The Oswego Common Council has voted five to zero to amend its taxi cab law, after working on it for more than a year. The law originally barred people convicted of felonies from driving taxi cabs within Oswego city limits, but sparked a lawsuit from the Workforce Advocacy Center, a group opposing job discrimination.
"It had to do with the legality as it related to how you would treat convicted felons and others who had already done their time, and whether or not what we we're trying to do was discriminatory against those individuals," Oswego Common Council President Ron Kaplewicz said.
Kaplewicz says the city worked with the state to make the legislation consistent with state statutes. It also clears up the appeals process for those denied a taxi license in the city.
"This law may serve as a foundation for other municipalities as well, that want to move forward with this," Kaplewicz said.
Kaplewicz says the city will now consider applicants for a taxi driver's license with felony convictions, including sex offenders, on a case-by-case basis. The process is the same for annual taxi driver's license renewals, which must be endorsed by the city's police chief.
It can also now deny applications because of criminal records.
"It will require individuals to submit to a host of questions related to their background," Kaplewicz said. "And what we're really looking to do is if your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, whatever, hops into a cab, you have the right to know who's driving that cab. And we want you to be safe."
Councilor Michael Todd has supported the law since its first passage.
"It should be common sense that if you're a registered sex offender, you can't show up at the Oswego Middle School to pick up the girls leaving the school dances and get a ride home."
Todd says there are currently nine registered sex offenders with taxi cab licenses in Oswego, and that the law will prevent them from renewing their licenses.
"This isn't rocket science," Todd said.
Mayor Tom Gillen says the city is not trying to discriminate against anyone who wants to drive a cab in the city, it just wants to make its taxi service safe for those who use it.
"In just country boy English, we just don't want bad people driving cars," Gillen said. "They may have problems, they may be complicated. They may be trying to get through some of their afflictions, but we have the responsibility to provide a safe service to the people who come here. Fundamentally, this is a business and we need to have laws and that's how we regulate it."
The law goes into effect immediately.