Monday, March 23, 2009

S.F. Taxi Drivers Outraged by Mayor Newsom's Duplicity

Last week's Taxi Town Hall Meeting turned emotional when driver after driver expressed outrage at their callous and duplicitous treatment at the hands of Mayor Gavin Newsom

The drivers are ordinarily divided between those who own medallions and those who don't, those who manage companies and those who merely work for them, but they were united in their hostility toward the Mayor's plan to steal (calling a spade a spade) their medallions for political purposes.
  • Mark Gruberg of the United Taxicab Workers (UTW) attacked the Mayor for sneaking the rider into Proposition A that put taxicabs under the control of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) "without public discussion."
  • Using words like "traitor" and "liar," other drivers condemned Mayor Newsom for going back on his word not to make changes in Proposition K which forbid the sale of medallions. 
  1. Fact - Newsom did sign an agreement together with the then President of the Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin not to change Proposition K and made verbal statements to the same effect on several other occasions.
  2. Fact - Newsom announced his plan to auction the medallions, with the City keeping from 51% to 99% of the profits from the sale, in January 2009 - two months before Proposition A even took effect on 3/01/09.
  3. Fact - In New York City the transfer of a taxicab medallion is taxed at a rate of 5%.
  • Ruach Graffis of the UTW said that she'd worked as a driver for 37 years and, despite the fact that she is already partially disabled, is given no medical or disability benefits under the current system; and that Mayor Newsom's plan would leave her with nothing.
  • Other drivers who have been waiting up to 13 years on the list to own  a medallion said that the Mayor's plan would leave them without a retirement or a future when they were unable to work. 
  • Chris Hayashi, the director Taxis and Available Services, attempted to calm the drivers down by telling them that she wanted to find a solution that would help all the taxicab workers whether they owned medallions, were on the list or were simply ordinary drivers. She further said that the purpose of the Town Hall Meetings was to find such a solution.
  1. However, Hayashi admitted that, while she was independent, she wouldn't "have a job in 2011" if she didn't find some revenue from the taxicab industry for the MTA.
  2. She also said that the only way to raise revenue from taxis was to sell the medallions and that:
  3. The board of the MTA is appointed by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
  • The manager of Desoto Cab, Jane Bolig, lost her usual coolness and wit as she blasted Newsom and the MTA, expressing her fears that the Town Hall Meetings were nothing but a farce designed to make the Mayor look democratic. 
  • Medallion Holder Mary McGuire seconded this thought and pointed out that she had been fired from the board of  the Taxi Commission by Mayor Gavin Newsom for voting to fire the director, Heidi Machen, after Machen had hired her ex-con roommate to look into the personal records and finances of cab drivers, medallion holders and the cab companies. 
Chris Hayashi closed the meeting by telling the drivers that they had six months to come up with a plan that would give the MTA money and still benefit the drivers. But, she didn't say by what right the MTA is demanding the revenue.

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