Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cab driver denied new permit


Despite a plea of financial hardship, Santa Barbara city leaders denied a taxicab permit after noting the driver had registered four moving violations in the past two years.
While expressing empathy for the personal situation of the driver, Julio Maganda, officials said the law is clear when it comes to renewing taxi permits.

“I have to look at the code and I have to look at the safety of taxi drivers throughout the city,” Councilmember Helene Schneider said. “…I understand and empathize with what that means financially to you and your family, but I can’t make an exception based on personal circumstances.”
The city’s municipal code states that anyone with four moving violation convictions in a two-year period shall be denied renewal of a public vehicle driver’s permit.
Stephen Penner, an attorney representing Maganda, asked for a one-year probationary period for his client, who has struggled with mortgage payments on his Ventura home since losing his permit five months ago.
“He has not been able to pay his mortgage since May of this year,” Penner said. “His house has been foreclosed on.”
Maganda’s driving violations include failure to obey a sign or signal, speeding on a highway, failing to keep to the right on a divided highway and making a wrong-way turn against a posted sign or signal.
Lt. Armando Martel of the Santa Barbara Police Department noted that the taxi driver received warning signs when he was given a one-year permit renewal in 2007 instead of the standard two-year renewal due to two moving violations already on his record.
“He had a year, up until May of 2008 when his renewal came up, to improve his driving record,” Lt. Martel said. “Instead of improving, he got three additional moving violations.”
He also noted that driving a cab isn’t Maganda’s sole source of income — he owns 777 Taxi Co., which operates a fleet of five vehicles.
Penner, while admitting that his client receives additional income from his company, said that figure is minimal.
“There are four other taxicabs that are driven by other drivers, for which Mr. Maganda gets $100 for each car,” he said.
In a letter to city officials, the attorney also pointed out that none of the moving violations occurred when Maganda had a customer in his taxi.
City leaders agreed that Maganda’s situation is difficult, but said they have little choice in the matter due to the unambiguous language in the city’s municipal code.
“The requirements of the code are not onerous,” Councilmember Das Williams said. “If your livelihood depends on being able to drive a cab, one would hope that you would react sooner than the fourth moving violation to the severity of the situation.”
The council voted unanimously to uphold the denial of the permit renewal, a decision made by police officials that was also upheld by the Fire and Police Commission. Leaders also noted that Maganda could reapply for his permit in May 2009, a year after the denial.
“We need to hold a very high standard for the cab drivers in Santa Barbara,” Councilmember Grant House said. “Perhaps with a better record over the next few months, you can come back and be one of those stellar cab drivers.”

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