July 19, 2004 Andrew Rutnik, Licensing and Consumer Affairs commissioner, said Monday he was looking for a "Solomon solution" to an old Taxi Commission issue when he asked the Legislature to pass a law giving him the authority to grant a dozen new taxi medallions in St. John.
Rutnik said that before a 1999 Taxi Commission rules and regulations change tour operators in St. John and St. Croix did not need taxi medallions to operate. They only needed private vehicle licenses on their safari buses.
That changed in 1999 when Rutnik created the title of tour broker for someone who sells tours to vacationers. Therefore, the vehicles that move the tourists around now need taxi medallions.
He said St. Thomas tour operators already had medallions for their vehicles.
Rutnik said that the situation in St. Croix is almost under control, so he's now tackling St. John.
He said that that one company and two people who currently operate tours without taxi medallions for their vehicles applied for the medallions. They operate a total of nine vehicles.
Meanwhile, Sen. Celestino White on Friday sent out copies of the letter he wrote to Rutnik complaining about Rutnik's actions.
"Rutnik knows who he had in mind," White said, alleging that this was special interest legislation.
Rutnik said he is trying to help the taxi drivers, not hurt them.
He said that White had not called him before he went public with his concerns and he didn't understand why White was making a fuss about this.
White said that Rutnik no longer had the authority to issue the medallions since the law expired July 7.
Rutnik said that since the tour operators met the deadline to file their paperwork before the July 7 deadline, they and his department were in compliance.
"It's just a logistical matter," he said.
He said that the Taxi Commission was delayed in issuing the medallions because it had to track down the taxi license plates.
He added that taxi drivers in St. John, unlike their counterparts on the other two islands, actually get certificates rather than medallions because the Taxi Commission can't afford to buy them medallions.
The Source published as a paid ad listing the criteria for issuing the medallions. They included a minimum of 20 years experience transporting tourists and ownership of a valid tour operator's license.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice.. click here.