If Cohen’s future is clouded, Blythe-Shaw said, the mayor should clear the air immediately by firing him. Cohen, she said, was responsible for an “archaic, autocratic, oppressive, and dysfunctional regulatory system that wastes taxpayers’ dollars and diverts police from neighborhood policing.’’
Cohen declined to comment.
As for reforming the industry, Blythe-Shaw said it is imperative that taxi drivers be involved. “We need some drivers, we need the union involved,” she said. “This is what we’ve been asking for since 2008.’’
The union activist has called for a civilian commission, financed with funds from medallion renewals and resales, to supplant Cohen’s Hackney Division.
During a 2011 hearing, drivers and advocates packed the City Hall chamber and Maureen Feeney, then a city councilor, said it was time to consider a different model to govern the industry.
“Much of the testimony that I’ve heard, as I’ve said, has been informative and educational, but it’s also been upsetting and concerning,’’ Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley said then. “These cab drivers are risking their lives every day to provide a very important service for the residents of the city and for tourists, and for any of them to feel marginalized, exploited, or demoralized in any kind of way just doesn’t sit well with anyone, and it shouldn’t.’’
Tutunjian and other fleet owners steadfastly opposed the idea of changing the way Boston has governed its taxi industry for generations. The plan went nowhere.
Cohen, who attended the University of Pennsylvania, has worked for the Boston police since 1985. He is credited with transforming Boston’s taxi fleet from a scrubby collection of belching clunkers to an industry propelled by late-model vehicles, many of them gleaming new hybrids.
He sits on the board of an international association of taxi regulators and has helped usher in a requirement that all cabs accept credit cards.
He also drove the effort that introduced 100 wheelchair-accessible taxis into Boston’s fleet.
The Globe reported this week that medallion owners who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, were suspected of misappropriating $200,000 from one cab association, and pleaded guilty to bribing a police sergeant were all allowed to keep their city-issued licenses.
Cohen said in earlier interviews that he could not recall a single instance where his division revoked a license, called a medallion, from an owner for misconduct.
The Menino-ordered examination of the cab business will also include whether the city should issue more medallions — they are capped at 1,825 — or other options to address increased demand from customers. The mayor said he also will institute a hot line to collect complaints from patrons and drivers. “For some reason we were not getting these allegations,’’ Davis said of the Globe’s report. “And we want to make sure we know of these things.’’
Thomas Farragher can be reached at email@example.com .