Group sues to get taxi initiative on Anchorage municipal ballot

Posted: Friday, February 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A group that rounded up enough signatures on a petition to make it easier to get Anchorage taxi permits is suing to place its initiative on the city ballot this spring.

Anchorage Citizens for Taxi Reform wants a judge to overturn a decision by City Clerk Greg Moyer. Moyer refused to certify the group's petition for the April 2 ballot under the advice of the city attorney.

The petition would allow anyone who meets the city's taxi driver qualifications to get a cab permit. Currently, people who want a new permit must persuade the city's transportation commission to grant one. Only a handful have been added since the mid-1980s.

Permits are traded on the market and have fetched prices of at least $70,000.

Deputy city attorney Dennis Wheeler wrote in a memo that the initiative, if approved by voters, could devalue existing permits. Existing permit holders could successfully sue the city to pay for the lost permit value.

The initiative would, in effect, require the city to appropriate money, the attorney said. State and city laws say initiatives can't require an appropriation.

Karen Bretz, an attorney representing the petitioners, says the petition doesn't say anything about appropriating money. Permit values are affected by market forces outside the petition, she said.

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