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.