Julie Crowe, an experienced driver for hire in Bloomington, Illinois, got tired of working for others and decided to operate her own 15-passenger van. She intended to serve partying women who might prefer a female driver.
Bloomington put the brakes on her plan. For occupations that require a license, the city manager’s office has sole authority to decide whether a business is “desirable and in the public interest.” After applying for a license in May 2011, Crowe found that various civic-minded folks had already convinced the city manager that her proposal did not meet that test, since she’d be competing with their shuttle businesses.
At Crowe’s appeal hearing before the Bloomington City Council in 2011, a city lawyer said it was vital “to ensure that the taxicab companies were not endangered.” (Technically her opponents were other shuttle operators, not cabs). In February a public interest law group, the Liberty Justice Center (LJC), filed a lawsuit on Crowe’s behalf in the 11th Circuit Court of Illinois, arguing that Bloomington’s licensing system is “vague, arbitrary, and grants the City Manager unfettered discretion,” violating Crowe’s right to due process.
The suit asks the court to overturn the city manager’s decision to deny Crowe a license.
“Your right to earn a living should not turn on the whim of a government official,” says LJC lawyer Jacob Huebert, “based on nothing but the opinions of existing players in a given industry.”