing out flyers at some metro stops.

    4) the story states that members of the current Taxicab Commission were on the Transportation team of the Gray administration (that would be illegal!!); the problem was that a former chair of the Commission was on the team, and drivers were concerned this could lead to appointment as the Chair under the new administration.

    5) the story misquotes Ken Williams, an ally of the drivers, as saying that Gray is “the lesser of two evils.” There are 50 or so drivers who were at the event who would completely disagree that Williams has ever said that.

    Now, as for evidence of possible bias against and efforts to dismiss the taxicab drivers? Read the text closely.

    1) “a group made up largely of African-born immigrants” (does it matter where they come from? should they be dismissed because they are not native born white Americans?)

    2) “even those who don't live in the District” (does this suggest that it's ok for other people who run businesses in DC to live in Virginia or Maryland, but not the cab drivers?)

    3) “include many Ethiopian immigrants who are politically saavy” (were they wanting to say “crafty” – any effort to stereotype? – does it mean that cab drivers of other national origins are not politically astute?)

    4) “taxi lobby” (is this like Big Tobacco or the NRA? how many cab drivers have you seen walking the halls of City Council in slick suits? they don't come close to having the funds to pay for a registered lobbyist or ads)

    So why did the drivers oppose Fenty? NOT because they are opposed to the meters. They have embraced meters as they reduce conflicts with passengers.

    1) the Mayor set the mileage rate at the lowest in the country.

    2) the Mayor has denied them representation on the nine-member Commission that governs their very lives; there are supposed to be three representatives of the cab industry.

    3) the Mayor continues to claim unilateral “emergency” authority over the industry and refuses to revert complete regulatory authority back to the Commission where it belongs by local statute.

    4) the Mayor shut down the Commission last year for eight months, right when it had unanimously voted to reconvene to raise the fares to parity with surrounding counties.

    5) the Mayor has failed to address persistent harassment and abuse by the local taxi hack inspectors.

  • DC_Driver_and_Dispatcher

    Again, Justice, please speak for yourself when you discuss 'embracing meters'. Most of us still do not like them.

    I am not an immigrant. I was born in the United States. I live in the District of Columbia, AND, I vote. I am about as lilly white as they come, so, supposedly, I am one of these guys whom Fenty is supposed to favour.

    I did not vote for Fenty the first time, mostly because of the people that he kept around him, people like Karim and that hater Skinner. I also had information that he would try to get Tangherlini away from METRO. Tangherlini was known to be in favour of the meters, which we did not want. Come THIS election, I was ready to vote for ANYone BUT Fenty. To be sure, Gray has made no promises to us, but he was the only one who could beat Fenty. We knew what was going to happen to us if Fenty won.

    There were plans in the making to take the cab business out of the hands of the owner-operators, where it had been forever, and put it into the hands of a select few, thus creating a situation similar to the suburbs, where the drivers are two centimeters above slavery.

    There would have been a sharp reduction in the availability of cabs in the neighbourhoods. One of the unique things about the cab business in Washington is that those who live here use the cabs frequently. If you check with any of the three companies that provide dispatch service in the City, they will verify that they have numerous customers who ride every day, and more than a few who ride two and three times daily. I have had numerous discussions about the cab business with customers that I have picked up on the street and taken to residential neighbourhoods. These customers have told me that they ride freuquently. They go to the various neighbourhoods: Cleveland Park, Spring Valley, Georgetown, LeDroit Park, Petworth, Bloomingdale, Brentwood, Lincoln Park, Anacostia, Greenway and Congress Heights.

    We opposed Fenty because we did not want to lose control over the way that we earn our living. We did not want to have to work long hours to give most of our money to the company owner, as do the drivers in the suburbs. It might have been worse, here, as there were plans to reduce the number of cabs while keeping high the number of hack licences. Thus, your work hours would have been sharply curtailed and even dictated. You would have had to fight and/or beg for the privelege of driving a hoopty(and been liable for a summons from Police and Hack Inspectors over defects). How do I know this? I drove in the suburbs and experienced it.

    I did not leave slavery in Virginia for the freedom and opportunities in DC just to return to slavery. My ancestors in Massachusetts did not shoot at slave catchers and at the Federal Marshalls, brought in from out-of-State to accompany them (because most Marshalls sworn in Massachusetts suddenly found more important things to do when slave catchers looked them up), so that I could be reduced to slavery.

    We opposed Fenty to keep our ownership interests and to keep control over our earning of our living.

  • Bredwards

    This is some of the grass root issues in the dc taxicab industry below.

    Stop harassment and excessive tickets by DC Government and DC Taxi Commission

    Target: Dc Cab drivers

    Sponsored by: Daryl Smith 8-29-2010

    · The DC cab drivers have been subject to harassment and fines which are all under question. The DC Taxi Inspectors have made it open season on dc drivers and we want this to stop. The DC Motor Vehicle Department hearing is a kangaroo court (bounce in and bounce out). Going through inspection at DC motor vehicle has been a pain. The vehicle dmv inspectors are not only looking for safety but to see if the engine is so clean they can eat off it. This harassment at inspection station and on the streets by hack inspectors is a plan to run small cab operators out of business. District taxi drivers are the ambassador of this city, acquiring knowledge of a three state area.

    · Before meters, snow emergencies were double fares. Now there's only a increase of 25%. This may still sound like a big profit, but drivers have advocated safety issues and risk of damage to their vehicles. Drivers no longer drive in snow emergencies, so serve is reduced and the disable people can no longer get supplies such as medical and grocery.

    · This represent a major loss to the general public. This all happen when Fenty administration took away shared riding. Shared riding was good on holidays and bad weather and certain events. The administration has refused and failed to complete a rate study every two years. Furthermore, the Fenty administration is responsible for the drivers being oppressed, depressed and the people needs not addressed. In other words the meter system began at 1.50 per miles in DC and surrounding area such as Va and MD get 2 dollars per mile. Which put DC taxi drivers in poverty or (sweat shops on wheels) drivers put in longer hours to make up the difference. This put general public at risk. In December of 2009, the City Council passed a bill to remove a 19 dollar cap the Fenty administration placed on taxi cab fares in the District. Drivers had to work for free once the cap was reached and that's slavery. This entire class of workers who have been made subject to state sponsored slavery, degrading, emotional and physical torture. Which is a human rights violation. Every one has a right favorable working conditions and rights to a living standard for health and well-being of himself and his family. Mayor Fenty refused to comply with The City Council, are there no checks and balance in the District? As a result of this action drivers have suffered damages. This is what we demand.

    1. Section 825.1 of the meter bill under infraction be eliminated.

    2. Every Dc driver on the petition $30.000 US dollars.

    3. Meter rate are set at $2.25 per mile.

    4. Meter rate set $30.00 US dollars an hour.

    5. No more abuse at the dmv inspection station.

    6. No more abuse by hack inspector and define their role.

    7. Restore shared riding.

    8. New Chair of the Taxi Commission.

    9. Health insurance for Drivers.

    10. District must pay for a on and off switch for the top light

    drivers do have personal use.

    11.All District taxis have full coverage insurance.

  • billyrayedwards


    Ownership Rights in the Historical, DC Hack/Taxicab System is a major issue thats not talked about because it's the Emancipation of African American issue of Ecconomic Freedom from Slavery.

    This Subject is too deep in the first place for the DC Government to Handle, but the US Congress can, thats the issue I want to take too Capitol Hill.

    >>Peace and Love>> Billy Ray

  • http://justicefordctaxis.com Justice for DC Taxis

    DC Driver and Dispatcher (above), I have talked with hundreds of drivers, and almost every one of them says he or she likes the meters. I would count that as embracing them. Many are not happy with the KIND of meter that was chosen, but it is rare to come across a driver that feels using a meter is a bad thing per se. Of course, the rate should be set in such a way as to assure a living wage.


  • JusticeforDCTaxis

    I have talked with hundreds of drivers and without exception they say that they like using a meter. I would count that as embracing them. There are of course many who dispute what KIND of meter should be used and what constitutes a just fare that would lead to a living wage.


  • DC_Driver_and_Dispatcher

    You never talked to this driver, so I guess that I am an 'exception'. Further, it appears that you have not talked to the drivers to whom I talk every day. Most of them do not like the meter. I talk to numerous drivers at the various cab garages as well as at the Commission and in other places. Most of them do not like the meters. At the same time, most of us do understand how difficult it would be to go back to the Zone System; Congress might not allow it, for one.

    I sent an e-Mail to the address on your website that contains many of the points that I have posted here and elsewhere in reply to your contention that we have allegedly 'embraced the meters'. Did you get it , or do I need to re-send it?