The city of St. Louis wants to get involved in the ongoing legal fight responsible for unraveling regulations on horse-drawn carriages
In a motion filed Tuesday by Assistant City Counselor Chris Carenza, the city argued that it previously had not been notified that a county judge has halted the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, or MTC, from regulating the carriages and their drivers.
"[T]he City was not given the opportunity to appear to protect its interests," Carenza writes. That's even though the city "has a profound interest in this administrative review action ... [I]t is necessary for the city to be allowed to intervene in this cause in order to protect the interest of its citizens."
The MTC regulates taxicabs in the city and county, but it has repeatedly run into problems when it's tried to enforce its rules on non-taxicab vehicles for hire. Horse-drawn carriages are just the latest industry to expose the cracks in the commission's authority.
The trouble started last August, when the MTC issued a cease-and-desist order
, banning Brookdale Farms from giving carriage rides in the city and county. Brookdale Farms was accused of operating carriages on dangerously hot days and violating requirements that drivers have commission-issued licenses.
Instead of buckling under, Brookdale Farms struck back with a lawsuit of its own, requesting a judge put the MTC's order on hold. One month later, the judge slapped down the taxi commission, noting that state law — which created the commission in 2002 — gave it power only to regulate vehicles with taximeters.
Since then, the MTC has claimed that the judge's ruling effectively bans it from enforcing its street code regulations in St. Louis city and St. Louis County. Yet since that ruling, rather than heating up, the legal action has been on the back burner. As the city noted in its motion to intervene, there have been "little or no pleadings" since the judge issued its stay halting MTC in October.
"In short, this case is in its infancy," Carenza writes. And if the city is allowed to join the case, he writes, the city would "advocate that the applicable law and pertinent facts in Missouri Statues and the MTC Vehicle for Hire Code be enforced."
Contacted over email yesterday, city counselor Carenza said the city's arguments "speak for themselves." A judge has scheduled the next hearing for August.
In the meantime, though, the confusing status of the MTC's authority has frustrated animal rights activists — who want the commission to keep carriages off the road during rush hour — and competing horse carriage companies, which have spent more than six months unaware that their industry is actually unregulated
. And yes, they've been paying the taxi commission the whole time.
See also: Taxi Commission Has Been Billing Carriage Companies, Even After Halting Regulation
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com