Things have been tight for cabdrivers in Annapolis. The U.S. economy is booming, the cost of living is up and gasoline prices have taken off, while their fares have idled for nearly seven years.
For Cathy Dean, a driver for Yellow Checker Cab Co., recent years are some of the worst in her 25-year career. "Everything else is going up - gas, electric, insurance on the car - but we haven't gotten a raise," said Dean, who lives in Arnold. "I'm a single parent now raising a teen-ager, and it's hard to make ends meet."
Dean and the city's other cabdrivers got a financial jump-start Monday night when the Annapolis city council unanimously approved a fare increase, bringing the city's cab fares up to par with those passed for the rest of Anne Arundel County in May.
The initial charge for a cab ride will go up more than 12 percent, to $1.80 from $1.60, and the charge per mile will rise 17 percent, to $1.40 from $1.20. The rate change also increases the waiting charge from $18 an hour to $20 an hour and adds a $1 surcharge for rides between midnight and 5 a.m.
"It's simple business sense," said City Transportation Director Danielle Matland, who began meeting with taxi owners and operators in March. "In order for us to ensure we have a reliable fleet of taxis, it has to be cost effective for them to remain in operation or otherwise they'll cut corners."
It will be about a month before taxicab customers see the increase, as the city notifies the public and recalibrates cab meters, Matland said.
Also at the meeting Monday, the council passed Alderman Ellen Moyer's bill to create a program to purchase art for display in public places.
The measure - which was strongly opposed by the lone dissenter, Alderman Herbert H. McMillan - includes a recommended funding formula based on the general fund, generating $33,800 this year, Moyer said.
"It sets us on record as a city that cares about art in all its different forms," Moyer said.
After the bill passed, Moyer announced that an Annapolis-based nonprofit group, the TKF Foundation, has agreed to match the city's contribution dollar for dollar from $33,000 up to $50,000 for three years.
"We made the city a challenge," said Mary Wyatt, the foundation's director. "We hope by making this challenge grant it will encourage other private and governmental partners to participate in bringing public art to Annapolis."
The measure will establish a commission of nine residents - one from each ward and one at-large - appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council for three-year terms to purchase artwork and administer the program.
Although the ordinance passed, funds still must be appropriated by the council. Moyer said she does not expect that money will be set aside for the program until next year's budget.
Moyer also made a surprise move at the meeting, reversing a previous vote on a measure that would allow city employees to share their sick leave through a sick leave bank. The measure, which was defeated July 10 in a 5-4 vote, was reconsidered Monday night and passed a voice vote.
Moyer said she voted against the bill at the July 10 meeting because of amendments that put the bank under the control of the human resources director. Those amendments were reversed Monday night to give employees the power to design the sick leave bank.
McMillan opposed the move to reconsider the bill because Aldermen Samuel Gilmer and Michael W. Fox were absent from the meeting. But he voted for the bill to preserve his right to have the bill reconsidered at the next meeting, he said.