D.C. Council's Graham Withdraws Taxi Bill Amid FBI Probe

By Tim Craig and Yamiche alcindor
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Council member Jim Graham has withdrawn his bill to overhaul the city's taxi industry, a proposal that is at the center of an ongoing FBI investigation into alleged corruption within the industry and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.

Graham (D-Ward 1) 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, who is accused of accepting $1,500 in bribes to influence the legislation.

Instead, Graham says, he is trying to quell a furor among some cabdrivers who worry that his initial proposal could lead to a medallion system in which drivers would pay a monthly fee to operate in the District.

"It's one of those things where it became all about medallions," said Graham, chairman of the committee on Public Works and Transportation. "It was not helpful."

Despite Graham's decision to pull the bill, some District taxicab operators are stepping up public protests against the legislation, as well their continued opposition to the new metered fare system.

Some District taxi operators say they will refuse to pick up passengers in Adams Morgan on Saturdays and Sundays in the early morning to illustrate their concerns.

"The city wants to take the right of ownership from us, and we want to get people's attention and let people know that this is our livelihood," said Ali Tahmaseb, chairman of the Dominion of Cab Drivers.

The protest organizers said that on Saturday and Sunday between 1 and 4 a.m., taxis will not pick up customers north of U Street NW, east of Connecticut Avenue NW, south of Harvard Street NW or west of 16th Street NW.

It's unclear how many taxi drivers will participate in the protest. But John B. Porterfield, who sits on the board of the Dominion of Cab Drivers, said the drivers "can shut this town down."

"We want them to feel the power of the taxi," Porterfield said.

When it was introduced in June, Graham's proposal called for the D.C. Taxi Commission to implement either a medallion or certification system to limit the number of cabs operating in the District.

Graham argued that too many taxis were flooding District streets with too few regulations.

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