Ocean City Today

Council sticks with $1K taxi medallion fee

City officials take another cab off resort’s streets at double asking price
By Katie Tabeling | Aug 24, 2017

(Aug. 25, 2017) The Ocean City Council found itself repeating old arguments on how to revitalize the resort’s taxi industry Monday night, before a majority voted to void a medallion transfer between businesses and to retire the medallion instead.

Independent businesswoman Megan McManus struck a deal with Taxi Taxi owner George Basle to sell him one medallion at $2,000 on Aug. 3. In accordance with the regulations, the city would have received $500, or 25 percent of the deal.

But some councilmembers thought the transfer would be counter to the council’s decision earlier this month to take a flat fee of $1,000 rather than a percentage of the sale or the $500.

The $1,000 fee would line up as 25 percent of the city’s rate of $4,000 apiece when it bought 18 medallions to increase market demand last spring.

Originally, 175 medallions were sold in 2010. Now, there are 126 medallions, roughly putting 12 cabs for every mile in Ocean City.

“We agreed by general consensus there was too many medallions out there, and the proliferation of Uber is impacting the market. This is a 50 percent discount,” Councilman John Gehrig said of the $2,000 price tag.

He made a motion for the city to exercise its right of first refusal and buy back the medallion and received backing from Councilman Matt James and Wayne Hartman.

Councilman Tony DeLuca, the perennial critic of the city’s role as a middleman in the taxi industry, once again voiced his objections.

“I think this borders on ridiculous. Here’s government interfering with business. Taxi Taxi wants a new medallion and instead we take it off the street,” DeLuca said. “When we get revenue for Uber, it goes into the [budget’s] general fund. That impacts the tax base. So, we’re spending tax base to interfere with business. I’m really against this.”

Councilman Dennis Dare also expressed opposition, as he said it’s time for the market to start self-regulating again.

“I always thought there should be 125 medallions out there, and now we’re almost there. I feel like the market should be allowed to seek its level now,” he said. “If there needs to be another reduction, then the people who want to sell it back, sell. Here we have a larger fleet buying a medallion, so there must be room in the market.”

Hartman disagreed with both councilmen.

“Some say tomato, some say tomahto... government interfering, I say government fixing a mistake when 175 medallions were put out there,” he said. “One hundred and twenty-five medallions sounds better than 126.”

Gehrig pointed out that the council had the same issues several times in the last four months, and it was time to stay the course.

“This isn’t a new decision. This is continuing with our initiative. We have an ordinance on the books that regulates the industry, and we’re in the transportation industry. As a pure-blood capitalist who owns a business, I disagree that this is interfering. This protects the vitality and safety of our transportation system,” he said.

The council voted 5-2 to buy back the medallion at $2,000, with Dare and DeLuca dissenting.

Later in the session, a council majority voted to pass stabilizing the medallion transfer fee of $1,000 on first reading. Dare and DeLuca once again voted in opposition.

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