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June 18, 2012

Taxi Flap and the Race for Governor

Jill King

The City of Frederick aldermen are at it again. They are clueless that this is 2012, that people are either honest or not, and why regulating corporate entities, in this case the taxicab industry, is a burden on taxpayers.


The city’s Taxicab Commission was developed in the mid 1960s, providing safety measures for the consumer. In 1976, the regulations came to include a fixed rate for all cabs that operate inside the City of Frederick. The so-called reasoning was to prevent price gouging. The city also caps the number of cabs available to one license per every 1,000 city residents.


Since this time, there have been only three cab companies that have obtained permitting to operate within city limits, along with gypsy cabs that are completely unregulated.


A few weeks ago, after attending the city’s budget meeting, I spoke to Blaine Young, co-owner of Yellow Cab, about the upcoming Taxicab Commission meeting. He expressed his concerns and admitted that he would not be attending; he chose to email the alderman instead.


Mr. Young would like to offer discounted rates for the elderly, military enlistees, or those who use his services regularly. If a customer would regularly ride to work, or use one of his services regularly, he could not charge a weekly rate, for instance.


Frederick City’s code disallows this marketing strategy; he is only permitted to charge a city start rate and per mile rate, subjected to the last increase imposed by the city.


Mr. Young’s marketability is honorable, accessing all lines of communication available to the public. Bowie Cab and Frederick Cab have very little online information, in this age of smart phones and Internet access. It is marketing that can make or break a company in a business world.


Mr. Young is completely in agreement with the city regulating the safety issues, including vehicle inspections, background checks on drivers, and licensing.


So, why are the competitors in such an uproar over the most potentially profitable cab company, asking that they share in a fee schedule with Yellow Cab of Frederick? Or are they unaware that they can rally against the city to resume their own pricing?


Cab services in this area are in competition with tax-funded services such as TransIT, which is funded by Frederick County, and Bay Runner Shuttle, which is grant funded by the state.


Surely, anyone who is attempting to survive as a small business would not want the government funding competitors, nor raise their taxes to pay for such services.


TransIT, or a sister operation Para-TransIT, offers discounted rates for its riders, which now includes a $5 teenager rate for the summer. How can the private sector compete with tax-funded, discounted rates, when the private companies are told what fees they can charge?


TransIT is constantly moving, but with limited hours, moving on scheduled pick-ups at scheduled locations. Cabs are detailed to go to the exact destination and have ’round-the-clock services, picking up consumers in all locations in the city and county.


Although, “green” buses have replaced some of the diesel TransIT buses now running, this service does not pay for itself. Overhead includes employees with benefits, physical property, insurances, and costs for repair and replacement, among other small items, such as identity card issuance and supplies.


How is it that we have gotten lost in what the government functions of public services and needs there should be? Should the government be running a business that competes with the private sector and regulating the fees their businesses can charge?


Recently, two Democrat aldermen released to the press an email exchange with Mr. Young, who was defending his business and reacting to the Board of Aldermen’s recent decision.


The back and forth in these emails between Alderman Michael O’Connor and the quotes from Alderman Karen Young (Blaine’s father’s wife) proves that Democrats are afraid of his success, after announcing his exploratory committee for a run for governor.


In fact, if they had stopped to realize their error, much of Frederick would still be ignorant to the 30-cent-per-mile rate increase; most likely still don’t know unless they are a regular customer of one of the three cab companies operating in the city.


It gets better; the two aldermen who were quoted in The Frederick News-Post are the only aldermen not on the Taxicab Commission.


The commission has three members, Alderman Kelly Russell, Alderman Carol Krimm, and Alderman Shelley Aloi. So what advantage do the other two have responding to city business, unrelated to their functions?


After filing a recent mass email communication to the alderman, I can report that there is no set manner in which they respond to emails. This indicates to me that they are not the most business-savvy bunch, using Plato’s concept Timocracy in their leadership skills.


Watching this unfold leads me to believe that this was a failed attempt to discredit the unannounced candidate for governor, by the Democrats.


Blaine Young, also the president of the County Commissioners, has only formed his exploratory committee for the governor’s race in 2014 and they are nit-picking everything he does.


Actually, the Democrats should be scared. With the rise in taxes to support extraordinary, non-governmental regulations, Maryland citizens are looking for someone to defend their small business, not drive them to another state, or out of business. In the taxicab case, taxes fund at least one employee, the legal fees, and other related expenses, meanwhile supplying a multi-level government funded competition through tax dollars supporting the private industry’s competition.


For aldermen who are pushing for better roads, sidewalks, bike paths, and more government-funded transportation to cause wear and tear on the roads, they better start worrying about their tax base and how re-electable they are. Right now, they only look like fools going after a potential candidate for governor.


Retraining my brain for the future, conferring with my past…


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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