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Notifying the Authorities

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I was idling at the corner of College and Church, warming the globe while attempting to hustle up a fare. A fleet taxi driver pulled up parallel to me and beeped. I lowered my driver's window and the fleet driver lowered his passenger window. I recognized the man behind the wheel; we'd chatted once or twice before.

"Hey, we gotta do something about the taxi stands," he said, getting right to the point.

At this point - and, by "this point," I mean for about a decade - I'm one of Burlington's veteran cabbies. As such, a lot of the younger drivers regard me as an eminence grise of sorts. So, when something feels amiss in the cab-world, they might feel the need to run it by me.

"How so?" I asked.

"Simple. There's not enough friggin' cab spots! Last week I got ticketed for hanging out in front of Smokejacks. I'm going to appeal it, no doubt. What do they expect us to do if they don't create some new taxi stands?"

"I see your point," I said. "Well, good luck with that. Getting the city council to do anything takes a lot of perseverance."

"You write stuff for the paper, right? Maybe you can write something about the taxi stand situation."

"Sure, man," I replied. "I'll see what I can do. But, you know, I'm not, like, a journalist. I just write about the folks I drive in my taxi."

What my many years on the job has revealed to me is the cyclical nature of these complaints. All the potential government entities with regulatory power over the Burlington taxi fleet - the police, the airport commission, the city council - have one thing in common:  the last item on their to-do list is taxi cabs. In fact, all these groups are most happy if anything relating to taxiing stays off their lists altogether.

Regulation of the taxi industry is (a) far from life or death when one considers the various issues facing a municipality, and (b) ridiculously complex. It is, in fact, a classic hornet's nest. If you want to see the proof of this in action, just attend the rare public hearing on anything to do with the taxi business. Oh, it's a circus all right. So, when it comes to this issue, the powers-that-be just punt. Which is basically OK by me; benign neglect is underrated.

What I could have told my friend the fleet driver was that, periodically, the police get worked up about the cabs, issue a few tickets for whatever and inevitable go back to leaving us alone. I've seen it happen over and over again . . .

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