PORTLAND — The city’s decision Friday to rescind a policy barring the use of any power-of-attorney agreement to get a taxi permit for the Portland International Jetport opens the door to talks about the issue, said the lawyer representing taxi drivers.

Sigmund Schutz, an attorney with Preti Flaherty, said the policy was “a back-door attempt to squeeze out” airport taxi drivers. Schutz represented 11 taxi owners and drivers from Somalia who sued the city over the policy, which was adopted last month.

The city had said it would no longer allow taxi drivers or owners to renew their access permits using powers of attorney. Instead, each permit applicant would have to appear in person.

The city has been trying to reduce the number of drivers of unreserved cabs — those that sit outside the terminal waiting for fares, as opposed to those that are called to pick up travelers — to 40 by tightening the rules on permit renewals.

City officials said the policy would ensure that the permits wouldn’t be passed on from one person to another.

There are now about 49 permit holders at the airport, Schutz said. The city hopes to reduce the number to 40 by attrition.

Jetport Director Paul Bradbury said the city decided to withdraw the new policy to avoid “potentially costly litigation.” He said the city could accomplish its goals by changing other policies and ordinances.

The Somalis have argued that they sometimes have to go to their homeland to attend to family matters, and that those trips can be lengthy. They might not be in the country when their permit is up for renewal.

Schutz said one driver who left the country for a visit home didn’t try to renew his permit through a power of attorney. He returned to the U.S. to find that he was no longer allowed to work as an unreserved cab driver at the airport because his permit hadn’t been renewed.

Schutz said state law requires proper power of attorney arrangements to be accepted, and the city’s policy violated that. He said it was an unfair way to try to reduce the number of permits.

“It’s a very backwards way,” he said. “Let’s not take away jobs, especially in this economy.”

Schutz said he expects to ask city officials for meetings to discuss other ways to regulate the number of permits for cabs at the airport.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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