For months, tensions have mounted between Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council over how to respond to a crisis plaguing the taxi industry that has bankrupted hundreds of drivers and led thousands more to the brink of ruin.
The battle claimed a casualty in July: Mr. de Blasio withdrew his nominee for the next leader of the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC), just days after a contentious Council hearing in which some members accused the nominee, Jeffrey D. Roth, of sidestepping tough questions about the city’s role in the crisis.
A mayoral spokesman described the delay as temporary, saying the administration planned to build support among Council members, who must approve the appointment, before resubmitting the nomination.
Some City Council members have called on the TLC to acknowledge a role in the crisis and for the city to help bail out drivers. But the mayor does not support a bailout, saying it would be too expensive.
Mr. de Blasio’s administration has begun enforcement proceedings against some of the taxi brokers who arranged medallion loans, arrested a debt collector, written new regulations, strengthened oversight of the industry, and waived up to $10 million in fees owed by drivers.
The mayor nominated Mr. Roth as TLC chairman in June month, citing his experience in the Army National Guard and in government, including two years as deputy commissioner for policy and external affairs at the TLC, after the crash in medallion prices.
The Taxi Workers Alliance issued a statement praising Mr. Roth as sharp and engaging. But at the confirmation hearing in July, problems quickly emerged during questioning about the possibility of a bailout, among other topics.
The council speaker, Corey Johnson, began the questioning by asking Mr. Roth to apologize, on behalf of the TLC, to medallion owners for the inflation of medallion values. Mr. Roth turned to medallion owners in the audience and said, “My pledge to you is knowing there is suffering, I will work every single day to work with you, to work with the City Council, to find ways to alleviate suffering wherever possible.”
Later, Mr. Johnson asked if the TLC had properly regulated the medallion market before Mr. Roth conceded it had not. Then, after the nominee sidestepped multiple questions about legislation that the Council had drafted in response to the crisis, Johnson complained that, “We need more specifics here today.”
The Council then scrapped a vote that had been planned for July, leaving little time before the nomination was going to expire.
The mayor’s decision to withdraw Roth means the acting director of the TLC, Bill Heinzen, will remain in place for now. Mr. Heinzen also has a rocky relationship with the City Council after a contentious hearing in June.
Source:New York Times