— The cost of San Diego taxi cab permits, as traded on the black market, have abruptly shot up to as much as $60,000 apiece. As a result, sources say, big-time cab owners are doing everything possible to stop any move toward issuing more permits, even as tourists continue to pour into the city in record numbers and cab fares go on climbing at unheard-of rates. At the moment, the total number of cab permits outstanding is just 870, down from the original 938 authorized by the city council back in 1984. Fifty-eight permits were abandoned or revoked since then. With so few permits available and no law against privately reselling the medallions, prices are getting out of hand, according to a recent report from the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, which runs the taxi-permit program for the San Diego City Council. "Apparently due to the unavailability of new permits, it is our understanding that transferrers are receiving $30,000 to $60,000 per taxi when they sell their businesses and have the permits transferred to their buyers," says a report by Barbara Lupro, the mtdb's "taxicab administrator." "In the mid- to late 1980s, the price was approximately $6000 to $8000. This rise in 'value' has been characterized as a 'windfall' by some." Among the complainers is a group of 35 immigrants who want to get ahold of the 58 permits now inactive. Represented by Michel Anderson, the city's most influential black lobbyist, the West Coast Cab Company is putting the screws on city hall to reissue the idle permits, either by conducting a lottery or an auction. But taxi-reform efforts are said to be stalled by a behind-the-scenes lobby of existing permit holders who want to preserve their growing equity in the permits, the black market prices of which are expected to soar even higher if voters approve Proposition A, the taxpayer-financed convention center measure on next month's San Diego ballot. One cab operation alone, the Yellow Cab franchise owned by a wealthy Rancho Santa Fe denizen, controls about 30 percent of all active permits. Thus, this Monday an mtdb advisory committee made up of representatives from the taxpayer-funded Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce, the Hotel-Motel Association, and chaired by city councilman Juan Vargas, overruled mtdb staff and recommended that there be no change in taxi-permit policy. The city council is expected to pass on the matter sometime this summer, after the controversial convention center election is over. Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune, which is keeping a lid on any sort of controversial news about the city's burgeoning tourist economy, has killed the story about the cab permit black market and the big taxi-fleet owners who are its beneficiaries.

Kehoe vs. Copley One of the nation's most prominent lesbians is running for Congress in San Diego, but one of San Diego's biggest publishing names won't be aboard her bandwagon. David Copley, the scion of the Copley Press, which owns the Union-Tribune, has cast his lot with the campaign of Republican Brian Bilbray against Democratic city councilwoman Christine Kehoe. Copley, who has an eccentric reputation for fashioning a sprawling La Jolla mansion out of five separate houses packed with knickknacks from Tiffany's, is listed as co-chairman of a big Bilbray fundraising bash to be held May 27 at the downtown Hyatt Regency, owned by powerful hotelier Douglas Manchester. Copley played a bit part in the Andrew Cunanan case after it was revealed that the FBI warned the wealthy publisher that he might be targeted for assassination by the crazed gay fugitive from La Jolla's tony Bishop's School. Kehoe ran afoul of Copley when she came out against the controversial Chargers ticket guarantee. Union-Tribune editorial writers claimed In January that the move was "political hypocrisy" and "tawdry grandstanding" motivated by Kehoe's congressional aspirations. "Despite Kehoe's pandering," went the editorial, "the stadium expansion is actually a very good deal for San Diego.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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