“Call Me A Cab.” Here’s Another Fine Mess We’re Getting Into

by lewwaters

The 1930 Laurel & Hardy film, “Another Fine Mess” contains a funny scene where Oliver Hardy, posing as the Lord of the Manor of a mansion they have entered illegally calls to a slightly tipsy Stan Laurel, dressed in drag as the manor’s maid and says to Stan, “Call me a cab.” Stan looks him square in the eye and says, “Okay, you’re a cab.”

One of many funny moments in the film, but also shows how we have long taken for granted that if we need transportation somewhere, we just pick up the phone, call the local Taxi Cab company and very soon, a Taxi is waiting at our door to take us where requested for a small fee.

Those days are in danger of ending soon, if some in our city and the bully to our south, Portland, Oregon get their way. On June 19, 2012 I was copied the following email to some of our elected officials,

“We at Clark County Cab Svcs. along with our Portland based competitors were called to a meeting with Vancouver City staff to discuss the Taxi Ordinance on Thursday. City staff is recommending to Council to pass the taxi industry off to Portland to run and enforce via an inter-local agreement. We have a HUGE problem with this and quite frankly this may be the Straw that breaks our backs as well as a double handed slap in the face from our own city. Radio Cab and Broadway both voiced that they highly doubt Portland will be able to do this in a way that is good for Vancouver Drivers or Owners given their own enforcement issues. According to Rae Miles President of Broadway Cab, Portland can’t even handle its own enforcement issues and doesn’t understand why Portland would even agree to this given their own problems. All payments, fees and revenue from our industry will go to Portland. In addition to the money taken in for licenses and certificates the City of Vancouver will pay an additional $9000.00 to Portland for legal and enforcement that will never happen. Where is that $9000.00 coming from? Given the increase of an aging population over the next 25 years and the projections for senior transportation needs along with general growth in the community, wouldn’t it make more sense to create a program and system that works for our City by our City? The City created an Ordinance and system in haste and without any forward thinking in an effort to get one lady off of their backs who isn’t even in business anymore and we are now left to deal with the aftermath. We have suggested several times as has Broadway to create fees that would allow the program to pay for itself but fell on deaf ears and now here we are. My Business is in Vancouver Washington and the money I pay to run and have my business in Washington should stay here. Period! I’m not located in Oregon, nor do I take business from Oregon therefore I should not Pay Oregon to operate in Washington!!!!! Other options open are streamlining the ordinance or repeal it all together. City Staff doesn’t want to deal with the Taxi industry anymore and are pushing for the Portland Option.”

Shannon Stewart
Clark County Cab Svcs
Vancouver, Washington

A subsequent email copied to me on June 20, 2012, sent to city staff as well as members of the city council that goes into much greater detail regarding Portland regulating our taxi companies can be read here.

At issue is a Memorandum to be taken before City Council Workshop June 25, 2012 with the stated objective of, “Obtain City Council direction to staff regarding continuing the Vehicle for Hire Commission suspension, repealing the Vehicles for Hire Ordinance or pursuing another option.” That “other option?”

Yes, you read that right. If sources are correct, this is the “preferred option,” placing more of Vancouver under the control of Portland, Oregon. Instead of seeking a workable solution to what is largely a non-existent problem with our small local cab companies, who comply with all state regulations on their own, we see city staff favoring choking them out for the larger Portland monopoly cab companies who do not adhere to our local ordinance or pay any revenues to our city.

Unlike large megalopolis cities, we remain a fairly small community resting in a gray area between the states of Washington and Oregon, neither of whom seem to pay much notice to us other than when they want our votes or money. Portland, although just across the Columbia River, is in a different state with different laws, ordinances and a tax hungry city leadership who sees Vancouver as a source of revenue and one they do not need to serve in any way, just suck up revenues from our local economy to feed theirs.

Since we are a smaller community, we do not have set taxi stands around the city nor do we have taxi cabs freely roaming the city awaiting being flagged down by fares. That is just not the market in a smaller community, ours or any other. Yet a few years ago, our local cab companies saw their insurance rates increase to some three times the state required minimum, as would be necessary for the larger cities that do have taxi stands.

We must wonder why, given how we are always hearing from elected officials of working to improve our local economy, local cab companies are held second to Portland’s monopoly cab companies who at best maintain dual permits for Vancouver and Portland and may claim small offices in Vancouver, choking out local companies on our side of the Columbia River.

Past reviews of Portland’s regulating their taxi cabs shows the intent is more to protect cab company profits over protecting consumers. You may read more on Portland’s stand on their taxi companies from 1998 here and from 2012 here.

Given Portland’s proclivity to protect the monopoly cabs in their city, would they even give Vancouver cab companies any fair shake at all? I find it highly doubtful.

But even more importantly, why should any Vancouver, Washington business, set up to operate solely in Vancouver and Clark County have to answer to Portland, Oregon or travel to Portland just to operate within their own community?

City Council has not made any decision on this yet, but we often see them following the recommendations given them by staff. It remains to be seen just how it will be presented at the June 25, 2012 workshop.

But, given that we are not a subdivision of Portland, Oregon and are even in a completely separate and sovereign state, any recommendation of placing any Vancouver business under the control of Portland, Oregon must be defeated, if we are to remain a separate city with our own individual identity.

We need to cut the political umbilical cord to Portland, not strive to be even more dependent on a large out of state bully city who only sees across the river for untapped revenue to be taken, giving no services in return.

Laurel & Hardy gave us a laugh with the “call me a cab” line.

City staff seems more intent on giving us heartburn while we watch local business dry up.

I urge you all to review this memorandum, contact city council members and most of all, let’s rely on our own Vancouver Cab Company.

15 Comments to ““Call Me A Cab.” Here’s Another Fine Mess We’re Getting Into”

  1. I think it is ludicrous for Vancouver City Council to be paying the City of Portland anything, especially for something as arcane and specific as this is. I am completely unaware of anyone here in town demanding any action on this issue, nor has anyone on Council deemed to explain just what the hell this is all about.

    More business as usual here Lew. Things like this have just quietly popped up on the Council agenda for years late in the week, and the first thing you hear about it is the following Wednesday when the Columbian finally gets around to reporting the parts they like about what went on at Council the previous Monday night.

    This is how Council is takin’ care of Bidnez for their close and personal friends.

    I counsel CCCS to follow the money…

  2. I couldn’t agree more, Bob.

    Our so called elected leaders send more south to keep bailing out Portland, while our community declines.

    I can’t help but wonder if this ties into CRC somehow, but can’t find any connection yet.

    Council will just be creating more headaches should they listen to staff on this one.

    Our community and cab companies are small with little or no complaints.

    So, what’s the need to ship more to Portland?

  3. I told you guys!
    This interlocal intergovernmental agreement is going to bite us hard!
    They will put them out of business in an effort to get more people onto the public transportation system.
    They will do it by restricting where and when they can operate and by raising the cost of licenses.
    This is NOT NOT NOT okay! We have to stop it every time it comes up in every move they make to
    take us over.

  4. Monday night city council people!
    Public Comment night!

  5. This is a great oppertunity to increase freedom in Vancouver: De-regulate the taxi industry along thses lines:

    1. Anyone can operate a taxi if they meet these criteria:
    a. background check
    b. insurance.

    No regulation of hours
    No regulation of rates.

  6. That posted accidentally. Here is the correct post:

    This is a great opportunity to increase freedom in Vancouver: De-regulate the taxi industry along these lines:

    1. Anyone can operate a taxi if they meet these criteria:
    a. background check
    b. insurance.
    c. Maybe vehicle inspection
    d. Clear posting of rates.

    No regulation of hours
    No regulation of rates.
    No regulation of where they can operate.
    Allow picking up un-related groups of people to reduce costs & save energy.

    In other words, try something exciting & bold: a free market


  7. Jim if they transfer the taxi lisence system over to Portland there will still be all those controls. Portland does not operate without controls.

  8. “I can’t help but wonder if this ties into CRC somehow”

    That was my immediate thought. There most likely is a connection.

  9. This is ridicules, as usual. The progressives are going to try to stop any and every car that drives into Portland by discouraging them any way they can! We should start a campaign to encourage people to shop on this side of the river and let Portland know we are done with their idiosyncrasies. I personally have been staying out of Portland for the reason of not supporting their agenda through purchases, etc. The only time I go there is for events, visiting friends, or looking for items I cannot find (on a very rare case). If they start tolling the bridges, I would totally ignore their city except to pass through it to get to California. (Unfortunately, my husband works over there …uggg)

    Ties to CRC? No doubt in my mind that Light Rail proponents are looking for revenue wherever they could find it …

  10. Of course it does Craig.
    This would not be an option if not for the 81.104 legislation that allowed RTC to form interlocal intergovernmental agreements with Metro in Oregon and the adendums to that MOU gave Metro the lead role in deciding our economic growth as well as our transportation options not to mention a whole host of other things. They, Metro needs us to make their lite-rail payments and balance their budget. This is just one of the first moves on this issue.

  11. Watching city council workshop, it appears like the hand it over to Portland option is off the table.

  12. If Vancouver/Clark county has administrative “problems” with management of taxi licenses — it is a perfect time to deregulate — along the lines offered by Jim.

  13. The city has created a monopoly of sorts dividing the base up. However they do not send out the city business for cab service to bid which I believe is illegal as heck. Also the free market works without subsidizing as was suggested tonight by Jean Harris. Simply reduce the regulation process to the state based one with a processing fee for auto inspections and one for background checks verification of personnel. Done now quit telling people how much they can charge for fares. The customer should decide that.

  14. Carolyn, maybe part of the answer is to restrict Cities in Washington from making any “interlocal agreements” with any agency that is out of State, and not subject to the scrutiny of local voters. That would solve the problem of making deals with Portland Metro, Trimet, Portland City Council and others. I would include a specific exemption to cover law enforcement and mutual fire fighting support, but that is all.

  15. I think that the idea of 81.104 was to allow the two transportation systems to work out their mutual issues with regards to people living in one state and working in another needing to use public bus systems, actually they wrote it for the Lite-Rail system, and the reciprocity of payment to burden issue. Some level of that makes sense however the idea that the “other” state has the lead role in all kinds of decisions regarding a different sovereign state’s county is untolerable at the least and more probably unconstitutional. No representation for the locals here etc. and without the voice or vote for redress no way will there be equal treatment. Any law should be written to be as black and white as possible, I hate grey laws! To much potential for perspective interpretation. That one needs re-written and the controls structured so that there are no options open to toss our rights away. The council thanks mainly to Jeanne Stewart did a reasonable job on Monday with the cab issue pending the follow through it might be worked out for the better and remain under local control. We’ll see.

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