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Posts about Jerry Nadler


Taxi rules are too confusing, even for Congressmen

Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) got into a dispute with a cab driver over a fare, refused to pay the driver, then left in a different cab. Is this a "ride-and-ditch" scandal, as the City Paper dubbed it? Or was Nadler doing what any of us would do?

Photo by azipaybarah on Flickr.

What happened: Nadler got in a cab at Union Station and went to the Channel Inn, on Water Street in Southwest. He asked the cabbie to keep the meter running while he dropped off his luggage, then take him to Capitol Hill.

In New York, this would be perfectly acceptable. But, as it turns out, that's not the case in DC. Instead, according to the taxi laws, the meter has to be reset and a new trip started, including the $3 "flag drop" charge.

Or maybe not. The Hill reports that Taxi Commission Chair Leon Swain says Nadler is right. But DCTC's FAQ seems to say that if the rider originally asks for one destination, then arrives and wants to continue to another, it's counted as a second trip. It's also another trip if the second leg is a round trip or not "in one direction." That's probably the case for a trip from Union Station to the Channel Inn to the House side of Capitol Hill, depending on the definition of "one direction."

Either way, it's confusing. New York's method of simply keeping the meter running until the passenger gets out of the taxi makes a lot more sense.

Worse yet, it appears that if a group of people get in a cab to different destinations, they also have to pay multiple flag drop fees. According to 31 DCMR §801.7:

In cases where more than one passenger enters a taxicab at the same time on a pre-arranged basis (group riding) bound for different destinations, in addition to the applicable charges set out in this section, the fare shall be charged as follows: Whenever a passenger gets out, the fare shall be paid, the meter shall be reset, and the last passenger shall pay the remaining fee;
Does "the meter shall be reset" involve charging the $3 flag drop all over again? I called DCTC, and the person I spoke to thought that was right. I didn't know this. Did you?

Compared to other cities, DC's taxi fare structure is quite hostile to groups of people sharing cabs. Not only do we have a $1.50 surcharge per passenger, which isn't present in NYC or many other cities, but in addition, someone can't get out halfway along a route without adding an extra $3 to the overall fare.

Nadler probably thought this driver was trying to scam him. If I had been in a cab with one or two other people and the driver had tried to charge another $3 flag drop to drop off someone along the way, or had tried to charge it after making a stop, I'd probably have thought that as well.

I've gotten in debates with taxi drivers before, like when one refused to take the route I asked. In that case, I also got out of that cab and into a different one. Nadler is going to send the driver the payment he had originally expected anyway, which is the right thing to do. But this could have happened to anyone, thanks to the way some drivers seem to scam for extra money, and the law is so nonsensical, confusing, or counterintuitive that someone might logically believe they are being scammed even if they're not.

Taxi drivers say the current rates are too low for them to make decent money. If that's the issue, extra high fees for groups is not a good answer. The fares should simply reflect what's necessary to keep enough taxis on the road.

(Disclosure: I used to live in Nadler's district and have met him a few times. I also have a friend who works for him, but I found out about this independently.)


Nadler transit amendment passes on voice vote

The House just approved Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY)'s amendment to add $3 billion in transit capital funding to the stimulus. They approved it on a voice vote instead of a roll call.

According to Nadler's floor speech, 1.5 billion will go to the transit capital formula program, which goes to all states, and 1.5 billion to the new starts program. The AFL-CIO and environmental organizations will "score" this amendment, he said, meaning they'll factor members' votes on this issue into their scorecard ratings for each Representative. Since it was a voice vote, though, we don't know who opposed the amendment, making that impossible.

John Mica (R-FL), ranking member of the Tranportation Committee and the House's leading pro-transit Republican, called this "an amendment we have to support." The Appropriations committee, he said, "took one of the most important parts out: that's the rail and transit." Transit infrastructure creates jobs, he said. "Support the Nadler amendment!"

Transportation Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) added, "we heard very clearly from the major transit agencies in this country. They have options for buses. They have options for railcars that could be exercised within days." Manufacturers can ramp up production and create jobs all across the nation.

Rep. David Dreier Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, "reluctantly" opposed since the amendment didn't cut spending somewhere else. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the Appropriations Chair, gave the shortest speech: "I urge support to the amendment."

Oregon's Peter DeFazio: "Americans are loving their transit systems to death. There's $160 billion of deferred maintenance on these systems... there are 10,000 options for new buses, buses made in America. They can't be executed because our transit systems don't have the money." Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), mentioned light rail in Houston. "This bill must be a jobs bill. The [Chicago Transit Authority] head ... said she could spend $500 million tomorrow" putting people to work, added Dan Lipinski of Illinois. "Nothing will create more jobs than funding transportation infrastructure," said Staten Island's new Congressman, Democrat Michael McMahon.

Keith Ellison of Minnesota talked about the record transit ridership last year. Dan Maffei (D-NY) relayed recent news that the transit system of his hometown of Syracuse is facing deep cuts.

Nobody other than Dreier Lewis spoke against the amendment.

Update: The House also rejected an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to remove all funding for Amtrak. "In 40 years, Amtrak has not turned a profit, and the federal government has continued to subsidize it." Flake, of course, didn't talk about all the federal subsidy to roads and airports, which he isn't trying to eliminate. Corinne Brown (D-FL), however, made that very point. "There is no form of transportation that pays for itself. None whatsoever. Whether we're talking about rail, airlines, cars, none of that. We subsidize all of that."


Nadler amendment heading to the floor

The House Rules committee cleared Rep. Jerry Nadler's amendment to add $3 billion in transit funding to the stimulus. It'll proceed to the House floor for an up-or-down vote. According to Streetsblog, the floor vote might happen as early as noon today.

Nadler. Photo by UN1SON on Flickr.

If you live in an area that has representation in Congress, call your Congressperson this morning. (Fortunately, Nadler is also working on fixing that for us DC residents). You can reach your Congressperson via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121 or use this tool to find your rep.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (southwest Oregon), Dan Lipinski (suburban Chicago), Michael McMahon (Staten Island, NY), and Keith Ellison (Minneapolis) are cosponsoring the amendment.

Update: Here's the complete list of amendments today:

  1. Oberstar (MN): Would amend the aviation, highway, rail, and transit priority consideration and "use-it-or-lose-it" provisions to require that 50 percent of the funds be obligated within 90 days. (10 minutes)
  2. Markey (MA): Would require that the Secretary require, as a condition of receiving funding under Title XIII of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, that the demonstration projects utilize Internet-based or other open protocols and standards if available and appropriate, and would require that grants recipients utilize Internet-based or other open protocols and standards. (10 minutes)
  3. Shuster (PA): Would clarify that federal funds received by States under the bill for highway maintenance shall not be used to replace existing funds in place for transportation projects. (10 minutes)
  4. Nadler (NY)/DeFazio (OR)/Ellison (MN)/McMahon (NY)/Lipinski (IL): Would increase transit capital funding by $3 billion. (10 minutes)
  5. Neugebauer (TX): Would strike the appropriations provisions from the bill.(10 minutes)
  6. Waters (CA): Would provide that job training funds may be used for broadband deployment and related activities provided in the bill. (10 minutes)
  7. Flake (AZ): Would strike funding for Amtrak. (10 minutes)
  8. Kissell (NC): Would expand the Berry Amendment Extension Act to include DHS to require the government to purchase uniforms for more than one hundred thousand uniformed employees from U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers. (10 minutes)
  9. Platts (PA)/Van Hollen (MD): Would insert the text of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (H.R. 985 in the 110th Congress) regarding protections for federal employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse. (10 minutes)
  10. Teague (NM): Would require that the website contain links and other information on how to access job information created at or by entities receiving funding under the bill; including links to local employment agencies, state, local, and other public agencies receiving recovery funds, and private firms contracted to perform work funded by the bill. (10 minutes)
  11. Camp (MI)/Cantor (VA): Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute. Would strike everything after enacting clause and adds income tax rate deductions for bottom two income tax brackets, alternative minimum tax relief, small business deduction, bonus depreciation, small business expensing, expanded carryback of net operating losses, improved home buyer credit, unemployment benefit tax exemption, health insurance premium deduction, repeal of 3 percent withholding requirement for government contractors, extension of unemployment benefits, and a Sense of Congress against tax increases to offset outlays. (60 minutes)
In addition to Nadler's amendment, Oberstar's (requiring 50% of funds "to be obligated within 90 days" is probably good, to ensure this stimulus stimulates. Unrelated to transit, Markey's (for Internet openness) and Platts/Van Hollen's (whistleblower protections) seem good. Obviously Flake's is bad, and I presume has no chance of passing. I hope we get roll call votes on some of these, to get a better count of which reps support transit and which don't.


Voting rights hearing going on now

The House Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is holding a hearing right now on the bill to give DC a vote in Congress (and Utah an extra representative at least until the next Census). Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who introduced the stimulus amendment to add transit funding, chairs the committee.


Morning coffee stimulus: and now there was one (amendment)

DeFazio amendment out: T4A reports that the DeFazio amendment was "required to be withdrawn" for parliamentary reasons. No real word on what those reasons were, but apparently the Rules Committee heard your voices loud and clear.

Photo by quinn.anya on Flickr.

Nadler our best hope: Jerry Nadler's amendment would add $3 billion of transit capital assistance to the House bill. Rep. David Obey, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, could include it in something called a "manager's amendment", which would almost surely guarantee it will pass. Obey and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will decide that.

Today, please call Pelosi's office (202-225-4965) and Obey's office (202-225-3365), and ask them to bring Nadler's amendment to the floor. T4A says, "You can mention that our country's transit systems are crucial for keeping the economy moving. At a time when ridership is spiking, and when millions of people rely on these systems to get to work each day, we need to make sure that the economic recovery package will invest money in the kind of transportation that can help us meet our presssing national goals for reducing emissions and oil dependence."

Senate bill is worse: Details of the Senate version of the stimulus are dribbling out. Transit gets a little less than in the House, but about the same percentage compared to highways. Senate Appropriations will be marking up the bill today

The biggest difference is $5.5 billion in multi-modal "competitive grants" that the Secretary of Transportation can award to state and local governments "for projects that will have a significant impact on the Nation, a metropolitan area, or a region." Projects have to be able to finish within three years.

Most of the stimulus would get spent soon: Remember the controversial CBO report saying much of the stimulus wouldn't get spent until 2011? Turns out that's mostly wrong. The new CBO report is out today, and concludes that two-thirds will get spent within 18 months. As Yglesias says, 100% would be better. For any money that won't start in 2009, there's time to debate its proper spending more carefully.

Republicans leaning no: Many Congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner and Senator John McCain, are claiming they will vote against the stimulus as it is today, wanting more tax cuts instead.

Call Pelosi (202-225-4965) and Obey (202-225-3365) today!


DeFazio calls out Summers, introduces transit stimulus amendment

Won't Larry Summers please just go away? He already laid the groundwork for the current financial crisis and damaged Harvard's reputation. Now, he's steering President Obama and the stimulus bill away from transit and other infrastructure spending and toward tax cuts.

Larry Summers. Photo by World Economic Forum on Flickr.

According to House Transportation Chair James Oberstar (D-MN), the original stimulus proposal had $20 billion more for infrastructure, especially transit, but tax cuts crowded it out. He proposed a 60-40 split between highways and transit, but House and Obama negotiators took away more of the transit, shifting the mix to 75-25. On the Rachel Maddow show Friday, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) pointed the finger at Summers:

Almost all other economists agree that infrastructure is a better recovery plan than tax cuts. Infrastructure projects let the government guarantee their dollars get spent, not just saved, and then when you're done, the country gets to keep the new infrastructure. An overwhelming majority of Americans support infrastructure spending. But, DeFazio said, tax cuts over infrastructure was "the dictate from on high in the negotiations with Obama's advisers ... I think he's ill-advised by Larry Summers. Larry Summers hates infrastructure."

DeFazio is fighting back, at least a little bit. He's introducing an amendment to add $2 billion in operating assistance to transit, helping our transit agencies stave off painful service cuts at a time when ridership is booming. Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) will also be introducing an amendment to add $2 billion in capital investment. If they pass, those two amendments will restore only a small fraction of the $20 billion Summers & co. cut, but they're a start.

The first step for these amendments is the House Rules Committee, which decides which amendments can come to the floor. Rules will discuss these tomorrow. Please call Louise Slaughter, Chair of the Rules Committee, at 202-225-3615 and ask her to bring DeFazio's and Nadler's amendments to the floor.

Ask for a rule that allows it to pass with a majority of House members. Sometimes Rules requires a two-thirds majority for some amendments, which most likely dooms those; we want a majority.

Most of the time, House members disagree and negotiate behind the scenes. When they go public, they send a clear message that this is an important issue that they care about. Oberstar, DeFazio and Nadler are taking a stand. Let's have their backs. Call Slaughter now at 202-225-3615 and ask for Rules to bring both amendments to the floor under a simple majority rule. And tell your fellow readers how the call went in the comments.


Stepping it up for America

Over in the other Washington, DC, the one that's a curse on the lips of every politician running on a platform of change, advocacy groups on both sides of the transportation issue are gearing up for a fight that will determine the future shape of our settlement patterns, our future impact on the environment, and the success of our cities and towns: the mega transportation spending bill.

From T4America.

Streetsblog covered the launch yesterday of Build for America, a plan to revitalize our economy through investment in the transportation infrastructure we need now and will need in the future. And that doesn't mean new roads highways freeways expensive high-speed sprawl-inducing auto-only infrastructure, but greener transit that saves Americans from dependence on foreign oil and spending most of their income on gas.

At yesterday's press conference in New York, Representative Jerrrold Nadler, who represents most of the West Side of Manhattan and sits on the Transportation Committee, said, "If we do it right, it will help us get out of the very deep recession we're going into. If we don't do it right, it will make the recession deeper and reduce our competitiveness."

Right now, the nation's attention is riveted on McCain-Obama and Congressional races. Those will have an enormous impact on transportation—Obama supports transit while John McCain just wants to drill and voted against Amtrak funding. Down the ballot, races like Kay Hagan's in North Carolina also feature stark differences in transportation spending priorities between candidates.

Still, once the election is over, the hard work will begin for the Transportation for America coalition, which according to Roll Call will spend $4 million on the campaign. Five-point plans, press conferences and a Web site are a good start, but we'll need more to beat the power of the highway lobby.

We'll need a broad-based movement comprising citizens, bloggers, celebrities, economists, columnists, community organizers, unions, businesses, local governments, and more. Once Americans' and our elected officials' attention turns from the election to the harder work of governing, we'll need that movement to break through the clutter of bad proposals that throw money at bailing out unsustainable development patterns. T4America has the money and the right ideas. Hopefully they can mobilize the nation to pull off a real change in our transportation spending priorities.

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