Burlington Mayor Beefs Up Taxi Oversight After Uber Arrest | Off Message

Burlington Mayor Beefs Up Taxi Oversight After Uber Arrest

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FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
Mayor Miro Weinberger is asking the police department to step up enforcement of the city's taxi ordinance.

Wednesday, police announced that they'd arrested an Uber driver who also has a city taxi license on a sexual assault charge. Thursday, Weinberger asked the police department to step up enforcement of the city's taxi ordinance.

"In the wake of this terrible event and based on escalating concerns about the city’s taxi system, we must redouble our efforts to reform the system and enhance our enforcement efforts," he stated in a news release.

The mayor has instructed Police Chief Michael Schirling to assign officers to enforce taxi regulations for "at least 90 days." He's asked the department to recommend permanent changes to how the city enforces the rules for vehicles-for-hire. Weinberger also committed to adding $60,000 to establish positions for taxi enforcement to his proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 — if the police recommend that.

During an interview last week with Seven Days, Weinberger was noncommittal about whether the city would put more resources into taxi enforcement. As we reported Wednesday, several taxi companies have been accused of flagrantly disregarding the city ordinance for extended periods of time. Further, many people who were initially denied licenses to drive taxis, including for criminal or traffic violations, appealed the denials and were granted licenses.
Traditional taxi drivers have been urging public officials to crack down on Uber, which, according to the city attorney, is operating in Burlington illegally. Weinberger's administration is finalizing a temporary agreement with the company that will allow it to operate in the city without adhering to the entire taxi ordinance. 

Omar Nassir, the driver charged with sexual assault of a passenger, was an Uber driver, but he also had a city license to drive a taxi.

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