With the dawning of the Obama era, many of us in the taxi industry looked toward our politicians filled with hope. As small business people and workers, we looked forward to relief from high gas prices, a solution to our aging driver problems and maybe a possible way to sell our medallions without harming non-owner drivers. With our business down more than 50%, we hoped that we too might qualify for a stimulus package.
And the signals coming for the politicians were positive.
- Major Newsom promised not to change Prop. K and "to save San Franciscan's from losing their homes, losing their jobs and losing their small businesses."
- The MTA opened Town Hall meetings and invited input from all sides of the taxi industry to help improve the situation for the drivers, the medallion holders and the public.
- New members of the Board of Supervisors seemed likely to be sympathetic to us as both small business people and ordinary workers.
Yes, we were hopeful that our politicians would bring us some relief.
Instead, they've been sizing us up like a pride of lions checking our their prey before moving in for a fresh kill.
As it turns out we're not going to get part of any stimulus package. For the city's pols, we are the stimulus package. The only subject for debate among them appears to be who gets the white meat and who gets the dark.
- A month before the MTA even took over, Newsom went back on his word and came out with plan to steal the drivers medallions, sell them at an auction and "keep most to the money" for his own purposes. (See Millionaire Mayor's Plan ... and Gavin - the Sun King.)
- Since then the MTA has seconded the Mayor's plan and come out with numerous Cab Driver gouging plans of its own - the latest being a budget item that gains the MTA $20,000 by putting 100 cabs on the street during a recession.
Then, just as we cab drivers were drafting letters of help to the Board of Supervisors, the president of the board, Supervisor David Chiu, came out with his own method of carving us up.
- "... SFMTA has not adequately explored an alternative to generate significant revenues from the taxi industry," Chiu writes in his Resolution to the SFMTA to examine and consider taxicab medallion fees. " - a 'rental fee' on City-owned medallions ... would create a continuous, long-term revenue stream for the SFMTA, the city and the taxi industry ..."
- "Ongoing revenue generated from a medallion rental fee structure could be used to help finance much-needed customer service improvement, such as a centralized dispatch system, and assistance to drivers who lack health and retirement benefits ..."
I really don't know ... one driver said the plan left him speechless and it has almost done the same to my huge mouth. I don't know where to start. Who are these people?
Supervisor Chiu voted against putting 1.395% sales tax on small businesses in San Francisco because he thought it would put a burden upon them during recession. Yet he has no qualms what-so-ever about taking away 50% of our incomes during the same recession.
- Chiu and the rest of the Board appear to think that they're helping non-medallion drivers but hundreds of those drivers have been waiting up to fifteen years for a medallion that the Board's plan would render worthless.
- They appear to think that they're going to improve cab service by significantly reducing the income of one of the lowest paid groups of people in the city. It's an idea from outer space. Maybe they think we'll work harder if they starve us half to death.
- What will actually happen of course is that anyone with half a brain will find another job as soon as he or she can. The Board's plan would ring a death knell for the professional driver in San Francisco and leave the city with a brood of cabbies who don't speak English, don't know where they are going and won't stick around long enough to learn.
Neither Newsom nor the MTA nor the Board of Supervisors appear to think of us as small business people or labor or workers or, apparently, human beings. If we have families or children to feed and educate that's apparently our tough luck. We probably shouldn't breed so much.
I don't know who to look toward for help. About all that's left are the animal rights groups.
There is one other thing that the pols are not thinking of us as - voters. We are voters and we talk to hundreds of other voters every day. Let's start talking.