A recent review of proposed changes to the city of Delaware's taxi code became a debate over the merits of the unregulated free market.
At its Nov. 12 meeting, City Council members disagreed on whether the city should limit fares or revoke quality-control regulations currently placed on taxi providers in Delaware.
Councilman Andrew Brush introduced a slew of suggested revisions to the city's tax code, which is under new scrutiny after the Delaware Cab Co. ceased operations in September, prompting other providers to consider moving into the city.
Council heard a third reading of the revised taxi code Nov. 12 and is scheduled to vote to approve any changes at its meeting Monday, Nov. 26.
Brush said he wants to slash regulations to let cab companies compete in a free market. Previously, council mulled a procedure to vet companies for quality before issuing a license.
"We should set forth a set of requirements and anyone who complies with the requirements should be issued a license," Brush said.
"I don't really see a role for the government to get involved other than for baseline safety."
Brush said he wants to eliminate regulations that require the city to check the experience and financial status of license applicants, as well as proposed hours of service and rates.
Under the current code, taxi providers are required to notify council 35 days before raising fares.
But Brush said cab companies shouldn't be singled out when other businesses are free to raise and lower their prices at will.
He pointed out many restaurants raise prices between lunch and dinner every day.
But other council members said it's an issue of public safety.
Mayor Gary Milner said intoxicated residents might decide to drive home if they find that rates have jumped unexpectedly. Vice Mayor Windell Wheeler and Councilman Chris Jones agreed.
"I think they ought to give us 10 days notice so you can't wait until it gets crazy in the middle of the night to change your rates," Milner said.
Councilwoman Lisa Keller said consumers should be free to make their own choices.
"If the price is too high, I will call a different cab company," she said. "We shouldn't interfere with that. We don't have that authority or that right."
Michael Goldsbury, president of Acme Taxi, said he is interested in moving his business into Delaware.
At the Nov. 12 meeting, he advocated for a regulated market.
"The taxicab business is different from a restaurant because it's part of public safety," Goldsbury said. "If you're in a restaurant, you're in a building with the public all around you. You're not just in closed quarters with just a driver.
"Background checks are necessary to ensure that driver is qualified to provide a safe environment."
Goldsbury also backs a ceiling on rates, as well as a rule limiting the number of taxi companies that can be licensed at one time. Other cities, including Columbus, already impose a moratorium on taxi providers to create a sustainable market, he said.
Council agreed to simplify the background-check process for license applicants and settled on a lower level of insurance coverage cabs should be required to hold.
The Delaware Cab Co., previously the city's sole provider, ceased operation this year after 116 years of business because of financial difficulties.