Portland officials today said that a threat of a lawsuit won’t cause them to reconsider their decision to require a college student who offers free rides on his golf cart on Peaks Island to be a licensed taxi operator and carry commercial insurance.

City Councilor John Anton and City Attorney Gary Wood said the council’s decision to amend the city’s taxi regulations was legal.

Anton said the council simply created a level playing field for all businesses that offer a taxi service on the island.

“The kid is running a business,” Anton said. “All we did was clarify existing regulations to make it clear that this young man’s business fell within the definition of a livery service.”

Matt Rand, who has operated the service on the island for two summers and had hoped to return next summer, said the insurance costs are so high that he will stop giving people rides.

At a press conference in City Hall today, officials from the Maine Heritage Policy Center said the ordinance the City Council adopted on Aug. 16 violates Rand’s constitutional rights because it is aimed at eliminating the sole competitor for a city-subsidized taxi service on the island.

Tarren Bragdon, chief executive officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, said the Island Transportation System, a nonprofit that received $20,000 in city funds to buy a van to use as a taxi, petitioned the city to change the rules because it didn’t like the competition from Rand and wanted to put him out of business.

“The City Council is redefining the rules to say if they can’t win they will cheat,” Bragdon said.

David Crocker, an attorney for the organization’s Center for Constitutional Government, said that Rand gave rides for tips on a battery-operated golf cart that had a top speed of 10 mph. The amended regulations require Rand to buy commercial insurance at the cost of about $5,000 a year.

Crocker said the council’s demands make no sense, other than to put Rand out of business.

“Consider the relative risks for heaven’s sake,” Crocker said.

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