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D.C. taxi commission chair a no-show at council

The star witness planned for the council's hearing today on the taxi industry was a no-show.

To the consternation of council members on the dais, the Fenty administration declined to make D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon J. Swain Jr. available this afternoon because of his role in an ongoing federal investigation.

Thirty-nine people have been indicted on charges that they tried to bribe Swain, who was working undercover for the FBI.

"It would be inappropriate at this time for Mr. Swain to appear," Attorney General Peter Nickles wrote in a letter to council member Michael A. Brown (I-At Large), after meeting with him.

Instead, the administration sent to the hearing commissioner Scott Kubly, who read a prepared statement, struggled to answer some basic questions and informed members he was unavailable to stay for the duration of the meeting.

"If Nickles is going to send you down here, I'm going to insist you stay here as long as necessary," council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said to vigorous applause from the audience of cab drivers.

Kubly agreed to stay.

-- Ann E. Marimow

By Anne Bartlett  |  January 7, 2010; 6:01 PM ET
Categories:  Ann E. Marimow , D.C. Council , D.C. Taxis  
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All the other taxicab commissions across the nation have the privelege of regular meetings. But not here. Dictator Fenty has not allowed a meeting to take place since May.

Posted by: starclimber9 | January 7, 2010 11:55 PM | Report abuse

It strains credulity to think anyone on the Council can be really surprised by this. When was the last time that Fenty actually permitted a high-level official to appear before the Council as requested?

Perhaps the Council ought to add another Section onto the "Elected Attorney General" bill... making failure of Executive Branch officials, at a certain level and above, to appear before the Council punishable by stiff fines and possible imprisonment. "Contempt of Council", with some teeth. And making the Mayor (and AG?) chargeable as aider(s) and abettor(s).

(Admittedly, I haven't analyzed the legalities... but it might be worth looking into.)

Posted by: nan_lynn | January 8, 2010 12:30 AM | Report abuse

I suggest it would be worthwhile to question all current and past members of the DC Taxi Commission regarding illegal activities. Certain Commissioners may know more than the head. Just sayin'.

Posted by: jethro1 | January 8, 2010 6:14 AM | Report abuse

Politics schmolotics .. time to keep moving DC taxis into the 21st century.

Ok, we finally got meters, even the cabbies like that. I think a boost in rates are necessary there. I don't see how it is I'm paying less to go to National than I did pre meters. Doesn't seem fair to them.

But the good news stops there for cabbies. DC needs another push in cab updates and maintenance. Time for a lot of cabs to come off the streets. I'm guessing from the condition of more than a few cabs I've been in lately that there's as much graft there as anywhere. They should set up a strip on Constitution Ave one early Sunday morning and make all cabs, with inspector, accelerate to 50 mph then stop. That should get a majority of the bad cabs off the street. Death traps in the waiting.

Finally, why are folks still standing in the rain and the cold and why are hotels still blowing those stupid whistles for hours on end .. all to get a cab? There are products/apps out there to download to your phone that work with cab companies .. but it's in OTHER cities. Come on .. let's catch up here in the capital of the free world. You should be able to hit the app on your phone and it signals all cabs within some fraction of a mile that you need a cab .. they hit the response button and you're united in cab bliss. Don't tell me the cabbies can't afford it as they're on the phone the entire cab ride anyway.

Posted by: tslats | January 8, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

DC taxi rates are not too low. They are comparable to NYC, where the cost of owning a cab are FAR higher.

These guys need to stop complaining, particularly given the sorry state of most DC cabs.

You want higher rates? Then you need to submit to real cab standards, like taking credit cards, having newer model cabs with basic cleanliness and safety standards, actually picking up people and taking them where they want to go, etc.

Until then, STFU already.

Funny how NYC cabs have all that and still have rates not dissimilar from DC.

As for Fenty vs the Council, it's worth noting that this Council has done very little to improve the condition of cabs in DC.

Perhaps with their free parking anywhere in the city they don't actually have to suffer through the substandard cab service the rest of us experience.

Posted by: Hillman1 | January 8, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I'M sure must of you have read 11/20/09 Wash Post, and got an update on the DC Taxi Cab Bribe issue its just the tip of the iceberg if the Washington Post/ DC City Council get real and look a little deeper and ask the right questions.


What role did large taxicab companies and big corporation in and out of the city play while C. Toney was Chair of the DC Taxicab Commission and wrote hack laws that created the 40 to 50 percent loss of income from independent/owner/drivers to starve them out of the business?

This is an issue that fail on deaf ears when we told you all, that big corporation and large taxicab companies was going take total control of this historical independent/hack/operator business and ownership, in other words, the For Hire License as suggested by the DC hotel and restaurant association in 1997 at a meeting held at Embassy Suites Hotel, Wisc ave, Military Rd NW.

At that time the issue in the DC Taxicab Industry was about Transparency with the Fare, this could have been easily solved with the Zone Calculator that permitted Shared Riding with no loss of income to driver/owners or service to the Riding Public.

This Would have made the DC Taxicab System the best transportation system in Washington in the case of an Emergency.

The big loss from putting meters in DC Taxicabs is to Senior Citizens and folks that are on fixed or have low incomes.

And it’s a shame that DC taxicab/owner/drivers that are US Armed Force Veterans were not allowed to apply for US Government Grants to put a wheel chair accessible taxicabs on the streets of DC.

When 80% percent of all DC Taxicabs are owned by independents and all the US Grant Money was given to two large taxicab companies and US Armed Force Veterans, like myself was left out in the cold and can only lease from the companies that got those 20 wheel chair taxicabs for free.

Something is wrong with this and so very unfair, don’t you think so?

Council Members On the DC City Council seem to have forgot that the DC Taxicab Industry is a historical free enterprise/ independent system that gave the Black Man Economic Freedom in Washington DC from 1837 to Stand Up and be a Free Man when he could own no other business in America.

Today with all the bills passed by the DC City Council involving DC Taxicabs, seem to be trying to bum rush independent/owner/drivers to an early grave and one that come to mind is Ted King, that I know laid down his life for 8000 DC Taxicab Drivers and there Families.

For me I'M proud to have been a 45 year Public Service Provider as a DC, Hacker/Taxicab/Owner and Driver in the DC Taxicab Industry that gave me the opportunity that allowed me to be Committed and Free to give all I could to My Community as a Real Free Black Man in America./>>Billy Ray Edwards -301 717 7762

Posted by: bredwards | January 9, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

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