Taxi Cap Outcome
The majority of our time at the Council meeting today was spent discussing and amending (and re-amending, and re-re-amending) the Minneapolis taxicab ordinance.
This has been a tough issue for me. As I've outlined in a previous post, I do not believe the cap is good public policy. I think it should be gradually, carefully lifted. People who want to start a cab company in Minneapolis should be able to do so.
However, I did not vote for the Ostrow amendment today.
I should note that I have had numerous discussions just this week on this issue, with Greens, current taxicab owners and drivers, and folks who are kept out of the market in Minneapolis currently. I understand very clearly that the people currently involved in the taxi industry in Minneapolis stand to be hurt by lifting the cap.
In response to these concerns and others, my office prepared four separate amendments to the Ostrow amendment in the last three days. I knew that CMs Schiff, Hofstede, Johnson and Lilligren also had amendments they were planning to bring. I was handed several amendments while walking into the meeting this morning at 9:30am.
I have come to believe that when there's this sort of frenzied last-minute activity, it means that we perhaps have not given ourselves enough time to do our work carefully and thoughtfully. So my first attempt was to postpone the taxicab item for one cycle, or two weeks. This motion failed on a 6-6 vote.
CM Schiff then moved to reduce the fuel efficiency requirement on new cabs from the 100% that the committee had unanimously passed to 10%. Notwithstanding a letter of support from the Sierra Club and the City's own Sustainability Indicators, the Council passed this motion. I later attempted to increase the fuel efficiency percentage to 50% but was again unsuccessful in convincing my colleagues to put the environment first.
I was able to convince my colleagues to take the Institute for Justice, a libertarian lobbying organization, off of the Taxicab Task Force that we voted to set up. However, I was unable to convince them that the Task Force should study ways to make the transition away from the taxi cap easier on drivers, unionization of drivers or living wages and health care for drivers.
I voted for Council President Johnson's motion to study the impacts of the City's policy and report back to committee. I will definitely keep watching this industry to see if the predicted harms to taxi drivers materialize.
As it was, I could not vote for the Ostrow amendment. Anything that could have made this transition easier on the current drivers, many of whom I represent, had been stripped away by my colleagues. The significant environmental protections we had included in committee had been almost completely removed.
Worse, the frantic last-minute process, with its competing amendments, suspended rules and numerous confusing procedural points of order ended up creating what I believe is a pretty sloppy ordinance. For instance, it calls for all existing companies to submit documentation to the city that 110% of their fleets are fuel efficient in 2017, an impossibility. That's the kind of shoddy work we do at the last minute - work that we have to later take time to correct.
And by the way - the outstanding staff in the City Clerk's office are worked well after 5pm on a Friday afternoon to try to make sense of the mess we passed today, long after all the Council Members have left the building.
In end I was more convinced than ever that postponing our decision would have been the wise option. Next time it is suggested I hope we all, on the Council, remember this experience and consider that more carefully.