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Irony Of The Week: Carl Levin--Crusader For Democracy

D.C. residents watching the Democrats wrangling over delegates at this weekend's anguished Rules Committee hearing over how to handle the Michigan and Florida primary results could be excused if they felt a bit faint.

The spectacle of Michigan Sen. Carl Levin lecturing the Democratic National Committee members on the imperative to seat his state's delegates because it's the democratic thing to do was breathtaking. Here was a plea to honor the will of the people, coming from the great usurper himself, the lord of the Hill who imposed a taxi meter system on the District of Columbia simply because he is a Senator and therefore can ordain that a city of half a million residents shall act as he wishes.

Levin actually used the term "full voting rights" Saturday in his speech calling for the entire Michigan delegation to be seated at the Democrats' convention in Denver this summer.

So in Levin's moral hierarchy, the people of Michigan get to vote whenever they wish, the people of New Hampshire lose the special status granted them by party and tradition, and the people of the District get to do whatever the senator requires of them.

Jill Zuckman of the Chicago Tribune describes Levin's attitude as one of "irrational hatred" for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary position. But his actions on the D.C. taxi issue smack more of contempt than hatred, an all-too-common belief that the residents of the nation's capital are something less than citizens.

Police enforcement of Levin's meter regime is supposed to begin in earnest today. Enjoy the cheaper rides downtown. The shrinkage and eventual destruction of an unusual but remarkably efficient taxi system is underway.

As The Post's Paul Duggan explained the other day, the real impact (and, some believe, the real agenda) behind the switch from zone fares to meters will be the decline of the open-access system that has resulted in Washington having a wildly disproportionately high number of cabs on the streets.

Duggan quoted D.C. taxi commission member Cornelius Baker: "Meters are an important first step in bringing reform and better service to our taxicab industry. I certainly believe there should be some form of restriction on the numbers. Is that a full medallion system? I don't know. But I do think there are benefits to a medallion system in that it creates investment and capital."

Read: Better-equipped, cleaner cabs, provided by big fleet companies that displace individual owners and reduce the number of cabs on the street to boost demand and prices through an artificially limited market.

You can send your thanks to the senator from Michigan.

By Marc Fisher |  June 2, 2008; 7:53 AM ET
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Comments

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Congratulations, Marc, on your lamest blog posting ever. The zone system was destined to die sooner or later, and all you can do is whine and moan. Trying to compare the Democrats' electoral debacle to the D.C. taxi industry is pathetic. Time to drop the subject already.

Posted by: Meter Your Mouth, Marc | June 2, 2008 10:14 AM

Marc:

I am so tired of your misplaced whining on this topic. MOVE ON ALREADY! By the way, I am looking forward to "Better-equipped, cleaner cabs."

Posted by: JMG | June 2, 2008 12:18 PM

My differing opinions on the taxi cabs aside (but, hey, is there STILL a gas surcharge?!), I saw Levin on TV too, and it occured to me that he is sorta, well, not really losing it, but his whole argument just did not make sense, and he didn't come off so great.

Posted by: IW | June 2, 2008 12:31 PM

"You can send your thanks to the senator from Michigan." -- I will, thanks! My $11 8-minute taxi ride is now $6.75. If the taxi cab drivers want to run a limousine service instead of nasty, stinky cabs, go ahead.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 12:35 PM

Wait - I'm supposed to be upset about the prospect of having better-equipped and cleaner taxicabs? Where do I register my outrage at this basic infringement of my human rights?

Posted by: FDR | June 2, 2008 12:56 PM

Once again, Marc gets my MSNBC "Whiner of the Week" vote.

Posted by: DC Voter | June 2, 2008 2:35 PM

To DC Voter:

Hope you are a Superdelegate. Otherwise your vote doesn't count.

Posted by: SoMD | June 2, 2008 2:40 PM

We won't need cabs when the DC bike share program gets going.

Posted by: Tom | June 2, 2008 3:29 PM

Marc, please take the next buyout offer from The Post. This issue is over with and your repeated beating of this dead horse is tiresome.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 2, 2008 3:39 PM

Sen. Levin's irrational hatred of NH's first-in-the-nation status is matched only by your irrational love of the post-June 1 DC taxi system. We got your point long ago. While some of us find getting ripped off to ride in creaking, corroding, and stinking cabs, you find it an essential part of the urban experience. I also find certain mystiques to be charming, but guessing what your cab fare will be is not one of them.

Posted by: Paul | June 2, 2008 4:12 PM

I'm comfortable with having a meter system, but the whole point of a blog is that you get to beat your own drum over and over. Obviously you people who take the time to write in and tell Fisher to quit are still reading the column...

Posted by: Lindemann | June 2, 2008 4:46 PM

The sad fact is that DC cab drivers are upset about meters because now they cannot hide cash from the tax man.

Posted by: Mike Licht | June 2, 2008 6:08 PM

Mark, you continue to be a Putz! Please go away!

Posted by: curious | June 2, 2008 11:43 PM

Thank you Marc, for continuing to be our voice! Most of these bloggers are happy to exploit us anyways, so they blow their unpleasant experience way out of proportion!!! the reality is: The current rate of 25cents per 1/6 of a mile, or $1.50 per mile is simply called EXPLOITATION if not SLAVERY!!!!!!

Compare this to Boston: 30cents per 1/8 of a mile, or $2.40 per mile! NY 40cents per 1/5 of a mile, or $2.00 per mile; plus with a complete monopoly (no competition) in the city and airport! In addition, you catch a cab in NY to go outside city limit, you pay double once the cab crosses city line!!!This is also true in Chicago!!!

Continue to Philadelphia, Pheonix, cities in California...all with over $2.30 per mile!!!!!! Here in city of Alexandria 34cents per 1/6 of a mile, or $2.04 per mile. SO WHY US??? WHY ARE WE BEING EXPLOITED???

On the other issue, ALL YA ARE CRYING ABOUT BEAT DOWN CABS IN THE CITY, HOW ABOUT AN INCREASING NUMBER OF US WHO SPEND UPWARD OF $15,000 FOR OUR CABS? HOW MANY WELL KEPT GRAND MARQUIS, TOWNCARS, SUVS AND MINIVANS YOU RIDE IN EVERYDAY???

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON'T BLAME YOU. YOU GOT AMPLE SUPPLY THAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY TAKING OUR SERVICE FOR GRANTED!!!!!! GUESS WHAT THOUGH, IF THE CITY CONTINUES WITH THIS ARTIFICIALLY LOW RATE(SO LOW THAT IT WAS USED BY OTHER CITIES IN THE EARLY 1990'S) YOU WILL REMEMBER AND PERHAPS MISS OUR VALUABLE SERVICE!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: MILL | June 3, 2008 2:02 AM

I took my first ride in a DC meter cab tonight. As expected, the driver cheated me. He wouldn't have gotten away with this under the zone system. In any case, I saved the receipt but where will I send it? Obviously the taxi commission is in the bag for both small time drivers AND big companies--how about that daily double!!--and I'll bet if I included the receipt with my letter of complaint it would magically disappear. Thank you, Fenty, for wrecking a workable system that needed some reform but not revolution. Tell me, Fenty--if you have the time in the midst of the crime wave you can't seem to stop and may have even caused with police "reassignments"--why didn't you adopt GPS meters rather than time and distance meters which cry out to be cheated by dishonest drivers?

Posted by: Rex | June 3, 2008 3:34 AM

The irony of the passing of the zone system was that just as the technology to make it work and be understood arrived, the city decided to get rid of it. What timing? We beat the clock to return to the 19th century.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | June 3, 2008 5:38 AM

Rex, you didn't say how you were ripped off. Do tell. Gary, the problem (for me) is NOT that the zone system was so difficult to figure out. I've lived here forever and more or less understand it. Rather, it's getting charged $11 for short trips of 10 minutes and one mile and a quarter. That was perfectly legal under the zone system.

Posted by: Tom | June 3, 2008 8:10 AM

I think a number of these posts are planted by taxi people who did not explain how they were cheated. The meters are a very fair way to determine the cost of a trip.

Also why should I be upset about a cab that meets safety standards, has working air conditioning and is clean. Arlington has clean, new and safe, and there are plenty of them around to use. I fail to understand the downside of this as a consumer.

Posted by: Natsural | June 3, 2008 9:58 AM

And Marc, what's this giving New Hampshire a free pass over its obstinance requiring a first-in-the-nation primary (a law that's probably unconstitutional)? Afraid your kids won't be allowed into Dartmouth? Say what you will about zones vs. meters, but comparing that to the electoral process is simply apples and oranges.

Posted by: Vincent | June 3, 2008 11:10 AM

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