Spokane has decided that its taxi drivers are slobs.

Officials in the eastern Washington city have been worried about growing public complaints about the manners and appearance of many of the roughly 150 for-hire drivers on its streets.

A few days ago, the City Council came up with a controversial solution: a strict dress code for drivers. No more wearing shoes without socks, cutoff shorts or mesh muscle shirts. Even long and often unruly "mullet" hairstyles are being frowned upon.

The ordinance is part of a broad crackdown on drivers of cabs, limousines and airport shuttle vans in Spokane that is an attempt to improve hygiene and safety in the vehicles. Drivers also will be subject to mandatory drug tests and more safety inspections. In two years, they will be forced even to trade in some old clunkers for models no more than 10 years old

And if any are caught flouting the new grooming rules, they will face fines.

Some cab drivers are scoffing at the edict, and warning that it could increase fares, but city leaders say higher standards are long overdue. So many cab drivers appear to be so dirty or disheveled, they say, the city's image is suffering.

"The problem could get worse if we didn't take some action," said Rob Higgins, president of Spokane's city council.

- -- Rene Sanchez

If the Spokane City Council has its way, cab driver Ralph Pryor will be subject to dress and grooming standards and soon will have to trade in his 1982 Chevrolet Caprice.