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TAXI CEO ACCUSES TAMPA BAY PARTNERSHIP OF SHOWCASING SUPPORT FOR UBER AND LYFT, DEMANDS PUBLIC APOLOGY

Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Monday, October 6, 2014 6:30pm

Yellow Cab Company of Tampa President Louie Minardi has sent a letter to the Tampa Bay Partnership chastising the group for hosting a Sept. 24 transportation forum where panelists gave full-throated support to ride-share companies Uber and Lyft.

"It is nothing short of irresponsible to showcase and promote businesses that you know are operating illegally, while your organization accepts public funding," the letter read.

He also asked for the partnership to retract its support of Uber and Lyft "until they are in full compliance with the law."

During the forum, Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, along with other officials, spoke openly in support of the two companies.

Tampa Bay Partnership president Stuart Rogel said the partnership has not taken a position on Uber or Lyft and that the panel was one of many that day discussing transportation options in the area.

"That forum really was more about educating the attendees on transportation options and choices, but there was no position represented by the partnership," said Rogel, who read the letter Monday afternoon. "I'm sorry Mr. Minardi feels like we were advocating for a position ... but his opinion about whether or not we've taken a position is not correct."

The Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles in Hillsborough, was not invited to be part of the forum. Rogel said the partnership didn't consider inviting the regulatory agency because it is not a transportation provider.

"We weren't looking for debate on this issue," he said. "We wanted to hear from one of the transportation providers as to what their technology was and more about this form of transportation."

The Public Transportation Commission says the ride-sharing services are illegal and the companies don't meet insurance and background check requirements. Thousands of dollars worth of tickets have been issued to Uber and Lyft drivers since they began operating here in April.

Minardi copied the Hillsborough County Commission, the city councils for Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City, and Brandes on the letter. He also attached the State of Florida Ethics Policy, the Hillsborough County Oath of Office and the Hillsborough County Sponsorship Policy.

To read Minardi's letter, click here.

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