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Posted at 12:39 PM ET, 10/01/2009

Cabdrivers Vent Anger at Graham, Fenty

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) withdrew his taxi industry reform bill on Wednesday, but that didn't stop about 50 cabdrivers from picketing City Hall on Thursday morning.

A coalition of taxicab associations also called today for Graham's resignation.

The protestors, who gathered in Freedom Plaza across from the John A. Wilson Building, hurled insults at Graham, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and various other elected D.C. leaders.

"This is needed because [Graham's] bill was just the tip of the iceberg," said Eric Weaver, president of Dominion Cab Drivers.

Weaver said the drivers are suspicious of the D.C. Taxicab Commission and want a new fare structure. They also remain incensed that Graham had introduced legislation that might have resulted in either a medallion or certification system to limit the number of cabs operating in the District.

Graham withdrew his bill Wednesday but plans to hold a hearing later this month to gather community input on the proliferation of cabs in the city. Despite Graham's efforts, the protestors chanted, "Jim Graham, shame on you" and "Shame on you Muriel Bowser," a Democratic council member from Ward 4 who co-sponsored the bill.

The group also chanted "no more corruption" and "no more bribes," a reference to the arrest last week of Graham's chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, who is accused of accepting $1,500 in bribes to try to influence the taxi legislation.

Graham, chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, has not been charged with wrongdoing. But the D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers, the Coalition of Taxicab Drivers and the Dominion drivers issued a joint statement today calling for his resignation.

"Any legislation that comes out of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation is suspect now," said Larry Frankel of the Dominion Cab Drivers. "Graham must resign from the committee and the council."

In an interview Wednesday, Graham reiterated his stance that he's done nothing improper or unethical.

"Don't ask me to act like I am guilty of something when I am totally innocent," he said.

And the taxi drivers' frustrations extend well beyond Graham. At Thursday's rally, most of the hostility was directed at Fenty.

The protestors chanted "Leo, Leo" and "Leo Alexander." Alexander, a television reporter-turned-insurance sales executive, who has announced plans to challenge Fenty (D) in next year's primary.

But the protest was anything but a spontaneous uprising. The American Federation of Government Employees and the Take Back DC Coalition, two organizations that have been frequent Fenty critics, helped the taxi drivers organize the protest.

"We all know we have a common enemy in this city, and that would be Mayor Fenty," Weaver said.

Update: My apologies to Sulaimon Brown. In this initial post, I wrote that Leo Alexander is the only Democratic challenger to Fenty in next year's primary. But Brown, an auditor and former Fenty volunteer, called today to remind DC Wire that he's also a Democratic candidate for mayor.

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  12:39 PM ET, 10/01/2009

Categories:  Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig, Tim Craig | Tags:  Adrian M. Fenty, D.C. Taxicab Commission, Eric Weaver, Jim Graham, Larry Frankel, Leo Alexander, Muriel Bowser, Ted G. Loza

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