Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Breathe of Fresh Air

At a Taxi Town Hall meeting on 3/10/09, Chris Hayashi, the new Director of San Francisco's Taxis and Available Services showed herself to be a refreshing change from her predecessor on the Taxi Commission, Heidi Machen. Whereas Machen had treated the drivers with overbearing arrogance and privately referred to them as "either criminals or people who soon would be,"  Ms. Hayashi clearly regarded a room full of owners and drivers as respected equals.

She discussed and listened to their opinions concerning the various plans to change how the taxi industry operates in San Francisco.  After a general conversation about possible scenarios, she led an examination of  proposed taxicab rules in the San Francisco Transportation Code.

Ms. Hayashi either changed or eliminated several provisions that drivers objected to including an obscene "snitch" rule that would have taken away the medallion of any owner who had failed to turn in another owner whom he or she knew to have been arrested or convicted of a crime. Such rules have a long, inglorious history and have been used by people as diverse as the commie dictator Joseph Stalin, the anti-commie witch-hunter Joe McCarthy and the Christian Brothers of Cretin High as techniques to humiliate and destroy their enemies. Heidi would have loved it. 

However, the subject that aroused the most passion among the drivers, limousines, wasn't even supposed to be on the agenda. Ms. Hayashi kept telling drivers that it would be discussed at a future date but, they kept bringing the subject up, so she finally promised that the Taxi Detail was going to hunt down, punish and eliminate illegal limos in San Francisco. Among other ideas, she proposed impounding their cars for 30 days when limo drivers were caught violating a law. "That should put a stop to them," she said with a smile.

Hayashi's attitude and approach stands in such sharp contrast to the Mayor's arrogance and indifference toward cab drivers' fates that I can't help wondering what's really happening. 

Historically, Mayors like Diane Feinstein and Willie Brown have used commissions and hearings as way to rubber stamp their own plans while giving them the veneer of democratic processes.

This does not appear to be what is going on here. Or is it? No one I've met has a bad word to say about Chris Hayashi, but it's unclear as to how much power she actually has. It may be that she's an unwitting pawn in an elaborate good cop/bad cop scheme designed by Newsom.  

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