The new D.C. Taxicab Commission may have to curtail its aggressive enforcement of cab regulations in the coming fiscal year due to deep cuts in the commission's budget request by a congressional subcommittee.
Yesterday at a session of one of the commission's panels, Chairman Arrington Dixon said the amount cut from the commission request was unclear but he believed it was $1.4 million and about 20 staffing positions.
"We will be in for hard times," he told the four members of the Rates and Rules panel. "It appears we have been cut to 25 staff positions and we already have 28 on board." The 28 staff positions do not include the 12 commissioners and the chairman.
A staff member of the District Appropriations Committee said financing for the commission is $1,589,000 for the fiscal year that starts in October. He said the appropriations allow for 20 staff people.
"We never considered an increase over their existing funding because no one asked us," said the staff member, who asked not to be named.
Dixon told commission members that without the increased staffing they would not be able to mount another citywide crackdown on illegal cab drivers as they did in July. Many of the cab drivers who received $500 tickets during that operation have challenged the tickets, creating a backlog of complaints for the commission's adjudication panel.
"More enforcement means more paper work and if we can't process the paper work, we will be seen as vulnerable," Dixon said.
At its meeting yesterday, the panel made no progress in determining how it would set taxicab rates. The members discussed at length the question of what sort of information taxi drivers should be required to provide and what taxi drivers should provide it. But they adjourned without reaching a resolution.
The three-hour meeting was closed to the press and public for the first hour and 20 minutes. Dixon said that panel members asked that it be closed so they could express their concerns about his leadership without the press listening.
"They had some concerns about my canceling an earlier meeting," he said. "The commissioners did not want to accept the fact that I am empowered to call and cancel meetings."
One of the those in the meeting characterized the session as part of an ongoing power struggle that has hampered the work of the commission since its first meeting in June.
Many of the meetings of the full commission or commission panels have resulted in little or no action. In one incident, two commission members ordered reporters not to report on their requests for pay for additional meetings.
Dixon, at the end of the open part of the meeting yesterday, said, "We had a very good closed door meeting and I want you to know I am listening and I hope we can move forward now on some of these issues."
District law states that, "all meetings of any department, agency, board or commission of the District government at which offical action of any kind is taken shall be open to the public. No resolution, rules, act, regulation, or other offical action shall be effective unless taken, made or enacted at such a meeting."