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Cab drivers take fight to Congress

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Local,Joey Flechas

District taxicab drivers frustrated with Mayor Adrian Fenty's authority over their industry are taking their fight to Congress.

Drivers have sent 1,000 petitions to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asking him to explain a provision he inserted into the 2006 District Omnibus Budget Authorization, which mandated a transition from a zone to a meter system.

The Fenty administration refers to the line as the "Levin Act."

According to Justice for Taxis, a coalition of driver groups and advocates, Fenty has used the provision, which includes a part that grants the mayor the power to opt out of the requirement to install a metered system, to claim authority over the functions of the Taxicab Commission and the right to set fare rates.

"We would like to have the record set straight," said Larry Frankel, chairman of Dominion of Cab Drivers, one of the driver groups.

"We're hoping it would relieve the situation enough to have Mr. Fenty give up his unilateral authority over the taxicab commission," he said.

The group also is accusing Fenty of violating the Home Rule Act of 1973, which says the D.C. Council, not the mayor, defines responsibilities and powers of regulatory bodies.

The group says Fenty has taken power away from the Taxicab Commission, relegating the group from a regulatory body to an advisory body.

D.C. Professional Taxicab Drivers Association spokesman Nathan Price said drivers' qualms aren't over the use of meters, but over their lack of power to challenge low fare rates and the $19 cap on all fares, regardless of time or distance.

"We favor meters, but we believe the original intent of Congress was to reduce confusion and conflict," he said. "The mayor has been using Sen. Levin's name to assert total control over our industry."

Calls and e-mails to Fenty's office were not returned Thursday.

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