step 7 – letter to Mayor & City Council responding to Mr. Bowers

to Larry.Bower@slcgov.com
date Mon, Dec 27, 2010 at 2:29 AM
subject Handi Van is Grinched! We should have appealed to Santa.
mailed-by gmail.com
hide details 12/27/10 (7 days ago)

Dear Mr. Bowers,

Re: contradictory inspection reports on same vehicle

I agree the December 8 inspection was proper. But so was the one on November 29.  There is so much discretionary power when looking at working commercial vehicles that just about any thing can be failed.

The preliminary estimate for the cosmetic makeover required by the December 8 inspection is open-ended at $5,000 to $10,000 because it is so totally a custom van. A re-inspection after the makeover might yield yet another to-do list.

We were hoping in the spirit of Christmas and the City Council’s willingness to look at grace periods for getting into compliance with the new 360,000 mile limit on ground transportation vehicles, that you would give us a break and work with  us based on the more favorable inspection.  You are the one all-powerful guy who could do it without our having to go to anyone else.  I and my employees would not have spent Christmas worrying whether after 26 years I can or should try to stay in business.  At this rate I could be replacing all my vehicles at inspection in the next few months, although they have passed up to now. Grace periods are meaningless if vehicles are knocked out of service at inspection.

We all know we are not talking about a new van here, and it needs to be replaced under the age rule in the taxi reform this year or next.  But there is a recession on, new ADA wheelchair vans are in the $40,000 range, and we do not know yet how much the new taxi ordinance is going to hurt us by requiring taxis to also run wheelchair vans at taxi rates.  We will still be needed by people more disabled than can get out to the curb for a taxi but we will be affected.

I should have been appealing to Santa for a new van.

Sincerely,

Lee Anne Walker
801-281-8416

 

To the Mayor and Council,

Handi Van Inc. still has a problem!

My problem is not solved by the suspension of the mileage limit “if there are no other problems”.  That would work for the taxis and shuttles which could be and were failed on miles alone.  The new law gave special transportation vehicles that appeal already, and I believe that is the reason for 2 dramatically different inspection reports.

I have appealed to all of you, and for good measure to the ground transportation manager, Mr. Bowers, again, as suggested by the Mayor’s staff when he was unavailable to talk to me.  Mr. Bowers answer was that he found the inspection of December 8 proper.  I do not find that surprising, as he left his office at the airport and was the driving force at the inspection of the vehicle on Dec. 8th.

My reply to him is that both inspections were proper as both the old and new laws allowed wide discretion.  I was hoping for some kind of generous temporary compromise in view of the City Council’s willingness to suspend the mileage limits enforcement, the need to retire the vehicle  soon anyway under the age and miles limit, the recession, our looming financial hit when the taxis are forced to run wheelchair vans at taxi rates, and the upheaval every January 1 when many of our medical passengers find out if their insurance plans cover transportation and allow them to continue to choose our company.  With all that going on, and a recession which already has us struggling, I was hoping for a little Christmas good will.

A side issue for your consideration in the Salt Lake City “War on Taxis” is  that totally throwing out the entire taxi system and going to contracting was not justified over scattered complaints over 10 years that some taxis were old and dirty. (Both a strength and weakness of the old law was that any new taxi had to either buy from an existing company or prove there was a problem with the existing service.  That was a powerful incentive for wannabes unwilling or unable able to buy to complain, stir up complaints, and pressure to change the law.)  Real appearance problems could always have been solved at the inspection level.  They could have adjusted the tolerance level for normal wear and tear.  Every vehicle and driver going through the commercial lanes at the airport is checked at the gate.  And they have the right to pull any vehicle any time they see something amiss and send it for inspection.

My problem of the two radically different inspections of the same van is not solved.

My perception is of discriminatory enforcement triggered by the year of the van–although there is a grace period for complying with the new age limit in the taxi law–which brought Mr. Bowers to the inspection appointment site.  The vehicle turned out to be 19,000 miles over the taxi limit which alone would have knocked it off the road under the just-passed taxi ordinance if it were a taxi.  He knew the vehicle, as a special transportation vehicle, was entitled to an appeal to him on the miles if there were no “other problems”, so he found enough to bury it.  And the chip was removed.

I still hope that in the spirit of the City Council’s new found inclination to allow a grace period on the miles there would be some kind of compromise made for this wheelchair van.  It is not worth the $5,000 to $10,000 or more of all the stripping, painting, and re-upholstering and other cosmetic repairs since it will need to be retired when the grace periods run out.

I would love to just go buy a new van.  But there is a recession on,  and we are already struggling.  The banks even in good times don’t loan to  small business unless someone signs personally, and uses their house as collateral. (A major reason for monster houses)  At Handi Van Inc., that would be me.  But I  don’t have a monster house.  I already owe as much as I originally paid on a house that should be paid for thanks to health problems and this business.  I have been working without a paycheck for the passengers, the employees, the creditors, the future, for some time now.  This is a business that after 26 years can do things no other carrier in Salt Lake can, thanks in part to the heavy duty vehicle in question.  I might be better off if I just gave up, but they will know the difference.

This wheelchair van service is collateral damage in the War on Taxis.  Like President Bush, if you think passing the new taxi law was “Mission Accomplished,” you might consider that two potential crises under it have already been postponed:  the increase in fees to drive through the airport until June, and the shutting down of vehicles over 350,000 miles which have no other problems. I can see taxi fare increases ahead.

I am still hoping for a break. Maybe from the City.  I will see you at the City Council meeting.  Maybe somebody has a van they can gift.  Maybe somebody has some capital and energy to buy into Handi Van Inc. so everyone does not loose. Maybe I should have gone to Santa instead of trying to find the proper channels to work it out.  I keep thinking there is some smart solution.

Very Sincerely,

Lee Anne Walker
Handi Van Inc.
(801) 281-8416

copies of the inspections, correspondence  at https://handivaninc.wordpress.com/
the van in question is available for personal inspection upon appointment

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