Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers
of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public
Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his
website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 12, 2007
LAS VEGAS - In this
2005 Las Vegas Sun photo,
hundreds of local cabbies are shown blocking the Las Vegas Strip in
protest of a bill passed by unanimous vote of the Nevada Legislature
that would have prohibited many of them from taking pay offs from strip
clubs and other adult businesses while allowing limo and shuttle van
drivers to continue the practice unimpeded.
After the 2005 bill was approved, former Governor Kenny Guinn vetoed
it when cabbies -- on company time and using company equipment -- shut
down the Strip and threatened to shut down the airport.
Governor Guinn claimed to have received over 500 calls and emails
asking for his veto. Using the reason "Taxicab
drivers contribute greatly to the economy of this state," and that the
bill was unfair because "It singles out and hurts the financial
well-being of taxicab drivers" (while
allowing limo and shuttle van drivers to extort at will), he dutifully
signed the veto while not taking into consideration the dire
consequences that doing nothing would inflict on tourists and local
Shortly after his veto, some taxi drivers declared victory and vowed to
use the same obstructionist tactics in the future
to accomplish their goals if the need again arises. Cab company owners
remained silent, though average citizens complained loudly about being
inconvenienced and threatened, along with their continued complaints
about receiving poor taxi service in the outlying areas before the
Then last week, the 2007 Nevada Assembly amazingly
cowered and voted 42 - 0 to support
Guinn's veto thereby legalizing extortion
throughout the state! Maybe the casinos blocked by the protesting
cabbies told their elected representatives to acquiesce for fear of
future demonstrations on the Strip or airport. Whatever the reason, it
was one of the biggest shockers in the history of the Silver State.
owners are reporting that they also are being extorted if they
depend on tourist business. These include wedding chapels, well known
off-Strip restaurants, pawn shops, bridal shops, and florists.
Remember, the state government is supposed to be protecting the
convenience and necessity of all citizens, not just taxi and limo
drivers. But Governor Guinn seemed to miss this fact and many small
businesses are left paying the price.
Now its up to our new Governor, Jim Gibbons, to straighten out this
mess before a few cabbies -- through threats -- are able to take over
the state any time they see fit by using their boss' equipment to snarl
traffic and cripple the tourist economy while leaving many locals
walking or taking the bus.
Some cab and limo company owners are known to condone the practice of
some drivers diverting passengers for profit. It saves those owners the
expense of having to pay a living wage with benefits. It also allows
them to claim they need more vehicles to meet the needs of locals and
After no company owners complained when their equipment and personnel
were involved without permission in the 2005 civil disobedience, some
observers began to speculate that another scheme was in the works. They
also wondered how our State government could be so controlled by the
threat of only one industry, and why the public's roadways were allowed
to be used to threaten the Governor, especially when the taxi industry
is supposed to be regulated by the state?
in mind that most cab and limo drivers in Vegas are moral law abiding
citizens like this driver who wrote to INSIDE VEGAS: "Steve:
Regarding 'club runs', having driven a cab in Vegas for some 140 days
since July of 2005, I wouldn't rely on those 'tips' to pay for my food
budget, much less the rent. In my experience, with only a couple of
exceptions, when passengers desired to go to a club, they knew exactly
where they wanted to go. And that's just where I took them. No
questions asked. Plus, as I understood it, any diversion of passengers
was not only illegal, more important, it was unethical. Out of some
3200 trips, there were only two instances that I can recall being asked
for a recommendation regarding a strip bar when I collected any extra
dough from having made one." - Jon
And there are many more
ethical drivers who feel the same, but I understand that most of them
work the less lucrative day shift when "club runs" are not so
prevalent. After the sun goes down things change. That's when you see
dozens of idling cabs in front of every strip club up and down
Industrial Road while local citizens wait and wait and wait for a cab
to the airport. Also, the doormen at the major hotels want a cut, and
will only direct guests wishing to go to an adult club to the cabs and
limos of drivers who give them a hefty kick back. Hotel management
looks the other way in typical "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas"
style. No one seems to care that thousands of our tourists are being ripped
off, extorted, and sometimes beat up after they arrive at an illicit
sex business they may not have originally intended to visit --
something else the transportation company owners would rather not be
held liable for.
On that subject, Brent Kenton
Jordan, the former
strip bar bouncer turned author of the best selling novel "Stripped,"
tells INSIDE VEGAS: "Steve: The standard
cabdriver extortion rate is currently (for the past several months, and
as of today) $70.00 per head. Kevin Kelly at the Spearmint Rhino was
the last holdout at $30.00 per head until this past week, where he
broke down to the pressure. The Rhino, in court documents, claims they
paid out over 10 million dollars in 2005, alone (at $30.00 per head). I
can understand the spineless politicians cowing down to these terrorist
cabdrivers (what else would you call a group that boycotts businesses,
shuts down the strip, and threatens to shut down the airport if their
extortion money is cut off?) but how is it that the IRS is ignoring
this? Look at the numbers: 10 million per year from the Rhino, and
similar amounts from Cheetahs, the Crazy Horse, Treasures, The Olympic
Garden, Sapphire, Club Paradise... (all the clubs––over thirty––now
paying, with the exception of the Palomino). Possibly fifty million
dollars per year divided between, maybe a hundred cabdrivers who work
those areas and shifts. Millions in and out of the clubs and cabdriver
pockets without a dollar in taxes being paid. What about Homeland
Security? Do you suppose any of those millions are being funneled to
terrorist organizations (without making any obvious references to
cabdrivers with mideast and Somali ties)?"
In the case of cab and
limo drivers diverting tourists to businesses that pay per customer
delivered, keep in mind
that some shuttle vans have 20 or more seats!
drivers can make hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars per night by
just waiting in the queue in front of any
Industrial Road strip bar for patrons who want to go to another strip
bar -- recommend the closest one that offers pay offs, and drive a few
blocks down the road. In some instances, the only reason gasoline is
used is to power the auto air conditioners while vehicles sit
motionless in the queue. When they do hit the street, its only for a
couple of blocks, and the whole scenario starts over again until the
sun comes up. In the meantime, radio volume is turned down, and local
residents wonder why they can't get a cab?
Because of the current situation, there's no need for the regulating
agency known as the Nevada Taxicab Authority (T.A.) whose only purpose
is to make sure new companies don't get approved to compete with
existing cab and limo operators who are famous for giving generous
political campaign contributions to Governors, and wining and dining
his appointed T.A. commissioners.
Nevada has strict laws that protect the exclusivity of the owners and
their desire to squelch competition. The "Public Convenience
law allows each owner to "intervene" when a new operator applies for a
taxi or limo certificate. The intervention permits company attorneys to
claim an "adverse impact" if competition was allowed -- that their
client would suffer financial harm with new competition. Because of
this law that has been ruled unconstitutional in 47 states, Nevada only
allows several companies to ply our streets with cabs, limos, and
shuttle vans. Those outsiders who apply for certificates soon learn an
expensive lesson like that taught to Music Express Limousines, one of
the nation's largest limo companies, when they tried to get a permit to
operate in Clark County (Las Vegas).
It seemed that the "public's convenience and necessity" was overpowered
by the existing company's convenience and necessity to limit legitimate
At the time, I was fresh off the Clark County Regional Transportation
Commission where I had spent four tumultuous years exposing the $10 -
$17 million per year skimming
operation of the former transit bus system on the Strip. Like most
former public officials after leaving public office, I opened a
consulting business, and my first client was Music Express.
After spending a quarter million in legal fees, a hearing was held
before Governor Bob Miller's appointed Nevada Transportation Services
Authority. At that hearing the
other limo operators sent their attorneys to plead that there would be
an "adverse impact" on their business if Music Express was allowed to
operate in Nevada.
Knowing the players on the-then Nevada Transportation
I soon realized I would have to become a bag man to make it work, and
that's not my style. I told my clients who immediately pulled out. The
firm with branches in New York, Washington D.C., LA, and San Francisco
folded their tents and left Sin City never to return. They were too
legitimate to do business in Nevada.
Imagine the same set of rules for pizza parlors, dry cleaners, or
beauty salons? Someone who legitimately applies for a business license
would have to face the high powered attorneys of the neighborhood
competition who would appear at a hearing officiated by a bunch of paid
off appointees of the Governor who say the new business will cause an
"adverse impact" on existing pizza parlors, dry cleaners, or beauty
salons, therefore no competitive license should be granted.
Sound ridiculous? It would be in any other town. But in Sin City, it's
par for the course, at least with taxicab, limo, shuttle van, and tow
At present, no new "Certificate of Public Convenience and
Necessity" can be issued without the
approval of the men and women the former Governor appointed to the
state Taxi Authority or Transportation
and many of those same men and women are notorious for taking bribes.
Get the picture?
Taxi and limo certificates or medallions should be available to anyone
with a commercial drivers license and insurance who wants to fulfill
the American Dream. Why doesn't Nevada allow one owner - one cab
businesses? Or allow new operators to own fleets? Ask our new Governor
Jim Gibbons? It all depends on who he plans to appoint to his next
state transportation boards and commissions, and whether they enforce
the laws that are supposed to protect the public's best interests.
Meanwhile, call at least two hours in advance for a cab to McCarran
Airport if you need to catch a red eye.
© Steve Miller
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