Cabbie Bill Wright was chuckling heartily by the time a telephone caller finished reading him a recent press release headlined "Surprised by Hacks."
"Art Fletcher, Republican candidate for mayor, today expressed his surprise over the cab drivers endorsement of his opponent (Democrat Marion Barry)," the release read.
Fletcher stated, 'But when I become mayor of Washington D.C., I intend on keeping my promises I gave to individual cab drivers and to the cab association.
"'I am committed to dividing Zone 1 into two zones,' Fletcher reported, 'and I will see to it that when I am mayor for the first time a cab driver will be appointed to the Hack Board (Hacker's License Appeal Board) as I have promised.'"
Wright, vice president of Capitol Cab Cooperative Association and president of the Taxicab Industry Group, shared his mirth. "Mayor Washington put a cab driver on the Hack Board seven or eight years ago, so Fletcher's a little behind on that," Wright said. "I don't know who he's getting his information from. I'm the vice chairman of the Hack Board."
As for the change in zones, which would get rid of the 85-cent trips now possible in some parts of the central city and make the cost $1.10, "It isn't one of those things that's a life or death thing," Wright said.
Moreover, Wright added, "The mayor doesn't have anything to do with that. You have to deal with the Public Service Commission."
The Hack Board hears appeals for cab drivers' licenses. It is composed of 17 members, including representatives of the industry, lawyers and citizens. Only five of its 17 members, acting on a rotating basis, sit during any single session. Although eight slots are reserved for driving, only four are filled.
John Wilks, Fletcher's campaign chairman, said the whole purpose of sending out the press release was to go over the heads of the taxi drivers' group leadership, which had voted to endorse Barry. Fletcher wanted to let the rank and file know where he stood, Wilks said.
When informed that there were already cab drivers on the Hacker's License Appeal Board, Wilks responded, "I don't think that is the board he (Fletcher) was talking about."
A little later, the campaign press spokesman said that that was indeed the board Fletcher was talking about, but here was his real intention:
"Presently, there are three cab drivers on the appeals board. What was meant is that he wants to raise it by one to make it four, so that half the members of the appeals board are cab drivers."
But, asked a questioner, aren't there really 17 members on the board?
Time out. The spokesman will check. Another call back, a few minutes later. The same spokesman speaks:
"Right, there are 16 members plus the chairman. He wants the full complement of eight drivers (allowed by law. They have not had a full complement of eight. They would have half the board." So Fletcher would appoint four more drivers.
What good would that do, the questioner continues, since only five of the board members can sit during any single session and only one of those can be a driver? Why bother to simply increase the number of the cab drivers in the pool?
Time out again, and this time, there was no call back.
Bill and Sara C, a young Northwest Washington couple, moved from their co-op apartment on Cathedral Avenue in Precinct 28 recently, and on Sept. 12 filled out forms to change their registration to accommodate their new address on Brandywine Street.
They received their new voter registration cards in the mail Saturday. He was informed that he should vote at Precinct 52, St. John's College High School at 27th and Military Road NW. His wife was told to vote at Precinct 31. St. Columbus Episcopal Church, 42nd and Albemarle Street, about two miles and three precincts away.
They were baffled.
"That's a plain error," Mary Hodgers, of the elections board, explained when told of the situation. Some employe at the board probably read the wrong number of the precinct map, she said.
How often does this sort of thing happen?
"More often than we'd like," she said, "But not very often."
Several months back, when lawyers Gary Myers and Curtis R. Smothers were representing former D.C. Department of Human Resources Director Joseph P. Yeldell, there was ripe talk in some Washington circles that both men might try careers in politics.
Lo and Behold Myers ran for a Virginia House of Degegates seat from Alexandria last year and scored a major upset by defeating veteran Democrat Jim Thomson. Politics got so good that Myers left the law firm.
And what of Curt Smothers?
Well, he's still in the District and still in the law firm, but he's also involved in Republican Arthur A. Fletcher's campaign for mayor of the District of Columbia, and give a fundraiser for Fletcher just this weekend.
Smothers is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Nixon administration and a longtime Republican. So what's he up to politically?
"Not a thing. Not a thing," he says. "I am just trying to make this law firm work, and I've tried to stay a bit active in the party. I just think we, as black people, have got to have some alternatives to Democrats in this city."