Kakha Kaladze’s Weekly Priorities: Taxi Taxes, Parking, & Accessibility

Each week, the municipal government of Tbilisi holds a meeting at City Hall. Preceding this week’s meetings, Mayor Kakha Kaladze spoke about several topics of interest.

Kaladze opened the meeting by remarking on Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze’s visit to the United States, and his joint press conference on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I want to congratulate Mamuka Bakhtadze on a successful visit. We heard yesterday's statements, which are very important, and are once again assured that assessments by our strategic partner show that the reforms and advancements that have been implemented in the country over the last few years are very important…Such support from a strategic partner is important,” said Kaladze.

The next topic on the agenda was the new hourly parking plan that City Hall is introducing in the capital. The pilot program, which will launch on August 1, will delineate certain zones, starting in the city center near Liberty (Freedom) Square, for paid parking. Parking fees will be hourly, and the price will range from 1 GEL per hour to 3 GEL per hour, depending on the zone. Car owners who live on zoned streets will be exempt from the fees. To ease the transition, information booths will be erected along Kote Abkhazi St. (formerly Leselidze St.), information booklets will be distributed to residents of the affected streets, and new city buses will travel along the paid parking areas with increased regularity. Parking will also be free for persons with disabilities, for A category taxi drivers, and for electric vehicles.

Kaladze explained that the zonal parking model is an innovation for Tbilisi, and it will allow the city to better regulate traffic flow, particularly in the most congested areas.

On a related note, Kaladze addressed the concern of A category taxi drivers – those that comply with the new regulations (white color, left-hand drive, five-door) and are thus able to pick up passengers from the street or through ride hailing apps. Kaladze explained that City Hall is working to design preferential terms for A category taxi drivers for financial services and tax regulations, including favorable terms for loans to replace old taxi vehicles. The mayor explained that tax reform is “one of the main directions of our transport policy,” and after extensive meetings with taxi drivers, City Hall is working to design a tax policy that is both good for drivers and supports the regulation of taxi services in Tbilisi.

“Specific programs have been designed, where [taxi drivers] will have the opportunity to take a loan and replace their cars. There will be cheap credits and support for taxi drivers,” said Kaladze, forecasting that banks will announce the details of programs in the coming week.

In line with policies to improve quality of life in the city, Kaladze mentioned that plans to build new public parks in the Temka and Dighomi districts are underway, with the tenders for their design and construction having already been announced.

“Of course, maintenance and rehabilitation of existing parks is important, but new city parks should be constructed in the city,” said Kaladze. Temka was selected as a location for a new park following extensive geological, hydrological, and dendrological research. The new park will have a children’s play area, pedestrian and bicycle paths and rest areas, and is expected to cost 413,000 GEL ($151,838).

Regarding the new park in Dighomi, Kaladze remarked that its construction “is very important for our city, because we all recognize the value of green spaces…it is important to work quickly, as soon as possible, to correct the unpopular ecological situation in the city, one which endangers us all. We need more green spaces, more parks and more recreation zones.”

Another issue on Wednesday’s docket was the recent approval of a package of legislative amendments on the treatment of animals in Georgia. Jail time is now at stake for those convicted of poor treatment or torture of an animal which results in its death or mutilation. Poor treatment of an animal that leads to its suffering will now come with a 500 GEL ($184) fine. Parents will also now be held responsible for such actions committed by their children.

“This is a very important story…We have seen so many cases of torture and ill-treatment of animals. It is very hard to watch. Tightening the law in this regard is important,” said the Mayor. The new laws bring Georgia closer in line with international legal standards.

Kaladze also discussed concerns over construction work in Vake Park and Vera Valley, assuring Tbilisi residents that construction in and around Vake Park will be respectful of the cultural heritage of the area and will protect important monuments such as the Cascade. In Vera Valley, which was hard hit by the massive summer flood in 2015, Kaladze claims that after careful geological and hydrological research, construction is only occurring in areas of the valley that are not at risk of flooding.

City Hall claims it is taking steps to make Tbilisi more accessible for people with disabilities. Kaladze explained that all City Hall infrastructure projects, as well as many health and sports programs, maximally accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities.

“It is clear that people with disabilities is one of the most important issues for us, not only in our words, but in the work being done. You can look at all the infrastructure projects we are carrying out in the city…they are always adapted to persons with disabilities. Also, all new buses are adapted, and all vehicles purchased [by the city] in the future will be similar. As for sport, Tbilisi City Hall has a parasport development center, where 192 athletes are trained in 15 different sports. This center has had a serious impact on our parasports at the international level, which is a source of pride for me personally. They will have our maximum support in the future to be more successful,” announced Kaladze.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Tbilisi City Hall

13 June 2019 18:45