Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Open Letter to the Board of Supervisors

Dear Supervisors,

I'm writing in regards to the MTA's budget item to extract $15 million from cab drivers. The way this should be done has been deliberately left vague but there are least three plans floating around:
  1. The MTA would raise funds by auctioning off 100 new taxis and keeping all the money.
  2. The MTA would sell the right to medallion holders to auction off their medallions for an upfront fee of $50,000.
  3. Under your own plan, the medallions would not transferred or sold. Instead, medallion holders would be hit with fees (some say as high as $1,000 per month) to cover a variety of things including including health benefits for drivers, a plan for a centralized dispatch system and San Francisco's deficit.
While there is disagreement between the Mayor, the MTA and yourselves over how to use the money that is taken from the drivers, there appears to be none about the city's right to do it.

Well ... I've been a cab driver for twenty-five years, the medallion holder of cab 572 for three years and I'd like to politely disagree. For the following reasons:
  1. When the people of San Francisco voted for Prop. A, they voted for the MTA to run the taxicab business - not use it as a source of revenue.
  2. There is a double standard involved here. You set up a special election to let the public vote on whether or not to impose 1.395% Gross Receipts Tax on large corporations but San Franciscans don't get to vote on whether or not you can hit us with tax rates fifty time higher. 
  3. We are the only group of people mentioned in the budget that are being targeted for the implementation of special fees. The MTA is trying to raise money from everyone else by raising ticket prices.
  4. The amount of money that the MTA wants to raise from us is exorbitant and extortionate.  We are one of the biggest item on the budget. The largest item, $28 million, would fall on hundreds of thousands of Muni riders. The MTA wants to get $15 million from 1,500 cab drivers. The arithmetic works out to $10,000 per cab driver and around $100 from everyone else.
It's clear from this that the Mayor, the MTA and you at the Board of Supervisors think of us as belonging to a different category than the rest of the citizens of San Francisco. We are given by you neither the legal rights of a corporation nor the protections accorded to labor. The mere fact that you are even thinking of imposing fees or taxes on the above, outrageous scale shows that you consider us as an underclass, as perhaps a semi-criminal class, that you can impose fines upon for the crime of - being a cab driver.

You wouldn't for a moment think of charging special fees to people for being African American or Asian or Brazilian or Mexican or Russian or an immigrant. 

But most cab drivers are African Americans or Asians or Brazilians or Mexicans or Russians or  immigrants. 

I'd like to ask you to think of us as small business people, as workers, as human beings for a moment and reject these unfair and unreasonable fees and taxes.

Thanks for you time,

Ed Healy
Cab Number 572

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