Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Ballard Administration Puts Many Muslim Taxi Cab Drivers Out Of Work

A crackdown on the City's taxi cab operators by the Ballard administration's new Department of Code Enforcement has resulted in 7 cab companies employing approximately 160 taxi cab drivers losing their licenses to operate. It is no secret that the companies being targeted by the Ballard administration are those that employ mostly immigrant Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. The Ballard administration says the action came as a result of complaints lodged by the downtown hotels that many of the drivers couldn't speak English, had trouble communicating with their patrons, which often resulted in fare disputes, and failed to keep their cabs clean. The crackdown was needed according to the administration to clean up the City's image with visitors ahead of the 2012 Super Bowl. The Star's Jason Thomas reports on the latest crackdown:

City officials on Tuesday put the brakes on seven cab companies, and more could be shut down as Mayor Greg Ballard's administration continues to review taxi licensing.

The city's Department of Code Enforcement denied the license applications for the companies after an investigation that began in June with surprise sweeps that found major violations.

Cabs were ordered off the streets -- putting about 160 drivers out of work -- until the companies show they have complied with the city's taxi code.

While the violations differed with each company, they all shared an underlying theme: not having a dispatch facility or failure to staff a dispatch facility.

The city's taxi code requires companies to have a central dispatch facility that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week . . .

The seven companies denied licenses included A-Z Airport; Broad Ripple Village Taxi; Capitol Taxi; Freedom Cab; Metro Taxi; Midwest Taxi; and Nationwide Taxi.

Ballard set out to rein in the taxi industry this winter -- creating the Department of Code Enforcement as the vehicle -- after hotel managers complained that driver miscues could threaten the convention and visitor industry that draws 2.9 million visitors to Indianapolis each year.

"We commend the city and code enforcement for cracking down on the taxi industry and ensuring each and every one of our visitors and local residents has a first class experience when using a taxi service," said Chris Gahl, spokesman for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association . . .

That revocation is part of bigger problems that came to light after the June sweep, when officials surprised taxi drivers at five Downtown hotels and the Indianapolis International Airport.

"What we started to realize as we contacted cab companies and tried to get information, there was really a lack of understanding at the highest level of what the obligations were for taxi drivers and willingness to comply," Collins said.

"No longer are we going to stand by and allow (them) not to comply," he added. "If you're willfully noncompliant, we're not going to allow you to be licensed."

Tuesday's license denial came as a surprise to Ibrahima Diallo, owner of Broad Ripple Village Taxi. He says it's unfair to expect smaller cab companies to man a dispatch center 24 hours a day, especially when some get only five calls in one day, which is what happened to Diallo's company on Sunday.

"We want to have a clean driver who speaks English and knows where he's going," said Diallo, adding that he will appeal the decision. "You don't need to know if we have an office or not."

Diallo also sympathized with the 160 drivers who will be out of work until the companies comply. They include Adan Ibrahim, who has been driving for Freedom Taxi for about eight months.

"This is not good for me," said Ibrahim, who says he helps support his mother and father. "My mom and dad need help. If I don't work, how can I help them?"

"As we prepare for the 2012 Super Bowl and hosting other major conventions and events," he added, "ensuring that we have a safe, affordable and clean taxi service is an integral component to visitors' experience" . . . .
Collins said the situation is "unfortunate," but public safety is the department's top priority.

"Those 160 cab drivers don't have the right to put 160 times "X" people at risk per day," he said.

"There is no real quality control with these individual companies," he added. "We're not going to license you until we feel your business shows some responsibility toward the passengers it serves."
During the sweep of taxi cab operators in early June, news reports indicated drivers were cited for such things as wearing sandals, having stains in their cars and failing to properly display their cab fares. After the sweeps, the City required taxi cabs to post a Bill of Rights in their cabs that gave information to patrons on who to contact with the City if they were concerned their cab driver wasn't abiding by the rules. The City also said it was considering requiring all taxi cab drivers to pass an English proficiency exam as part of their licensing requirements.

This latest action by the Ballard administration is in sharp contrast with the special accommodations the City afforded Muslim taxi cab drivers when it agreed to install foot baths at the new Indianapolis International Airport terminal in early 2007. The foot baths installed at two different bathrooms at the airport allowed the more than 100 taxi cab drivers to wash their feet three times a day as part of their daily religious ritual. That move sparked protests from many Christians, who felt it was wrong for a publicly-owned facility to make such an accommodation when Christians prayers, symbols and rituals have been banned from so much of the public sector. It will be interesting to see if U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, one of only two Muslims elected to Congress, will weigh in on a crackdown on taxi cab operators that largely impacts the Muslims community only.


M Theory said...

Sandals? Really? When it is 90+ degrees every day?

And since when do taxi's not have stains? I don't think I've ever been in a blemish free taxi.

I expect when I take a cab in a "world class" city that I'll get a driver who doesn't speak a lot of English. Isn't that the case in NYC and Chicago?

I think this is just plain mean.

indyernie said...

Sorry Mel but the city’s concerns matter.

Footwear is required in case of a fire. Sandals just won't protect the driver’s feet if an engine fire breaks out and that could put the passengers at a greater risk.

Seats can easily be covered with vinyl. Every city has the same code for taxis.

If you can't communicate with the driver then how do we know that out of town business travelers will get to meetings on time and at the right address?

Cato said...

I wonder, has Yellow funded Ballard or any of the Republicans?

This is how you win when the Republicans are in control.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Yeah, IndyErnie, those "engine fires" coming into the cab happen all the time. FYI, that was sarcasm.

I've been driving for 33 years. Still waiting for my car to catch on fire.

Sean Shepard said...

Translation: "we must deny people their right to engage in commerce because we think they are dirty or can't speak well?"

I agree with HFFT. But, then again, what is government if not mean. This is what regulations and restrictions typically do, create barriers to entry and entrench the established or well connected.

We need more competition not less. I wonder how many of the "complaints" they might have gotten came from people associated with the other cab companies in some way. People should be free to engage in commerce so long as they do not violate the rights of others.

Downtown Indy said...

Sandals are more an issue with getting stuck in/under the pedals.

dcrutch said...

With as much hutzpah (ironically), as one could possibly imagine, a mosque is to be built in the home of the Knicks, near where approximately 3,000 died to Islamic extremists. Yet, here with the corn and the beans and the Hicks- it takes a pending fiscal orgy by the all-mighty National Football League to bring Islamic taxi drivers to a temporary halt.

Anything strange about this picture?

M Theory said...

Well, I know the owners of yellow cab. Sergio lived at my house for a couple years when he was yellow cab gneral manager. I intoduced him to his business partner shortly before they bought the cab company together.

They're really nice guys and I love them both a lot. They distanced themselves from me a bit in the summer of 2007 when I targeted political activism against Peterson.

Scott, Sergio's partner, came up with the idea of partnering yellow cab on the Peace In The Streets project.

I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that today they are contributors to Ballard's campaign. They were also generous contributors to Mayor Peterson. I'm pretty sure they try to make friends with whoever runs the city since they are the largest transportation company in Indiana.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Did anyone notice the photo of the taxi cab driver for Freedom Cab that was included with the story? It included this caption: "Adan Ibrahim, a driver with Freedom Taxi, came to work Tuesday because he had not heard that the company's license had been denied because of violations of city code. He is one of about 160 drivers at seven companies who can't work there until violations are corrected."

The photo shows Adan wearing sandals as he showed up to work.

Indy4U2C said...

Indy Taxi's are a factor that travelers get of our city when they come to visit...if they have driver's falling asleep, with horrific body odor, taking "the long way", well, you judge if they want to come back.

The city has reasonable rules for taxi's: having a dispatch center is a good rule, keeping the cabs clean, mandating they accept credit cards, mandating the cabs be in safe operational condition.

I'm glad they're cracking down!!!!

However, it's not like AI to make a religious issue out of something that's not....what's up w/that? This has nothing to do with religion.

Indy4U2C said...

Oh, yeah, a cab driver should be dressed appropriately and sandals do NOT cut it!

Gary R. Welsh said...

I have no problem with them enforcing the code requirements. The complaints were largely against taxi cab services owned and operated by Muslims. I, too, had previously stated how I wouldn't use some of these taxi cab services because of the language barrier issues, high fares and the rude behavior of some of their drivers before the City even announced the crackdown. I would encourage people to use the Carey Share-A-Ride service from downtown to the airport. You get to ride in a nice, clean limo staffed with friendly drivers and meet other interesting people who are visiting the city. As for the religious issue, admittedly there is a bit of facitiousness on my part in raising it. I got bashed for saying we shouldn't install foot baths for the Muslim taxi drivers. Why not raise the question of whether there is an effort now to put them out of business because someone has decided it's not good for the city's image or for some other reason not articulated by the city as we prepare to host the Super Bowl to have so many Muslim taxi cab drivers?

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Obviously no one here has ridden in taxis in New York or Chicago or LA -- where if you get a driver fluent in English, you feel as though you've won the lottery!

Come on, Indy! If we're to be a world class city, we should act like one.

This probably has more to do with political contributions than "image".

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't know if this is still the case, but I know years ago the cabs in D.C. were not regulated. As a consequence, it was one of the cheapest cities in the country to take a cab ride because of all of the competition. Indy's ordinance is definitely written to cut out the smaller operators. You either have to go big by going deep into debt to get started or bend the rules like these smaller operators obviously chose to do in order to offer taxi service. I suspect the campaign contributions from the big taxi cab company played a part in the administration's decision since most decisions it makes are for the benefit of the people who contribute to Ballard's re-election campaign.

Blog Admin said...

It's interesting to see a mix of reactions. Some supporting the taxi, and some supporting the city.

In Indy, we are in the unusual position of relatively high taxi fairs along with no good option for public transportation. Contrast that with places like DC, which have a very good public transit system with the Metro. So anyone who doesn't want to grab a cap can more than likely use that.

Also, I'm not sure how efficiently capitalism will eliminate these companies. When I was in Chicago a few years ago with family, we took cabs a few times. We didn't do any research on cab companies. We just grabbed what was nearby. Sometimes we had drivers who knew where they were going. Other times, it seemed like it took much longer than needed. And at least once, I was told that I had to pay cash since the guy didn't take credit cards (cab drivers are required to take CC in Chicago).

I'll be honest. I don't know how I feel on this issue and, as a resident, I fortunately haven't had to deal with cabs in the city

indyernie said...

Paul some of us know what we are talking about and some (you) just want to run your mouth.
I'm the son of a taxi driver (30+ years) and fire is the reason for the shoe requirement, I remember having the conversation with my father.
The codes may be dated but they are still the code.

Unknown said...

There are 900 taxi Drivers in the city of Indianapolis and every driver knows at least 3 people, which means when the election arrives Ballard will suffor because there are at least 27000 vote that he will lose which means he will definetly lose the election of next term, and then he will be out of the city. Many people dont realize the Ballad(the meyor) is an EX soldier, he's a marines vetern want to make the city of Indianapolis like one of his militery bases. He needs to worry about more important things that the city need to over come and stop cracking down on poor immigrants who works the most dangerous job and undesirable job by many Americans. I drive a TAXI myself i have gotten robed twice with a gun point, why the city or the news did not makes a big deal out of it.Actually my case has forgotten along with many simillar cases. This is getting very old, he need to bring more jobs to the city and threat the peolpe equally with respect.

Unknown said...

I can't speak on any political considerations but I can speak about how commerce/business operates in Africa. I believe the issue is cultural.

I support strict enforment of all rules and regulations. Corruption rules in Africa. There is no enforcement of any regulations because of the corruption.

I too noticed the driver showing up for work wearing sandals. I also saw the interview with an owner stating he didn't feel as though he should have to meet current regulations.

I believe the city should positively identify every taxi driver. I also would urge an complete audit of the taxi companies found in violation of city rules. I would wager many drivers are not who they claim to be.

Before screaming racism just know I am not white; I'm black.

ketz said...

And since when do taxi's not have stains? I don't think I've ever been in a pimple no cost cab.

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