Chicago taxi drivers will be able to officially plead their case for a fare increase Tuesday when the city's Committee on Transportation and Public Way holds a hearing to discuss the matter.
Earlier this month, a new tiered lease rate went into effect, significantly increasing what some drivers pay to lease cabs. Some drivers cried foul, arguing they were being driven further into poverty.
In response, a contingent of cab drivers and activists demanded--through two small strikes--that the city bump the fare rate to offset the higher costs drivers will have to pay to lease cabs.
Peter Enger is secretary of United Taxidrivers Community Council, the loosely knit organization that called the strikes and has been vocal about hiking fares.
He said the group would like to see a fare hike come in the form of an increase in the per-mile and wait charges. The latter is what patrons are charged if, say, a cab is stuck in traffic and is hardly moving.
The new taxi ordinance made permanent a $1 fuel surcharge, which means the flag pull is $3.25. It's 20 cents for every 1/9 of a mile, or 20 cents for every 36 seconds--the wait time.
Enger said UTCC now wants a 33 percent increase to both the mileage and wait rates. Previously, the organization was pushing for a blanket 22 percent increase to the fare rate.
"We're happy with the flag pull, what we're lacking is the mileage and the wait time," Enger said.
It's not clear how likely a fare increase is, though, so Tuesday's meeting could very well be an attempt to temporarily placate drivers. Tom Alexander, spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel said earlier this month that a fare hike "wasn't on the table."
What's more, in June, 1st Ward Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno said he supported the idea and was going to introduce a resolution that called for a hearing much earlier on. He never did.
Matt Bailey, a Moreno spokesman, said Emanuel's people came to Moreno and told him not to bother with the resolution, since a hearing could be called in August. Bailey said Moreno is in the drivers' "corner".
And finally, 9th Ward Ald. Anthony Beale--who co-sponsored the taxi ordinance--through his press secretary has refused to say boo about the issue. He called the meeting, though
Enger said the group is still dead-set on its other demands: a moratorium to the tiered lease rate, and an investigation into claims that cab companies were allegedly hiking lease rates illegally.
A source in the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection told The Chicago Reporter that an investigative team found possible wrongdoing in a number of cases the Reporter inquired about. Those companies will now go before a disciplinary board to plead their cases.
"It's nice that they're doing that, but they're making us do their jobs," Enger said.
UTCC compiled the evidence in all those cases and submitted them to the city.
"We want a separate team that investigates these overcharges, so drivers can go directly to them. A team that's proactive," Enger said.
Community Mental Health Council closing
The well-known Community Mental Health Council, Inc. will shut its doors for good on Tuesday, following the state's decision to end funding which the clinic is almost entirely dependent on.
The Illinois Department of Human Services cited "fiscal mismanagement" as the primary factor behind its decision to end a contract with the South Side mental health clinic.
The institution was founded in 1975 and run by nationally recognized psychiatrist and violence behavior expert Dr. Carl C. Bell.
Bell claims the clinic suffered financial woes subsequent to the state's failure to make timely payments for the public services it provides.
© Community Renewal Society 2012
Tags: Anthony Beale, Chjcago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Community Mental Health, Dr. Carl C. Bell, Illinois Department of Human Services, Inc., Peter Enger, Proco "Joe" Moreno, Rahm Emanuel, taxi drivers, taxi fare hike, taxi strike, United Taxidrivers Community Council