Just one hour after the New Orleans City Council narrowly passed an ordinance by District E Councilman James Gray to extend the deadline for taxi companies to upgrade their fleets, Mayor Mitch Landrieu doubled down on his taxi reform platform by vetoing the measure.
The council's 4-3 vote Nov. 7 would have extended the compliance deadline another 12 months, giving companies until Dec. 31, 2014, to ensure their taxis were no more than seven years old. Landrieu's Twitter account, @MayorLandrieu, posted a photo of the mayor signing the veto with the message, "Mayor Landrieu vetoes roll back on taxi reform and remains steadfast to safe, clean & reliable cabs."
The age limit on cabs is part of what initially was a 32-ordinance package to overhaul taxi service, a goal of Landrieu's since he took office in 2010. The changes were adopted by the City Council last year, and the deadline for compliance is Dec. 31.
Malachi Hull, deputy director of the Department of Safety and Permits, told the council that pushing back the deadline would punish the cabs already complying with the order, and that more than three-quarters of the city's fleet of 1,600-plus cabs already have upgraded their vehicles.
Dozens of taxicab operators filled the council chamber to voice their concerns about the economic strain of purchasing new cars within the city's time frame. Dolores Montgomery called the compliance deadline a "financial hardship," especially if older cabs are in good shape. Arguing against the extension were representatives of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In a statement later that day, Landrieu said, "For too long, taxicabs had been cited as an impediment to attracting new businesses, conventions, major events, and leisure travelers to New Orleans. Local residents regularly expressed major concerns about reliability, vehicle appearance and safety. With the help of the New Orleans City Council, we passed sweeping reforms in 2012 that resulted in cleaner, newer and more reliable cabs on the streets of New Orleans. ... Rolling back or delaying any taxicab reforms sends the wrong message. New Orleans deserves clean, safe, reliable and accessible taxicabs."
At press time, it wasn't clear if the council would attempt to override the mayor's veto. An override would require five votes on the seven-member council — one more than voted for the extension.