(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Disgruntled Arlington cab drivers staged a protest on Monday (November 26), ahead of the County Board’s expected Tuesday vote on granting more taxi certificates. The drivers are accusing the county of racism.
Members of Arlington United Taxi Operators (AUTO) and Tenants and Workers United (TWU) took part in the protest, which was staged to highlight claims of unfair labor practices by Arlington cab companies and to show that drivers’ human rights had been violated based on their national origin.
ARLnow.com requested details regarding examples of human rights violations, but did not receive information about specific incidents. Instead, a TWU representative said the basics included “ad hoc firings, arbitrary changing of working conditions, and the fact that drivers are being bound to a single company.”
“Nearly every single cab driver is an immigrant in Arlington, most are from Africa,” added Wesley Aten, Interim Executive Director for Tenants and Workers United.
AUTO and TWU also issued a press release yesterday stating the intent of several drivers to speak out at last night’s County Board meeting. The release said, “It is a racist system that looks the other way as long as white customers and a white monopoly company benefit.”
The groups provided what they call “reasonable and fair suggested adjustments” to the county’s taxi code. In a joint memo to the Board members, AUTO and TWU wrote the following:
“It is not in the public’s best interest to expand the reach of an already dysfunctional taxicab system that makes cabdrivers part of the working poor… Arlington County has created a taxicab system which — among many other important flaws — forces many cabdrivers to work as many as 13 hours a day, 7 days a week just to make livable earnings because some cab companies use mandatory operating fees to take as much as $14,000 of each driver’s annual earnings for themselves.
The irony in all of this is that a work week that commonly exceeds 60 hours produces exhausted cabdrivers. In turn, tired drivers decrease rider safety.
Yet, despite these facts, under your direction the Board will not let cabdrivers and riders have a public conversation or debate over the existing structure of the industry. Your choice to silence the people on this very important issue is not in line with ‘the Arlington way’ and we are deeply disappointed that you have chosen to protect a system that forces nearly 800 cabdrivers to work for poverty-level earnings.”
They assert that County Board Chair Mary Hynes refused to adequately review their proposed amendments to the taxi code and would not hold a public hearing on practices within the taxi industry. Hynes refuted the claim at Tuesday’s Board meeting, saying the conversation has not ended.
“We are not willing to change the ordinance in the way in which you suggested we do it,” Hynes said. “While I absolutely agree we have not resolved the issues that you raise about how many hours people drive or the impacts of that, or any of that, nor do I think we should think those are off the table.”
Hynes said she met with the group of concerned drivers at least three times between April and October. She said other Board members also met with the drivers, indicating the drivers’ statements about not having access to Board members was inaccurate.
“There was no inability to talk to Board members, all of that happened,” Hynes said.
Hynes further elaborated in a written statement:
“Since AUTO submitted its proposed changes in July 2012 to the County’s taxi cab ordinance, County Board Members and County staff have held numerous meetings with AUTO leaders. After giving the proposal serious consideration, the County Board ultimately decided against a rewrite of the taxi ordinance. Although a vote to not move forward is not required, I decided to have the County Board discuss this decision in public and take a public vote, which we did in October. This request for ordinance changes is not unique. Every year, the County Board receives 10-20 requests from individuals and groups seeking various County ordinance changes. Moving forward on any one of these requests always requires three or more members’ support for the potential change.”
In addition to addressing the proposed changes to the county taxi code, the drivers’ groups requested that Board members deny a plan to allow 55 additional taxis to operate in Arlington, as recommended by county staff. Of particular discussion during Tuesday’s meeting was whether or not to approve certificates for Arlington-based start-up EV Taxicabs.
Last month, County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended that EV receive permits to operate 40 cabs, which would be all-electric and include free WiFi and iPads for passenger use.
As the taxi discussion stretched in excess of two hours and the meeting inched toward 2:00 a.m., Board members decided to carry over the discussion and vote on taxi related items at the December meeting.
In the latest round of mudslinging, Barbara Favola is being accused of making “racist comments” regarding the electability of her Democratic primary opponent, Jaime Areizaga-Soto — a charge she is calling “flat out untrue.”
Local Democratic blogger and Areizaga-Soto supporter Lowell Feld says he received a call from Favola last week in which Favola — thinking she was talking to a potential voter and not a vocal online critic — implied that Areizaga-Soto was unelectable because few Latinos live in the 31st District. Favola reportedly also noted that many of the donations to the Areizaga-Soto campaign have come from the candidate’s friends and family in Puerto Rico.
A chorus of elected Areizaga-Soto supporters condemned Favola’s reported remarks.
“I urge all Democrats — and especially my fellow Democratic elected officials — to condemn Barbara Favola’s racist statements that Jaime Areizaga-Soto cannot win or effectively represent us because of his ethnicity,” said Del. David Englin in a statement. “I expect Favola’s campaign will dismiss my comments because my wife is a paid consultant for Areizaga-Soto. However, regardless of my wife’s role in this election, racism is unacceptable, and Democratic voters, activists, and leaders should reject it.”
“It is the same thinking that drove attacks on John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama,” said Del. Scott Surovell. “To suggest that someone like Jaime Areizaga-Soto is unelectable in Northern Virginia because he is Hispanic is not just wrong, it runs counter to our experience in the House of Delegates, the broader nation, and common sense.”
“I can’t think of any justifiable reason why anyone — particularly a Democratic officeholder — would say such things about an ethnic minority candidate,” said Del. Mark Keam.
Favola’s campaign, meanwhile, is fighting back by accusing the Areizaga-Soto campaign of “sink[ing] to a new low.”
“I am deeply saddened by the latest false attacks from Jaime Areizaga-Soto and his supporters,” Favola said in a statement. “It’s an egregious assault on my character and the values I live by in my personal and public life.”
“Jaime Areizaga-Soto and his supporters have made outrageous allegations at me throughout this campaign, but these accusations of racism are flat out untrue,” Favola added. “Mr. Areizaga-Soto and his supporters have sunk to a new low in Northern Virginia Democratic politics”
Favola campaign manager Adam Scott called the accusations of racism “irresponsible.”
“This started with a local blogger — one of Jaime’s biggest supporters — who has hurled baseless accusations against Barbara throughout the campaign,” Scott said. “He admitted his account of his recent phone call with Barbara was only the best of his recollection. Now, Mr. Areizaga-Soto’s campaign sponsored website, staff, and supporters have leveled allegations based on hearsay and comments taken out of context. It’s completely irresponsible.”
Update at 2:15 p.m. — Jaime Areizaga-Soto campaign has issued a statement: “My campaign is about fighting for our entire community. I’ve lived the American dream and I’m disappointed that my opponent thinks so little of the voters of the 31st that she’d think mentioning my ethnic background would win her votes. It’s worth noting that Favola has not denied the acts, merely the interpretation. I’m grateful to the five Delegates for speaking out – including two who have not endorsed me in this race.”
In this week’s Arlington County crime report, a young man with a “baby face” exposed himself to a woman in Clarendon, followed her, and then ran off.
INDECENT EXPOSURE 04/05/11, 1000 block of N. Highland Street. On April 5 at 1 am, a woman was walking home when an unknown man jumped out from behind a tree. He exposed himself to her and followed her for a short time. The suspect is described as a white male around 20 years old, 5’8”, 140 lbs, with a “baby face”. He was wearing a dark sweater, jeans, and round gold framed glasses.
On Wednesday, March 30, a teenager in the Leeway Overlee area was spit on and called a racial slur by another teen.
ASSAULT AND BATTERY 03/30/11, 2400 block of N. Harrison Street. On March 30 at 5:25 pm, a teenager spit on the leg of another teenager and called him a racial slur. The suspect is described as a 17 year-old white male, 5’10” and 250 lbs. He was wearing jeans, a black baseball cap and black framed glasses.
Last Thursday two guys tried to flee from the police in the Penrose area. One of the suspects was caught and charged with pot possession and felony eluding.
ASSAULT ON POLICE-ARREST 03/31/11, 2300 block of S. 2nd Street. On March 31 at 2:30 am, police conducted a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle drove off while the officers were touching the vehicle. The driver and passenger fled on foot and left their car at a dead end. One subject was apprehended. Raymond Harris, 39, of Danville, was charged with Possession of Marijuana and Conspiring to Commit Felony Eluding. He was held without bond.
See the rest of this week’s crime report, after the jump.
An anonymous tipster alerts us to a wave of Nazi propaganda left on the doorsteps of houses in an (as yet unnamed) Arlington neighborhood.
According to messages on the (as yet unnamed) neighborhood listserve, the flyers are similar, if not identical to these leaflets that were distributed on Metro in 2006.
Last week I came home to find a 2 page flyer (yellow and cream colored) stuck in my door. The sponsoring “groups” are “New Order” (with a swastika in the center of the “O”) and “White Workers Emergency Action (WWEA)”. Both of these groups use PO boxes in Milwaukee,WI, and require you to send a $1 to them for more information. The basic message of these hate filled flyers was to support “White pride” and to end “RaZism” The messages were quite disturbing to me – as was seeing a swastika front and center. I’ve spoken to a few people, but they didn’t receive them (or notice them) – just wondering if anyone else did – and to find out if there’s anything we can/should do about this. I’m no lawyer, but I do know they have a right to express their opinions – but is it lawful to solicit this way?
Another listserve missive recalled the days when Arlington was the home of the American Nazi Party.
Remember that George Lincoln Rockwell, the paragon of these goofballs, had his HQ in [Clarendon-Courthouse], just above the Java Shack (it wasn’t the Java Shack then), and was assassinated on Wilson Blvd. coming out of the Econowash.
We think the unnamed neighborhood in question is either Virginia Square or Douglas Park — if someone could please confirm that in the comments, we’ll update the story.
Update at 2:00 p.m. — The same flyer has apparently been randomly distributed in various parts of Arlington over the years. One local resident says the leaflet was left on the doors of homes in the Westover / Highland Park neighborhood in June.