Graham Drops Scandal-Tainted D.C. Taxi Bill
Wednesday, September 30, 2009; 1:15 PM
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said today he is withdrawing his legislation to overhaul the city's taxi industry, a proposal that is at the center of an ongoing FBI investigation into alleged corruption within the industry and at City Hall.
But Graham said his decision to pull the bill has "nothing to do" with the investigation or last week's arrest of his chief of staff, Ted G. Loza. The council member, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, says he hopes to replace his initial legislation with a new strategy for limiting the number of taxicabs in the District.
In June, Graham called for either a medallion or certification system to limit the number of cabs operating in the District.
If the legislation had been enacted, the city could have created a medallion system in which taxi drivers would pay a monthly fee, like those in New York or Boston, for medallions that would allow them to operate throughout the District. Graham, whose committee has oversight over the taxi industry, had argued that the bill was needed to protect the District taxi market from too many additional taxicabs.
But in interview today with Washington Post reporter Yamiche Alcindor, Graham said he is pulling the bill because of confusion and opposition within the taxicab industry to a medallion system.
"It's one of those things where it became all about medallions, it was not helping," said Graham, who instead plans to hold a hearing next month on strategies for limiting the number of cabs. "I am going to hold a hearing so we can hear everybody's ideas."
Graham's decision comes as some City Hall insiders have speculated about whether he should remove himself from taxi issues until the FBI investigation is complete.
Loza was arrested Thursday for allegedly accepting $1,500 in bribes to try to influence legislation. The indictment says an unnamed individual -- whom sources identify as Abdulaziz Kamus, executive director of the African Resource Center -- wanted to limit the number of taxicab licenses issued by the District and create an exception for hybrid vehicles.
Graham later included the hybrid exemption in his proposed bill. But Graham, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, strongly denies that Loza pressured him to make changes to the legislation.
"Withdrawing this bill has nothing to do with the investigation and I am going to prove this by going forward with the substance of this issue," Graham said. "I think there is a real issue, under my jurisdiction, under my oversight, with a real concentration (of cabs) and I just want people to know what the issue is."