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Cab Drivers' Lawsuit Against City Could Upset Airport Vote

A controversial vote is set for tonight's Charlotte City Council meeting that would limit the number of taxi drivers that can pick up passengers at the Charlotte airport. But a pending lawsuit could nullify the council's vote. A group of airport cab drivers filed suit against the City of Charlotte back in October. That was when the airport announced it was looking for just three cab companies to have exclusive curb-side access to passengers. Those companies would have to abide by a set of rules that are stricter than the city's general taxi ordinance. The cab drivers in their lawsuit argue it's not the airport's job to make such rules. "Obviously, the airport doesn't make the law," says the cab drivers' attorney James Galvin. "(The airport) doesn't write the city code. That's done through the city council." The City of Charlotte asked to have the case dismissed, but last week a judge denied that motion. If the cab drivers win their lawsuit, the city council would likely have to revisit any airport contracts it approves tonight. Meanwhile, Galvin says many of his clients will be hurt by the new airport restrictions. Some will lose business because their cab companies are being forced out of the airport. But others lucky enough to work for one of the approved airport cab companies will also suffer because of a rule that their vehicles must be less than three years old when they begin working at the airport. That's more stringent than the city-wide age limit of 10-years for cabs. "These drivers have invested their own money, they're like small business owners," says Galvin. "They plop down $17,000 on a 2007 Pathfinder. They get it detailed, set up, equipment in there to work for an affiliated company, and all of a sudden this summer that car is worthless to them." Galvin argues that kind of rule must be set by elected city council members - not airport officials. The City Council is in the process of reviewing all ordinances related to cabs and limos in Charlotte, but those revisions won't be finished until summer. And until then, Galvin and his taxi driver clients want the city council to put off tonight's vote on airport contracts.