by Michael Lowrey
Let’s see if the city can get if right — or closer to right — this time. By limiting the number of cab companies that can pick up fares at the airport, the city is picking winners and losers — the companies that can operate at the airport make a lot of money, those that can’t struggle or go out of business all together. Unsurprisingly, political contributions flow from winning cab companies. And there’s also been suggestions that former Mayor Patrick Cannon may have tried to shake down cab companies wanting to get in on the airport action. Even if the suggestion isn’t true, the current arrangement simply encourages corruption. It’s just that simple.
Lots of pols and bureaucrats have no problem with status quo — it gives them control. And that includes current City Manager Ron Carlee, who also continues to claim that corruption in the Queen City is an unpossibility despite Patrick Cannon’s arrest and another ongoing FBI undercover investigation.
The original reason Jerry Orr wanted to limit the number of cab companies that operated out of the airport was so the airport could regulate quality, so that visitors wouldn’t have their perception of the airport, and by extension the city, destroyed by a ride in a run-down cab. It would be ironic indeed if the desire to protect the city’s image resulted in something that caused far more damaged to the city’s brand than a ride in an older cab ever could.
So the city is on the clock, and it has about two weeks to decide what to do next. As the UPoR reports, Charlotte has three options: keep the current arrangement, complete with the same three companies that can operate from the airport; end the artificial limit; or rebid the contract (limit), complete with possibly a higher limit limit on cab companies at CLT. How the city decides to proceed will say much about the nature of Charlotte city government and the city’s civic culture at large — will the powers that be work aggressively to restore public confidence by rooting out corruption and that which might breed corruption or will Ron Carlee’s Sgt. Schultz imitation rule the day? City Council has until mid May to decide.
Bonus observation: Should the FBI divulge more evidence of corruption in city government, it’s difficult to see how Ron Carlee can remain on the job. And that’s true even if the corruption didn’t happen on Carlee shift.