Pittsfield Taxicab Commission Reconvenes to Address Taxi Ordinance

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The re-constituted Taxicab Commission met Wednesday for the first time in more than a decade.

The panel elected Senior Center Director James Clark as chair and Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky as vice chair and outlined its immediate priorities: to address a rate increase request from County Rainbow Taxi and take a look at the city's ordinance for taxis and other vehicles for hire.

The ordinance states that the commission regulates the operation of taxis in the city and annually on Dec. 1, it should recommend to the City Council and mayor changes in authorized fees and rates established by the ordinance.

The taxicab rate is capped at $2.50 and at 30 cents for each additional 1/8 of a mile thereafter in the ordinance.

Clerk Sabrina Gogan reported that there hasn't been an increase or request since 2005. The taxi company wanted to put in a request but had been past the deadline, so it was decided that the commission get back together and fix the ordinance to have a different timeline or make an exception to change it.

Clark asked City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta if they could extend the deadline to July 1 since the commission didn't exist and Pagnotta suggested updating the ordinance.

"I think the ordinance needs to be reviewed and revised," he said. "I mean, some of the language goes back decades."

Pagnotta added that it might make sense to build in some flexibility to the ordinance, citing the limited market for taxi service in the city.

"I think our first task should be to review the current charter information, our ordinance that we have on taxi cabs, start small start with the fare increases because that'll probably be the biggest but then also with that, in that same vein, we should look at the liabilities," Clark said, speculating that technology has advanced since the charter was written and insurance costs have probably gone up.

The commission also discussed getting a list of every entity that provides rides in the city when member Anuja Koirala raised questions about the variety of ride services that don't have a city taxicab license as Rainbow does.

Pagnotta pointed out that other providers are permitted to bring service into Pittsfield from other locations but cannot transport people within city bounds.

Commissioner Robert Malnati also pointed out that a person can have a livery license that allows people to make arrangements for rides for a fixed fee.

"I would say one of our first orders of business should be to determine as many as we can, who were the ride providers in Pittsfield, and I would say right off the bat, just anybody that gets a ride other than to a family member," Clark said, adding that after the ride providers are identified they can be sorted into silos that they fall under.

The commission will meet again on June 1 and begin its work on the city ordinance.

Tags: taxi fares,   

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Pittsfield Police Advisory Board Wants Voice in Use of Body Cameras

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following the City Council's endorsement of dashboard and body cameras on Pittsfield Police, the Police Advisory Review Board would like to review the equipment's policy before anything is implemented.

Chair Ellen Maxon this week asked the board members if they would like to take a vote to support body cameras but some were unsure of their stance. Instead, the panel motioned Tuesday to request that in the event that the Police Department adopts such a program, PARB reviews the governing policies before implementation.

The conversation is in response to the death of Miguel Estrella at the hands of a police officer in late March, which has sparked a significant community response along with conversations about police accountability and the lack of mental health support.

"I still have a pretty mixed opinion because I feel like something like body cameras, people think that's going to be the end all, be all and we don't have to do any more work," board member Erin Sullivan said, adding that there is a bigger problem beyond video surveillance.

Board member Dennis Powell, who is also president of the Berkshire NAACP, wished not to share his thoughts on body cameras at the moment.  

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