Inside metro N.O. politics for March 23, 2013

Councilman wants
to loosen taxi laws

Just when it seemed the debate about the future of the city’s taxi cabs was resolved, there could be a slight bump in the road.

District E Councilman James Gray introduced a proposed ordinance Thursday that would allow taxis as old as 10 years to operate in New Orleans. A package of previously passed ordinances to revamp how the taxi cab industry operates will require any vehicle older than 7 years to be replaced starting next year.

Gray said that “many” drivers have complained that replacing vehicles every seven years will be too burdensome and could put some of them out of business.

“We say inspect the car. If it’s not good enough, kick it out of the fleet,” Gray said.

The Landrieu administration is opposed to Gray’s idea, City Hall spokesman Ryan Berni said.

“Our taxicab reforms were passed after working with taxicab industry stakeholders, hospitality industry leaders and residents for nearly two years,” Berni said. “What we have achieved thus far is a more modernized taxicab experience for both the passengers and drivers.”

Other changes include requirements for credit card machines and GPS devices inside each cab, as well as drivers who are fluent in English.

District C Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who helped shepherd the enacted ordinances through the council, also said she’d be against modifying them, especially after years of work.

“It would be a step backward,” she said.

While it seems like Gray’s ordinance might be a dead issue because of an apparent lack of support, he said he will do all he can to get the support he needs.

“Right now we’re fighting for votes,” Gray said.

Lights out on CCC no surprise to Landrieu

Mayor Mitch Landrieu this week said it came as no surprise to him that the decorative lights on the Crescent City Connection went dark after the state stopped collecting tolls on the bridge.

And since a new vote on the toll issue could do away with them entirely, Landrieu, a toll advocate, said he expects state lawmakers who voted against renewing them can find a way to make sure the bridge is maintained.

“That is the state’s responsibility, and I hope the government and state legislators can find a way to meet that responsibility to make sure that bridge is policed, and is well lit and is safe,” Landrieu said. “That is not the responsibility of local government.”

Landrieu said it’s up to local state lawmakers, particularly those from West Jefferson, to find the money needed to make those commitments a reality.

Compiled by
the New Orleans bureau