Updated 09/25/2012 06:38 AM
Oswego lawmakers ban sex offenders from driving cabs
Anyone ever convicted of a sex offense or a felony within the past ten years is no longer eligible to drive a taxi in the city of Oswego. Lawmakers passed the new legislation Monday night in an effort to increase safety. But as YNN's Candace Hopkins found out, there was a surprising amount of opposition to the change.
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OSWEGO, N.Y. -- Monday evening, Oswego's Common Councilors voted seven to zero, passing a new law to keep sex offenders, and anyone with a felony on their record from the past ten years, from driving a cab.
"We've got an obligation to protect the public interest. We already do it other places, we prohibit them from going around schools, we prohibit them from being around parks, this is just another step," said Oswego Common Councilor Michael Todd.
The move came after city officials discovered that several local taxi cab drivers have had trouble with the law, including two men who have served time for violent sex offenses.
"It was an issue that was brought to our attention, quite honestly we were shocked it wasn't a state law," said Todd.
But before lawmakers could vote, the public was given the opportunity to comment on the law. Several people spoke out against it, including a representative from an Albany organization that defends convicts against employment discrimination.
"It's any offense in general, people should not be discriminated against. If a person is going to be denied employment or denied a license it should be based on a rational reason and factual information, it shouldn't be on fear and prejudice and myths," said Jeremy Zielinski, Founder of the Workforce Advocacy Center.
But Zielinksi admitted he, himself, has been convicted of a sex offense which is why he is defending their rights, and says his group now plans to file a lawsuit against the city.
"We will seek to forbid the city from enforcing or applying it and we will seek the maximum amount of penalties and the maximum amount of attorneys fees," said Zielinski.
Mayor Gillen says he does intend to sign the law, and once that happens the new restrictions will go into effect immediately.
The new law also raises the fee to apply for a cab driver's license from $10 to $100 to help cover the background check costs. Once the change goes into effect every driver in Oswego will be required to reapply for their license.