Councilman proposes end to city approval of taxi licensesThe Mitchell City Council should no longer approve drivers for private taxi firms in the city, according to a councilman. The council currently reviews applications for drivers and votes whether or not to allow them to work for Becky’s Vans-Designated Drivers or E-Z Ride Taxicabs, the two privately operated taxi services in the city.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell City Council should no longer approve drivers for private taxi firms in the city, according to a councilman.
The council currently reviews applications for drivers and votes whether or not to allow them to work for Becky’s Vans-Designated Drivers or E-Z Ride Taxicabs, the two privately operated taxi services in the city.
On Monday night, Councilman Mel Olson said he thought it was time to end that process as the council approved a taxicab driver’s license.
“At some point, I would like to have on the agenda us getting out of this business,” Olson said.
Some other members of the council expressed their agreement with that statement. Olson said he still thinks the council should approve drivers for the city-owned Palace Transit, since they are city employees.
On Thursday, Olson reiterated his position.
He said there is not a clear standard on approving someone to drive a taxi in Mitchell, and he wonders if the council should have that authority.
“I don’t really think we’re qualified, to tell you the truth,” Olson said. “I’ve never seen what the criteria is, other than someone having a bad driving record. It seems to me we’re somewhat arbitrary in deciding what a bad driving record is.”
He said there is no clear pattern in how long the city looks back at a person’s driving record. Some applicants in recent months had driving violations that stretched back several years but had clear records for several years.
Olson said the city may also have liability issues.
“It also seems to me to open up the city to liability if these people do something, drunk driving or something,” he said. “What if something like that happens and we’ve given the seal of approval as a city?
“We don’t approve anybody else’s hires,” he said. “Like bartenders. We don’t approve individual daycare providers. We don’t approve a lot of people who have contact with the public.”
Olson said even if the council stops approving taxi drivers, having the Police Division do so may also be a liability concern.
Finance Officer Marilyn Wilson said Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg and City Attorney Randy Stiles are studying the issue and will bring a proposed change to the council.
“They’re actually going to have to do an ordinance change,” Wilson said. “So that’s they are working on.”
Olson said he’s not sure Overweg should be involved, either.
“I don’t think frankly it’s up to him,” he said. “I think it’s up to the cab company.”
Art Streetman, who owns E-Z Ride Taxicabs, said he was surprised to learn of the proposal.
Streetman owns three vehicles that provide taxi service in Mitchell and Huron. He employs six drivers in Mitchell and two drivers in Huron and also drives himself.
“What I like about it is they do check the applicant’s driver’s license history, which is beneficial to me,” Streetman said.
“I can find out their record and criminal backgrounds,” he said. “So that’s what I like when it goes through the City Council.”
But Streetman said if the city stops providing checks on drivers, he would then take on that role.
He said most of his drivers meet city approval, but some have been rejected.
“It hasn’t happened often, but it has happened,” Streetman said.
He doubts the city would be open for a lawsuit if one of his drivers broke the law or harmed a person or property.
“Nothing to do with the city as far as I know,” Streetman said. “As far as I know, I’m liable for my drivers.”
Tom Gates is a driver for Becky’s Vans. Gates said he hopes the city stops doing background checks and allows the companies to determine whom they want to hire.
“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s the way it should be.”
Gates has been driving for the company since last summer. He’s one of seven drivers.
Most applicants easily receive approval from the city, he said, but at least one driver has been rejected in the past.
There is no guarantee the rest of the council will agree him with, Olson admitted.
“I don’t know if they agree with me or not,” he said. “I don’t understand the logic on it, and I’m a logical person.”