NEW ORLEANS – There was a surprising, late afternoon twist to Thursday’s rowdy debate at city hall over the age of New Orleans' taxis.
Just when supporters of a measure to delay the new rules thought they had scored a victory the mayor stepped in.
Hours after the city council voted four to three in favor of the delaying the reform for one year, the mayor vetoed the measure.
“Rolling back or delaying any taxicab reforms sends the wrong message. New Orleans deserves clean, safe, reliable and accessible taxicabs,” Landrieu said in a statement.
Cab drivers came out in force, begging the city council to delay a controversial reform that would take cabs older than 7 years off the streets. Currently, cabs can be up to 11 years old.
“It is a financial hardship, the hardship is in this room today,” said Dolores Montgomery, the president of a local cab driver’s union.
“We also have to understand hardship. We should have compassion for our people who are suffering,” said Councilmember LaToya Cantrell, District B.
But the city administration- and tourism officials- argue that taxis give many visitors their first impression of New Orleans and believe a younger fleet is crucial to a better image.
“The complaints we get on cabs that are not meeting standards are horrendous and people will not come back to the city, they're embarrassed,” said Ben Johnson, president and CEO of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
The age requirement was part of a controversial series of requirements the council voted to put on taxi drivers and owners. Other reforms included the mandatory availability of credit card machines in vehicles and other security measures.
The age requirement was put in to modernize what some said was an aging and unsafe stable of cabs.
It will take five council members to override the mayor's veto.