About the Author
Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Spelman looks for flexibility as taxi agreements head to finish line
The Council moved closer Thursday to extending the franchise agreements for
The Council voted 6-1 to move the franchise renewal process forward, with Spelman the only member voting against the measure. He hopes to make some changes before the final vote, set for May 27.
Spelman questioned city staff over how far officials could go if presented with negative information about a franchise and also suggested that the data the city collects about its cab firms is incomplete.
He asked what “performance measures” the city used to evaluate its franchisees.
Spillar asked Transportation Regulatory Manager Morris Poe to brief Spelman on current regulations, which he said number about 100. Poe pointed out some of the requirements, including those that franchises operate 24/7 and 40 percent of each franchise’s drivers be owner-operators. He also said they reviewed refusal of service issues, meter rate compliance, vehicle conditions, and whether or not a firm was up-to-date on its fee schedule.
Spelman responded with a brief about how
He asked Poe if the City of
Spelman summed up his case, saying “My concern about this particular decision before us is that we’re locking ourselves into a five-year program where nothing substantial would change.”
He emphasized his point by asking the city legal staff, “If we were to, over the course of the five-year period, develop some more effective means that was practical from our point of view for determining the extent to which the franchise holders were providing good customer service…would we have the legal authority to add this to our franchise agreement?”
The law department’s Gregory Miller told him that he believed that “as a general matter, we could frame some standards and put them in the code in such a way that wouldn’t constitute a substantial change,” he said. However, Miller said he was unsure whether the city could make substantial changes, such as cutting a franchise’s cabs.
The question of just how much the city can change the franchise agreements within the law has been at the center of the extension debate. Though the extensions would bring each of the three franchise agreements to a 2015 expiration, officials are planning for a detailed report about taxi service that could be ready in two years.
Spelman said he was optimistic that he would be able to work out an agreement that was better that what was currently on the table before the items come back to Council for a third and final read on May 27.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike
That resolution directed City Manager Marc Ott and the Urban Transportation Commission to work with stakeholders and make recommendations on a host of issues. These eventually grew to include broad questions about the franchise agreements and driver pay.
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