Monday, June 8, 2009

MHA: A Representative Democracy - Spain answeres ed

In mid-May, MHA President Carl Macmurdo wrote that " a formal proposal for a new taxi law will be forthcoming within a few weeks ... from the meetings held by the Gonazalez-Kim mediation working group. MHA is represented by Mike Spain and myself, plus we anticipate that Robert Cesana (will be) participating ...  I anticipate that the proposal submitted by the mediation group will replace any prior proposals ... submitted independently ... by some of our group members."

This stuck me as putting the cart before the horse. How do you mediate a proposal without knowing what the membership wants? Therefore I asked a series of questions:

Why is your mediating group consisting of these people? Why have you not opened the question of who should belong to the group to the general membership? Why have you not asked the general membership ... whether they want to be members of this mediation group or not? If you are going to "replace prior proposals" ... shouldn't the people who made the proposals be part of the process?

I was basing my questions on my idea of the MHA as an association of equals.

MHA Treasurer Michael Spain quickly schooled me in the error of my thinking. He did this in a series of e-mails directed to other people rather than to me. Most of the creative spelling and grammar is Spain's.
  • " ... questions that deal with powers and authority ... can best be answered by reading our bylaws."
  • "... a common sense approach is to infer that the person in question (president, board member, etc) is acting within the descretion of those powers and authority."
  • "The President is not required to answere any question comming from a member."
  • "So if Ed (see photo) has any questions my advice to him is to contact a Board member to relay his concerns to the President."
When criticized by other members for being sarcastic and sounding autocratic, Spain became more ... well, himself.
  • "his (ed's) e-mail to Carl was deliberately provocative. it was the kind of "by what right" sort of nonsense that is offensive, disrespectful and of course ill informed ....."
  • "when you are dealing with someone so clueless, it is necessary to point them in the right direction so that they can get self educated and stop bothering those who have better things to do then answer their silly questions."
  • "if ed has a problem then come out and say it instead of all the questions like. how do you do this? and how do you do that? and should the members do this? blah blah blah...."
  • "At our Board meeting Ed also began to ask questions that everyone in the room, except ED, knew the answers to ... I thought it strange that someone, who was attending our meeting for the first time, would simply not listen and try to learn something."
Talk about clueless. I used to think that asking questions was a way to learn something. On the other hand, I think the idea of one cab driver telling another cab driver to be quietly respectful of a self-proclaimed authority is an interesting concept.

 I might actually agree with Spain's last point - if I was joining a fraternity, a debating society or an athletic club. Then, yes, of course a new member should learn the ropes. But, this is an association of medallion holders facing what is probably the biggest financial crisis of their working careers. If the MHA's leadership screws the pooch, it could cost me and every other member a lot of money. Thus - the questions.

And then there is the matter of what I was so clueless about? What did everyone else in the room know that I didn't? Mr. Spain was kind enough to finally clue me - in of course an e-mail sent to someone else.
  • "MHA's position on Transferability (the right to sell a taxi medallion) was formulated during the Gonzalez meetings in 2005 by about 10 members who ... spoke in favor of transferability ... when it was just a position paper ..."
  • "Now that the Mayor wants something; and Hayashi wants something; and the MTA wants something..... and something is going to happen, the opponents of T (transferability) like Jim, Norma, Barry, Ed, Murai come out of the woodwork. Now they want a forum where they can announce their opposition and complain. Well ... they had their chance and they were for the most part, silent."
  • "Now because they want to unravel all that work that been done in the past and is ongoing, because they (have) DOUBTS?, they expect everyone to stop what they are doing and listen to them."
I was especially "silent" because I didn't join the association until one year after their "position paper" was formulated. I think this is also true of Barry, Norma and numerous other members. I also think it's absurd that a position taken four years before a crises took place would be considered the final definitive word on the subject. I mean even the President has to run every four years and the Supreme Court continually reviews old ruling.

And, as far as I know, I'm not trying to unravel anything. I may even be in favor of their position - depending upon what it turns out to be. All I've been asking for is transparency. I want to be part of any process that claims to represent me. I've paid my dues. I have a perfect right to my "why this?" "why that?" questions. 

Of course Spain has a slightly different take on this. When told by a fellow member said that his attacks were creating negativity he responded with:
  • "sorry, ani't going to stop ... negativity? i have not heard that word since the late 60's. cancer is negativiety...and if you let it grow, it kills you."
It's unclear whether he's talking about himself or me. In any case, let's hope it's a metaphor.

Anyway - there you have it representative democracy MHA style.

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