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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | DECEMBER 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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Color-coded cabs

The Iowa City City Council is at it again. Not satisfied with destroying the entertainment economy of downtown Iowa City, the councilors now turn their attention toward ruining the cab industry as well.

Have any of the councilors taken simple economics courses? Do they understand that when you artificially create barriers to entry in the marketplace that prices go up and competition goes down? And who pays for this? We do, of course, the citizens of Iowa City. This ordinance is nothing more than a power grab by the larger cab companies in this area.

To quote Councilor Rick Dobyns, “I think of a taxicab in a similar fashion to a police officer. Police officers have to be dressed uniformly; they can’t just have their badge and dress any way they want. The same is true for taxis; the car needs to be standard and visible.”

Is he serious? Someone needs to explain to Dobyns that the Police Department is a public institution, while cab companies are private companies. The next logical extension of this line of thinking is to require all bars to be blue, all department stores to be red, and all restaurants to be yellow. After all, how can I tell what type of place I am walking in to if everything isn’t color-coded?

The people of Iowa City need to realize that their City Council thinks that their citizens are all children and are unable to determine what is a cab and what isn’t. Add this to the 21-ordinance and the red-light cameras to see how little the council truly thinks of your abilities to function as adults.

If you care about the economic future of our city, then please vote all of these people out of office at every opportunity available.

Doug Kallin
Iowa City resident

Free-market cheats

Yes, free markets in the taxi business are wonderful. They guarantee that any guy with a pulse who can put crooked sticker lettering on the side of an old Dodge Caravan can come out at bar rush and on game days and refuse all “undesirable fares” — such as people going long distances, single individuals, or people who aren’t willing to pay three times the posted rate to go to North Liberty or Coralville.

Those of us at the responsible companies get to haul these angry refuse-niks and listen to their complaints every night. Forgive our frustration. Drivers at my company took a 15 percent cut in commission last year to help us survive all this “competition.”

The thing we want most (that regulations sadly don’t touch) is for any available taxi to haul any orderly person who requests they do so. Until all local companies do this, they won’t be competing — they’ll be cheating.

Responsible companies, such as the one I work for, have professionally painted fleets, are properly licensed with 24-hour dispatch, paid dispatchers, an office that’s actually open, a shop, a salaried manager, a mechanic — the sort of things required to serve the public adequately. I guess they’re chumps to invest all that money. They could save so much cash if they shut down in the summer or during slow day shifts, or if they closed their office at night, or if they waited several months past deadlines to get permits and licenses, or if they let a driver dispatch from his taxi, or if they refused to take your credit card, or if they paid dispatchers $2.50 an hour — or if they used lost credit cards to buy gas.

Certain local companies have done all of these things. Can you really blame the City Council for stepping in to try to slow this race to the bottom?

Perry Rasmussen
Marco’s Taxi

Fine-tune the project

In 1991, I initiated the petition to protect the College Green Park neighborhood as a Historic District. In just one year, my 1890 home will be surrounded by three new apartment buildings under construction: 500 and 600 E. Washington St. Three of the high-rise College and Gilbert Street proposals would shadow my house two blocks away during winter afternoons.

In the recent election of 2012, Iowa City voters rejected the proposed jail-addition capacity, but also an architecturally incongruous glass structure dwarfing the historic landmark. This summer, 14 percent of Iowa City voters signed a petition against the city TIF funding of the 14-story Moen project at 114 S. Dubuque St. A similar jump in building mass from the Red Avocado house and its welcoming gardens just happened at 511-21 Washington. Here we go again.

Development on the College-Gilbert corner should be harmonious and appropriate with the one- to four-story buildings. We already have two 14-story TIF buildings shadowing the Pedestrian Mall public space. Global warming will soften winter, but 40 degrees is cold in the shade. Creating a canyon affects people's psychology and increased shadow on adjacent properties.

Why lose the sun in another public space? More taxes 18 years from now means no sunlight all winter for 100 years. Massive scale and subsidization benefits our 1 percent developers but costs the 99 percent.

This community deserves sustainable human-scale construction for the people, not another glass high rise that is spot zoned on the east side of Gilbert Street.
Energy and Environmental requirements (LEED) are imperative for city-supported proposals.

Pam Michaud
Iowa City resident


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