In September 1996, Cascade Policy Institute issued this Media Release after learning about the small Oregon city of Independence trying to stop an elderly woman from driving her friends for money. The next day an article headlined Woman gets help over taxi issue appeared in the Salem Statesman Journal newspaper.
Contact Steve Buckstein (503) 242-0900
Cascade Policy Institute
September 18, 1996
For Immediate Release
"The city of Independence isn't living up to its name after a Municipal Court judge found 67-year-old Eunice Tanner guilty this week of violating the city's taxicab ordinance by driving friends for money," stated Cascade Policy Institute president Steve Buckstein. "Prohibiting an elderly woman from providing a service that even the judge and the town's police chief said is needed, is no way to foster independence."
The small Oregon city, located near the State Capitol of Salem, has no licensed cab companies, nor any public transit. Tanner drove people around town for fixed rates usually amounting to only $4 or $5 per trip. "How does that guy get to his doctor? How does that guy on dialysis get to the hospital?" she asked.
In Independence no one can drive another person for money without having city-approved insurance. In effect, the city is telling transit-dependent people that they don't have the right to pay $4 for a ride to the doctor. Their only alternative is to find a "legal" mode of transit, probably at a higher price, or do without that trip to the doctor altogether.
Independence is not the only city that routinely denies some people the right to earn a living driving a cab. Many cities nationwide, including Portland, use occupational licensing to restrict the supply of transit services. When government creates such monopolies prices are driven up, which benefits those privileged few able to meet the licensing requirements. The higher prices actually harm all transit consumers, especially low-income citizens who might otherwise gain a degree of independence with lower-cost transit services. In this case, government policy in Independence seems designed to force these people back into dependency.
"This is not only a clear example of paternalism, but is also a violation of these citizens' economic liberty," Buckstein stated. He concluded, "This is a government policy unbecoming of any town aspiring to the name Independence."
The Cascade Policy Institute issued a Media Release on September 18, 1996 about the small Oregon city of Independence trying to stop an elderly woman from driving her friends for money. The following newspaper article was the immediate result.
INDEPENDENCE -- An Oregon think tank and a national law firm are trying to help a 67-year-old Independence woman found guilty this week of operating an illegal taxi service.
Officials of the Portland-based Cascade Policy Institute and the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday that they were reviewing the case of Eunice Tanner.
They say Independence's taxicab ordinance, which Tanner was found to have violated, inhibits people's right to economic liberty.
Independence Municipal Court Judge Erik Larson ruled Monday that Tanner was operating a taxi service without a city taxi license or proper insurance. He gave Tanner 120 days to get a license and insurance or pay a $200 fine.
Tanner maintains that she does not need a license or taxi insurance because she gives rides only to friends and needy people who give her donations for gas and some living expenses. She said her regular car insurance covers her passengers.
"The city of Independence isn't living up to its name," said Steve Buckstein, president of the Cascade Policy Institute. "In effect, the city is telling transit-dependent people that they don't have the right to pay $4 for a ride to the doctor."
Independence has no mass transit. Tanner said her passengers usually gave her $4 to $5 for a local trip.
The Cascade Policy Institute may help Tanner find a lawyer to represent her for free and challenge the city ordinance, Buckstein said. The think tank contacted the Institute for Justice, which asked Tanner to send documents relating to the case.
The Institute for Justice is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal help nationwide. It has led successful efforts against taxi company monopolies and restrictive taxi laws across the country.
Larson and Police Chief Vernon Wells did not dispute the value of Tanner's service.
"What the city is trying to do is avoid someone suing the city when they find out she wasn't covered (by insurance) and they were injured," Wells said.
But Buckstein said, 'most of these ordinances are put in place with the justification to protect the public. But they really protect the few who can afford the licensing requirements."
Complaints from cab companies in Dallas and Salem led to Independence police investigating Tanner.
Tanner was happy that she was getting some help. She had to represent herself at the trial, because she couldn't afford a lawyer.
"I'm thrilled to death," she said. "It's about time someone steps in and stops the bureaucrats."
Tanner said she still was giving people rides because "I'm not going to make people walk or lose their jobs because of the city."