Taxi companies won’t be needing licenses in Anoka anymore

by Mandy Moran Froemming
Union Editor

The city of Anoka is repealing a taxi cab licensing ordinance it updated nearly a year ago.

In an attempt to improve safety for residents and visitors who use taxi services in Anoka, back in March 2011 the council approved updated regulations put forward by city staff to require all cab companies to register with city hall.

This was to satisfy concerns that the drivers held valid licenses and their cabs were properly inspected. It came with a $10 annual fee, along with a $25 first-time administrative charge.

At that time, the ordinance was not supported by local taxi drivers who mainly serve the city’s entertainment district on Jackson Street.

One year later, city staff have not found the licensing to be effective. To date, no cab drivers or companies have applied for a license in 2012. Staff report that the lack of participation by taxi drivers and the inability to effectively enforce the licensing requirements led to the suggestion the ordinance be repealed.

“The thinking was that by doing so we were somehow making the public safer,” said City Manager Tim Cruikshank. “I’m not sure that’s really the case. So we felt that by repealing this we would at least let everyone know there is not some false sense of security created by having this ordinance on the books.”

According to Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson, there is currently not a safety issue regarding taxi drivers that operate in Anoka. On a typical weekend night, there are about eight to 10 drivers working in Anoka’s entertainment district, said the chief.

“I can tell you in the last two years we have had no complaints against cab drivers and their conduct and no crimes committed by cab drivers against citizens,” said Johanson.

If there were problems, state laws still apply and allow local police to handle them.

“If we got a report of a cab driver driving with a suspended license, or without insurance or driving under the influence, that could be handled by state law and I guarantee the police department would continue to that,” said Johanson.

While the council had supported last year’s new licensing requirements, they are now in unanimous agreement to eliminate them.

“The reason we had originally had placed this into law was because we thought we were going to keep the public safer,” said Councilmember Jeff Weaver. “But it’s the taxi cabs that are keeping the public safer by having them in town, talking folks home from the entertainment district and it’s obvious that model is working when you come by the parking ramp on a Saturday or Sunday morning and its full from folks who took a cab or took another way home and stayed off the roads.”

Councilmember Mark Freeburg said that while he supported the ordinance a year ago, he didn’t like it. Now he’s glad the city is repealing it.

“This is a classic case of overregulation,” said Freeburg. “The cabbies provide a great service. I’ve never heard of a patron being accosted by a cabbie, but I’ve heard of a cabbie being accosted by a patron. They are usually the ones that get robbed at gunpoint for their money. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

First reading of the ordinance repeal was unanimously approved by the council

It is expected to officially take the rule off the books after its next meeting on Feb. 21.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]