HOH’s One-Minute Recess: Taxicab-gate

Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:46am

Updated: 2:27 p.m.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is fighting back against claims made by a D.C. taxicab driver who says that the New York Democrat refused to pay his fare following a dispute Tuesday over the cost, saying the driver broke taxicab regulations.

Cab driver Abraham Habteab told Fox 5 News he picked Nadler up at Union Station on Tuesday and drove him to a hotel in Southeast. Nadler asked Habteab to wait while he dropped off his luggage and then take him to Capitol Hill.

At the hotel, Habteab asked Nadler to pay $8 for the first leg of the trip, saying he’d reset the cab’s meter for the second leg. But Nadler balked at the suggestion, contending the cabbie shouldn’t reset the meter and that he’d pay him upon arrival on the Hill.

A dispute ensued, which resulted in Nadler taking another cab without paying Habteab at all.

But Nadler tells HOH it was Habteab who broke the law.

Nadler confirms he got into the cab at Union Station and asked Habteab to drop him off on Capitol Hill, stopping briefly at the hotel.

“I advised the driver, Mr. Habteab, that I would be out of the cab for 30 seconds or so, and requested that he leave the meter running in accordance with DC taxi regulations,” Nadler says in a statement. “Mr. Habteab then ignored DC taxi regulations and refused to take me to my final destination without restarting the meter.”

Nadler adds: “This is against the law, and Taxi Commission Chairman Leon Swain has clarified that point to me personally in a letter, which I shared with Mr. Habteab, but which he refused to read. Today, I spoke personally with Chairman Swain, who has confirmed that I was correct in relying on his interpretation of the law as stated in the letter.”

Nadler said he got into the second cab because Habteab didn’t obey the law.

“Of course taxi drivers have rights, but so do passengers,” Nadler says. “I am working with the Taxicab Commission and Mr. Habteab to ensure that he receives the correct payment, despite his misinterpretation of the law.”

Nadler, who says Tuesday’s cab route is his routine when he arrives in Washington, inquired about whether a passenger needs to pay two fares for a brief stop to drop off luggage in an October 2009 e-mail to Swain.

Swain replied by copying into the body of the e-mail a section of the taxicab regulations that state the total fare should not exceed $19 for trips “originating and ending and with all stops en route in the District of Columbia.”

“In short, you should be able to make the trip you described to me without the meter being restarted regardless of the direction of travel,” Swain writes.

Washington De-lights on the D-List

For the record, HOH does so have a sense of humor.

In last night’s episode of funny lady Kathy Griffin’s Bravo show “My Life on the D-List,” the comedian comes to Washington to lobby Congress and winds up apologizing to House Majority Whip James Clyburn for an HOH item in which she called the South Carolina Democrat “a big old queen.”

Griffin holds a copy of Roll Call and bemoans the headline “Queen Clyburn.” “Some people in this town have no sense of humor,” she tells the camera.

The incident leaves Griffin with a lesson that any lobbyist would do well to follow: “No more lobbying and calling people big queens … unless they’re Queen Elizabeth.”

The episode also boasts some funny moments in lawmakers’ offices, including Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) admitting he doesn’t know what “snorkeling” is (ask former New York Democratic Rep. Eric Massa) and an interview with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in which she asks him when he last called gay bingo (“a couple of summers ago,” he answers) and whether he’s ever been in a three-way relationship, or a “thruple.” He doesn’t answer.

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