WHILE VARIOUS cooperating police departments continue to pull over and arrest illegal cabdrivers, the new D.C. Taxicab Commission seems to have broken down at curbside. Chairman Arrington Dixon, who from the outset has wanted the commission to press ahead as fast as possible with long-overdue changes in the policies governing cabbies, has hit a bureaucratic roadblock: certain commission members have turned into obstructionists -- tabling almost any proposal to come across their desks. If they have any good excuses for their behavior, the public has yet to hear them; and the inaction is hurting honest cabdrivers seeking relief.
After hearing pleas from an unusual coalition of cabdrivers, union officials and a taxi company owner, the commission held a special meeting Thursday that deteriorated into a festival for petty parliamentarians and assorted attention-seekers. The final result for the day: a vote against even opening for discussion the coalition's requests for a surcharge and a new zoning map to meet costs of insurance rate increases coming Sept. 1.
A week earlier, Mr. Dixon had offered similar proposals for public airing and was turned down by a majority of the commission's five-member panel on rates and rules. At both meetings, members John Jessamy, Lucille Johnson and Joseph Becker led the balking, claiming they have not had enough time to consider the proposals -- and complaining about Chairman Dixon's attempts to lead the group. "The chairman has put us on the fast track," said Mr. Jessamy. And why not? Mr. Dixon's eagerness for results -- for quick, constructive responses to troubles that have been studied to death for years -- is precisely the most encouraging aspect of the whole new commission so far.
Mr. Becker's classiest needle of the day was directed at Mr. Dixon: "You are going to drive me out of my mind." If there was any thread to the arguments of the three members, it was a matter of their self-importance. There were even objections to the congratulatory messages sent to drivers of taxicabs found to be in "excellent" condition by hack inspectors. It seems that commission members resented the fact that these letters were signed by the chairman, without any other members' names listed.
Washington's taxicab troubles -- and the difficulties many hard-working cabbies have making ends meet -- are too acute to be ignored like this. If the commission members insist on having tantrums and collecting per-meeting stipends for doing nothing, Mayor Barry has got to move in and set his appointees straight.