Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Open Letter to Supervisor Daly

Dear Supervisor Daly,

Let me begin by saying that I admire your courage in putting your name on a piece of legislation that is almost certain to fail.


The simple answer is because every proposition concerning taxicabs put on the ballot for the last 30 years has failed. And, this applies not only the propositions to change Prop K but every one - including a measure put forth by the UTW in the 90s that is very similar to the one that you are proposing now. If I recall correctly, it lost by a ratio of 7 to 3: or, was that 8 to 2?

And, why did they all lose? Because of the Two-thirds Rule.

This needs a little explaining.

You keep seeing the same faces from taxicab organizations over and over again and you naturally assume that they represent large groups of people. I'm sure, for instance, that you think the UTW represents the majority of non-owners. They don't. Not even close. The vast majority of drivers in this city aren't represented by anybody. As with every other taxi group in the city, a small elite makes the UTW's policies. The rank and file rarely even know what their leadership is doing. The only exception to this is the SFCDA.

In addition, the taxi business in San Francisco is more complex than other businesses. The usual power alignment, for instance, is management vs labor. But with taxicabs you have management, medallion holders and non-owner drivers. On some issues medallion holders side with management. On others, they side with the non-owner drivers. Sometimes management and the non-owner drivers oppose the medallion holders.
It's actually more complicated than that but the upshot is that almost any issue that favors one group will be opposed by the other two groups - thus the Two-thirds Rule. Every piece of taxi legislation that has been voted down fit this paradigm.

Your proposal is no exception.

You may think, because non-owner drivers are clearly in the majority, that they will naturally favor your legislation. However, including a requirement for medical benefits etc from the MTA will have the opposite effect. Since the MTA is in debt, the money could only come from medallion holders. And, imposing that $10,000 fee that Supervisor Chiu desired would render the medallion practically worthless - certainly not worth waiting fifteen years on a list to get.

Your measure would be opposed not only by the medallion holders but by the drivers on the list and anybody else who wants to own a cab some day.

There is your Two-thirds and it's against you. Add to this the fat wallets of management and you will have formidable opposition.

In any case, our position will be easy to sell to the thousands of voters that we collectively talk with in our cabs everyday. No other business is being targeted for the onerous fees that your legislation implies. We will have the sympathy of the public on our side.
What I don't understand, what baffles me, is why you are even thinking of putting such a proposal on the ballot at this time.

You must be aware of the Town Hall Meetings that have been going on to study the taxi business and possibly come up with legislation to make reforms. These meeting are the best thing that I've seen in my twenty-five years of driving a cab. In Chris Hayashi the city's uncovered a jewel. She's intelligent, has an open and inquiring mind and has earned the respect of everyone in every faction of the taxicab business.

The meetings are already dealing with a dozen proposed changes (or not) to Proposition K - including the one that you want to put on the ballot. The meetings are open to everyone from all the various interest groups involved. Under the leadership of Ms Hayashi, a consensus may well be reached that will lead to legislation that will benefit not only all the drivers but the city and the public as well.

Why don't you let Ms Hayashi do her job?

If you don't like what she comes up with, you can always draft a ballot measure in the spring.

And, oh yes - if you think the UTW really represents the majority of drivers in San Francisco, why is Mark Gruberg running around so frantically trying to co-opt and bypass the democratic process inherent in the Town Hall Meetings?

Save me and the other two-thirds of the drivers the trouble of successfully mounting a campaign to dump your proposition in the fall. Save the city from wasting it's badly needed money on a measure that is doomed to defeat.

Save us all from wasting time and energy. Please table the measure.


Ed Healy
Cab Number 572

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