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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Commentary

Backward thinking from Tampa’s old guard

BY MIKE MERINO
Special to The Tampa Tribune

Published:

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There was a brief time in my early working career that I drove a taxi cab in Tampa. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but if I hustled it paid pretty well and I met some interesting characters. That said, I read with special interest Joe Henderson`s recent column “Hillsborough County rules stifle new business, preserve status quo.”

Thanks Joe; you nailed it with your overall observations of the archaic antics of the Public Transportation Commission and its long history of corruption in Hillsborough County. Remember Kevin White? He was the former Hillsborough commissioner who’s doing time in an Atlanta federal prison for taking bribes while chairman of the PTC.

In addition, it`s a sad day for the citizens of Tampa as they must witness the selfish and pompous attitude of the county commission when members turned their back in support of our local craft beer entrepreneurs — unlike when they opened up the county`s “subsidy” checkbook in order to bankroll big-box corporations such as Bass Pro Shops and Amazon.

There’s no doubt, and speaking from my own experience, an independent cab driver works hard and the hours are long. But this is no excuse to limit the taxi field to exclude fair and equitable competition from the likes of the new and unique ride-sharing companies, Uber or Lyft. Nor is it fair to financially penalize these drivers with exorbitant fines.

Sadly, our existing bay area cab companies, Yellow and United, are indisputable monopolies that have controlled every facet of the cab industry for many years. Now that they are finally faced with real competition they hide like scared bullies behind the high-priced ticket book of the PTC militia.

If Tampa ever wishes to reach beyond its former sleepy town mentality, which has existed for years and slowed its growth, everyone with a pro-business vision must rally together to stop the backward thinking of the existing old guard.

Mike Merino is a longtime Tampa resident.

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