Saturday, March 28, 2009

Millionaire Mayor’s Plan to Bail Out San Francisco by Soaking Its Cab Drivers. Part II

My first blog on this subject ended up on an high note with angry cab drivers apparently backing down Mayor Gavin Newsom. But I think this created a false impression - at least with me. As it turns out the Major actually didn't back back off. He simply re-strategized - or maybe not. This is San Francisco politics: the subject is convoluted.
  • Mayor's original plan had been introduced and withdrawn by Malcom Heinicke as the chair of the Taxicab Charter Reform Working Group which is now disbanded.
  • Heinicke, who is a member of the MTA (see A Micro History of ...), reintroduced the plan as one of nine or ten Proposition K reform proposals to be discussed and considered by the Taxis and Available Services Town Hall Meetings. (Whew! No wonder these people use acronyms.)
The Mayor's plan is one of the stranger documents that I've seen - especially when you consider that it's supposed to end up as a law. The most striking thing about it is that it contains no hard figures or percentages.
  • It states, for example,  "The City would call in a small percentage of the medallions (perhaps 10% per year) for re-issuance ... " and "current medallion holders will receive some portion of the ... proceeds."
  • Even stranger is the idea that the buyer of the medallion could only own it "for a set term." If I understand this correctly, it means that the new medallion owner (or not) would "hold" it for, say, three to five years (or whatever) when he or she would be forced to re-sell it. 
  • While the original medallion holders would receive a "minority of the proceeds," the new medallion holders would "receive a set percentage," which sounds better but might not be.
  • In addition, "The MTA would have the authority to issue new medallions of a different nature ... " apparently at any time. This would necessarily lower the value of the medallions that had already been sold. In other words, the MTA would be able to change the rules whenever.
  • Newsom and Heinicke seem to have been so mesmerized by their fantasy of endlessly milking their "cash cow" medallions that they failed to realize that no one in his or her right mind would buy a medallion under such conditions. 
Or not. The plan is so unworkable that it may have been drawn up simply to scare the shit out of the taxicab drivers - in which case it has succeeded admirably.


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