Local Government

Published on July 25th, 2014 | by TLV News


Public Hearing *AUGUST 5* to Discuss Taxi Laws

This article originally appeared in The Local Voice #208.
To download a PDF of this issue, click here.

If you’ve been following the news in Oxford lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about changes being made to laws governing taxi drivers and companies.

I wrote an article for TLV last month (link) outlining the discussion at the first public hearing, which was held at the Board of Aldermen meeting June 17th.

The next regular meeting was held July 1st, and the board was set to discuss the amendments to the taxi ordinances and consider voting, but with several aldermen absent, Mayor Pat Patterson decided to postpone the discussion until July 15th.

After the polite rabble-rousing at the public hearing on June 17th, the board members took into consideration many of the issues brought before them. Patterson said they all received emails. The ordinance changes were rewritten and brought up as an agenda item at the July 15th board meeting.

OxfordSealCity Attorney Pope Mallette, before reading through the rewritten law, suggested that we have another public hearing at the July 29th board meeting to give people a chance to make their voices heard if they still have issues with the changes.

With the revised law, taxi drivers will still be allowed to charge a maximum of $10 per person per trip, and they may charge an additional $2.50 per stop or trip, per person. An example of a “stop or trip” is when a passenger wants to stop at a convenience store or go through a drive-thru.

Rather than the original law change that would have required drivers to give a written receipt to each passenger, the revision only requires the driver to offer a receipt at the end of each fare. Many drivers at the public hearing in June stated they didn’t think many passengers would take them up on the offer; they’re probably right, but they also said they wouldn’t have a problem giving a receipt to anyone who did ask. Receipts may be a hassle for drivers, but it’s much less so when it’s not a requirement to stop and fill one out for everyone.

With the new law, all taxis will have to permanently display a 5”x8” interior sign, visible to all passengers, clearly stating the rates. A second sign, equally visible, must inform riders that their driver should offer them a receipt.

Some of the “pretty cab” laws that were on the first version of the ordinance change have been removed and simplified. Basically, the city wants the taxis to be clean and in good working order.

Alderman Jay Hughes, who spearheaded the changes to the taxi laws, said they tried to stay away from more stringent laws found in other places, such as laws governing the age of vehicles used for taxis.

To cut down on out-of-town taxis gouging prices, or doing business illegally in any form in Oxford, the city will be providing a medallion logo for each taxi with license number, to be displayed on the exterior of both sides of the vehicle, so our police force can easily determine whether or not a taxi should be in operation.

Language was added to the ordinance change allowing a passenger to ride in the front seat of a taxi only if there’s a medical necessity – such as someone who may vomit otherwise. In any other situation, for safety reasons, passengers will no longer be allowed to ride “shotgun” in taxis.

After the public hearing in June, the requirements for camera systems, located in the “Taxicab Safety Book of Standards,” became less stringent. But after the Board received information that some taxi companies may be using cut-rate or insufficient insurance, there was a section added to the ordinance outlining the type of liability insurance the companies are required to have. These policyholders will need to have a specific “Taxi Endorsement” after this law passes.

When Jay Hughes spoke at the meeting on July 15, he said there’s been lots of feedback from the public and his fellow board members, and that he’s had help from Pope Mallette getting the ordinance changes together. He reiterated that these laws are for safety, and that it’s not going to make everyone happy. But, he pointed out, “Our duty is to the safety and the image of this community and to each of y’all.” He cited “democracy at work” in the revisions made to the law change as a result of speakers at June’s public hearing. After reading the rewrite of this law, it appears the Board took into account many of the points brought up at that hearing.

Hughes says that he has spent the past few months riding in as many taxis as he could, locally and nationally, and looked at the regulations of many different cities to see what has been deemed reasonable. “Always,” he said, “the courts err on the side of public safety. The security cameras do that, and they keep…people honest. That’s what we have it there for, and the remainder of it is to protect the driver.”

Hughes finished by saying, “While this isn’t for public comment, I offer these things to say, we’ve tried to…implement many of your concerns, balance those with the complaints we’ve had, and the concerns of public safety. I welcome the comments at the next [meeting], and look forward to talking with anyone who wants to talk about this.”

Another public hearing will be held on August 5, in the upstairs courtroom of City Hall, to discuss the revisions to the ordinance change. A vote will presumably be held two weeks after that, on August 19th. Board of Aldermen meetings are open to the public.

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About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.

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