Think Tank Threatens Lawsuit Unless Portland City Council Reverses Decision

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Today, Tarren Bragdon, chief executive officer of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, David Crocker, director of their Center for Constitutional Government, and Matthew Rand, a 19-year-old summer resident of Peaks Island, asked the Portland City Council to reconsider a recently enacted amendment to the City’s Transportation Ordinance or face litigation, asserting that the amendment violates the due process rights of Matthew Rand under both State and Federal Constitutions.

Over the past two summers Rand has used his family’s golf cart to provide a free transportation service on Peaks Island. Because he did not charge a regular fare, he was not subject to the same licensing provisions that apply to regular taxis. Under the recently adopted changes, however, any person providing such a service and receiving any compensation – even tips -will be required to obtain a taxi license and obtain carrier insurance. Although Mr. Rand cleared his service with the city in 2008, shortly after Mr. Rand began offering rides on the island in June 2009 a non-profit corporation called the “Island Transportation System” started operating, thanks to a $20,000 subsidy from the City of Portland. Mr. Rand’s operation was popular, and flourished, with many customers giving him tips for his work, while the city’s own taxi service struggled to stay afloat.

Mr. Rand was pressured by employees of the competing taxi service, as well by local police, to give up the business. Mr. Rand didn’t back down.

The Portland City Council saw Mr. Rand’s service as a threat to their own, government-subsidized operation, and as their taxi service struggled to stay afloat, they decided to take further steps to remove an unwanted competitor. After complaints from Island Transportation System and the Peaks Island Council, they voted 5-3 to require that people like Mr. Rand must be licensed if they accept compensation of any kind – even tips.

This act by the Portland City Council will effectively shut down Mr. Rand’s ride service, even though his golf cart is inspected and insured, and even though he does not charge riders.

“Last week the Portland City Council told me, a nineteen-year-old entrepreneur working to raise money for college, to get out. They didn’t want the competition. This action by the Portland City Council was wrong,” said Mr. Rand. “I was born and raised in Maine and would like to return after college to run a business in Maine. However, if this is the way government in Maine will operate, I, along with other entrepreneurs like me, may want to reconsider.”

Mr. Rand is being represented by David Crocker of The Maine Heritage Policy Center, which will initiate litigation if the Portland City Council does not rescind this anti-competitive measure.

“Besides providing Matt with an unpleasant civics lesson, the City of Portland has violated his constitutional right to make an honest living.” Crocker said. “The City’s action in changing the taxi ordinance had nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with destroying a competitor to its subsidized service.”

Tarren Bragdon summed up the motivation for the potential lawsuit.

“The Portland City Council is redefining the rules to say if they can’t win then they will cheat. The Portland City Council is saying to young people and young entrepreneurs ‘Get out.’ Finally, the Portland City Council is squandering $20,000 in taxpayer money just to prevent a young kid from competing with their pork project. Matthew Rand has a constitutional right to earning a living…even in Portland. We will fight to protect that right.”

For more information and to see a timeline, please visit David Crocker’s post online at The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s blog, MaineFreedomForum.com.

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