By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
As if in a strange time warp to 2008, an overflowing council chambers was the scene for another round of “let’s kill this taxi idea.”
The names and faces at Monday night’s council meeting were familiar, and their cry unchanged from the last time they huddled into the chambers: increasing the number of taxi licenses is bad for business.
And just as before, the second attempt to revise the borough’s taxi ordinance ran into a ditch.
The council earlier this year proposed making significant changes to the borough’s tax license ordinance, most notable, an increase in the number of licenses from 45 to 50 and a fare hike. The governing body made a similar proposal less than two years ago, but opposition from the cab community sent the changes to the scrap heap.
This time, though, it was a process drawn out over the summer, complete with a meeting with local hacks to hammer out details in an attempt to ensure the revisions were copacetic. And council members appeared satisfied that they had, in fact, worked out a compromise when the amendment was introduced two weeks ago.
But then a flash mob formed in borough hall Monday, indicating anything but agreement.
“Adding more licenses is going to dilute a market that’s already heavily diluted,” said Gary Damanti, co-owner of Red Bank Yellow Car.
He told the council that when it proposed an increase in the number of licenses in 2008, there was no demand for them and they wouldn’t stand up well in the time’s economic conditions.
“Right now, in fact, they may be worse,” he said.
In addition to creating five more licenses, the amendment would have increased fares between 18 and 50 percent.
More than a half-dozen cabbies spoke out against the license jump although some 40 or so packed the council chambers while only a couple, who hold one license each, favored the increase.
So, with a forceful opposition to the first proposal, and an even louder objection to the second attempt, how did it get as far as it did?
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the council was approached by several cab owners who wanted to see more licenses in town.
“The council was receptive to that,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, they said no.”
Councilman Michael DuPont, who made the motion to scrap the ordinance changes altogether after the amendment failed to get a second, said since there has been no outpouring from residents, there was clear no reason to update the borough’s regs. Additionally, moving for an increase to fares didn’t sit well with him, he said.
“In these economic times I’m not sure that’s the smartest thing to do,” DuPont said.
That triggered a vote among the council, and ended with some 40 cab drivers shaking hands.
“It dies then,” Menna said, and moved to the next item on the night’s agenda.