Taxi Fracas Finalizes

Lone Star Cab Co. prevails on third and final reading at City Council, awarded city's newest taxi franchise despite competitor's best efforts to bring it down

Lone Star Cab Co. prevailed on third and final reading at City Council last week, being awarded the city's newest taxi franchise, despite its competitor's best efforts to bring it down. The unanimous decision came only after the contract was amended to add franchise requirements proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Betty Dunkerley, who had opposed awarding the franchise to Lone Star over staff-recommended Capital City Cab Co. The two new requirements speak to the owner-operated, co-op model the company will operate under and to its proposed computerized dispatch system; both were cited by Council Member Mike Martinez as reasons for Lone Star's superiority when he led the surprise motion to award the company the opportunity earlier this year.

The "franchise ownership interest requirements" stipulate that at least 51% of the stock funding the company resides with those actively driving for Lone Star –Êbut new language takes the extra step of demanding they drive at least 30 hours a week. (Additional language ensuring they weren't also corporate officers or directors was removed, as it was plainly antithetical to the idea behind the co-op.) The contract also calls for regular updates on the status of the dispatch system, including notice any time it goes down.

Jennifer Kim seemed dismayed with the additional requirements and codifications placed on Lone Star; asking for any sort of precedent for the requirements, she heard from the Legal Department that the city has broad authority to delegate and award franchises as they see fit. The same argument was used to defuse Cap City Cab attorney Jeff Howard's claim that, per the council-drafted language of the evaluation process, the city was required to award it to the best-qualified company –Êi.e., Cap City, which outscored Lone Star by a single point in the evaluation matrix. Howard also spent several minutes pointing out what he perceived as problems with Lone Star's finances, complaining that Lone Star hadn't received the same scrutiny as his client.

But ultimately, council proceeded with Lone Star, ending an excruciating selection process stretching out longer than anyone could have imagined. As Martinez noted in making the motion to award Lone Star: "It's been a very long process and it started …Êabout the same time of year last year. …ÊI think we are at a point where it's time to move forward and it's time to put a third franchise on the streets."

True to long-winded form, however, the City Charter dictates one more delay: A new cab company can't begin operations until 60 days after final approval. Barring any further complications (and by this point, who can say?), Lone Star's 55 cabs could hit the streets by late July.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Lone Star Cab Company, Lone Star, Capital City, Cab Company, Taxi, Franchise, Mike Martinez, Betty Dunkerley

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