July 31, 2012
By Bruce Eggler, Times Picayune
A federal judge has extended his order blocking New Orleans officials from implementing several new regulations for the city's 1,600 taxicabs. U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon on Monday had put the new regulations on hold until at least Friday, but on Tuesday he extended the temporary restraining order until Aug. 14, when he will hold a hearing on the issue.
David Grunfeld, The Times-PicayuneTaxi owners are challenging the legality of many of the regulations the New Orleans City Council passed in April at the urging of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and leaders of the city's tourism industry.
Taxi owners are challenging the legality of many of the regulations the City Council passed in April at the urging of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and leaders of the city's tourism industry. Taxicab industry leaders say they were excluded from the discussions that produced the package of "reform" measures unveiled by Landrieu in March.
The new regulations include setting maximum ages for vehicles used as cabs and requiring owners to install credit card machines, GPS devices, "passenger information monitors" and security systems including cameras and silent alarms.
Another ordinance states that the city-issued permits to operate cabs are privileges and not rights. That apparently would mean the permits cannot be inherited or sold from one owner to another, as has been common practice for decades, with the city's knowledge and tacit approval. Owners also have used the permits as collateral when taking out loans.
Proponents of the new rules say many local cabs are in poor condition and present a poor image of the city to visitors. Critics say some of the reforms go too far and will impose undue financial burdens on owners, forcing many of them to go out of business.
The regulations requiring new equipment and placing new restrictions on cabs' age will force many owners to spend tens of thousands of dollars per vehicle, without offering any way for them to find the money or giving them sufficient time to comply, the critics charge.
The lawsuit challenging the new rules contends, among other things, that the new age limits on vehicles "serve no legitimate government purpose" and the city "has failed to show any rational basis" for them. It says that some of the new rules deprive owners of their property rights without due process or just compensation and that others are arbitrary and violate the guarantee of equal protection of the law.