North Adams City Council weighs leaving taxi licensing to police to 'streamline' process

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NORTH ADAMS — Why are applications from prospective taxi drivers coming before the City Council?

That was the question posed by Councilor Jason LaForest at a City Council meeting earlier this month, as it reviewed another set of forms from prospective drivers.

It was far from the first time councilors have wondered out loud why they have any role at all in approving licenses for taxi drivers after they're vetted by the city's police department. But it was the first time the conversation could turn to action, as Council President Keith Bona has suggested approaching the city's attorneys with questions about the license approval process.

In a letter to the City Council on March 20, Bona wrote that it's "clear in our ordinances that the process of obtaining a taxi license must include the city clerk and City Council," but questioned whether the city can "streamline that process."

"I would suggest a motion to refer to the city solicitor for an opinion and to rewrite the ordinance allowing that, if legal," Bona wrote.

The council will discuss the matter at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

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Under the current process, a prospective taxi driver undergoes a background check by the police department, which then sends the application to the council for final approval.

One of the applicants reviewed by the council earlier this month had previously had her driver's license suspended.

"I understand that the Police Department has said that it's OK, but when this comes before me and I have to vote on it as a City Councilor, I hate to just vote on it and be a bobblehead," LaForest said at the meeting.

He referred to the process as "superfluous."

"The police department has reviewed the application and already approved it, then it goes to the city clerk, and then it goes to the council. It seems [like] an awful lot of steps for someone to be employed," LaForest said.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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