A taxi cab ordinance under consideration in Santa Rosa would establish an array of regulations on cab companies and charge them thousands of dollars a year, fees some called excessive.
City officials say they have been working for months to establish a comprehensive set of rules designed to ensure cabs operating in the city are safe, fully insured, and easily accessible to the public.
But drivers who attended a city council study session Tuesday said the fees would be a heavy burden and put many of them out of business.
"It's a big con," said John Myerson of Santa Rosa Golden Cab.
The ordinance proposes separate regulations and fees for cab companies, vehicles and drivers. Cab companies would be required to pay franchise fees of 9 percent of gross annual receipts, which itself could cost drivers with a single cab thousands of dollars.
Taxis would also need to be fully inspected and permitted. They would need to be approved by a certified inspection station, their meters inspected by the county, and a final inspection required by the local police department. The annual permit fee was estimated at $110.
Drivers would need to get a a permit to be posted in the cab. They would be required to submit a criminal history, driver's license check and alcohol and drug screening. Cost: $310.
Councilwoman Susan Gorin said she worried that the fees seemed "onerous" and in some cases would mean cab drivers would pay more in fees to the city than major retailers like Macy's or Costco.
The fees should be as low as possible to administer the program without looking to generate profit for the city, Councilman Jake Ours said.
"I think that we need to be mindful of the challenges of being a small business operator," Councilman John Sawyer said.
Independent cab drivers agreed. They said if the fees are imposed as required, only large cab companies will be able to afford them.
"They want to eliminate the small-time businessman," said Temsgan Solomone, owner of Central Cab.
Ahferom Legesse, of All City Taxi, said the insurance requirements are oppressive. He's paying $420 per month, but said that would soar past $700 if insurance liability levels are increased to $750,000, as the city proposes.