PORTLAND — Taxi drivers will have to wait until next month to learn the fate of their permits to pick up passengers at the Portland International Jetport.
The City Council's Transportation, Energy and Sustainability Committee delayed its recommendation for reducing the number of taxis at the airport due to a lack of a quorum, according to City Councilor David Marshall, who leads the committee.
Marshall said Councilor Cheryl Leeman was not in attendance and Councilor John Anton left before the agenda item was taken up, leaving only him and Councilor Kevin Donoghue.
"I didn't feel comfortable taking action and calling it a recommendation from the committee without a quorum," Marshall said.
All cab drivers can drop passengers off at the airport and pick them up if they are called, but only a portion hold a special permit to wait for passengers by the curb.
In 2010, the council capped the number of permits at 40, but exempted the 51 existing permit holders with the expectation that the number would drop through attrition. But the number has dropped by only two.
City officials believe the permits are being transferred through power of attorney -- possibly for a fee -- to other drivers.
Jetport Director Paul Bradbury has proposed a lottery system that would eventually be open to all registered cabs. Under his plan, an initial 40-permit drawing would take place in March 2013 and would only be open to existing permit holders. Ten permits would last a year, 10 for two years, 10 for three years and 10 for four years.
After that, all city cab drivers would be able to enter the lottery for a four-year permit that would have to be renewed annually.
The cab drivers this week submitted two alternative proposals: instituting shifts with only 40 cabs in each shift; or allowing attrition to work its course. If attrition doesn't work, they suggest any lottery system should be limited to those cabs already permitted to do business at the airport.
Marshall said Donoghue asked Bradbury to consider a way to affix an expiration date to the existing permits.
Marshall said he is still working on scheduling the next meeting, which could take place either on Nov. 7 or Nov. 21 – the day before Thanksgiving.
Marshall said the committee is not likely to take public comments at the next meeting, since two hearings have already taken place.
"I think we should really get into deliberations," he said. "If someone comes in with something very, very different and it looks like the committee will act on it, we'll have to figure out how to move forward."
The committee vote will be nonbinding, since Bradbury has the power to establish rules for the jetport taxis.