Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The MHA's Annual Meeting: Kim and Gonzales

Matt Gonzales and Hansu Kim of the Taxicab Coalition also spoke at the MHA meeting last Monday.

They spoke for about 45 minutes, mostly about various aspects of taxi reform. They both pointed that this wasn't a simple problem and Gonzales warned against being too eager to form a consensus - if it was to back the wrong policies. He added that it was sometimes difficult to tell what effect a proposed change like adding prime time taxis might actually have on the business. In the end, they agreed that the right kind of consensus and unity was necessary.

They favor open auctions but may be willing settle for a fixed price transferability system. This is big change in their previous position and a definite step toward the unity that they mentioned.

Kim was concerned about the MTA's wanting $10 million from us (and rightly so) but Gonzales later said that the $10 million might also open up an opportunity to change Prop K for the benefit of the medallion holders and other drivers.

It was a long talk and they covered many aspects of this plan that is too detailed to go into here. There was, however, one thing aspect of their talk that I have definite bone of contention with.

Kim appeared to say that he's in favor of maintaining The List and not maintaining The List at the same time. When I mentioned this to him the next day he said that it wasn't an either or proposition and implied that it was possible to keep The List in some situations and not in others.

Really? I think I'd need more details on that idea.

What bothered me in his speech was what I took to be a back-door attack on both the drivers on the waiting and the drivers who already had their medallions.

Hansu started out by claiming to support those on the waiting list and said that the majority of medallion holders had gotten their medallions honesty. This took about 15 seconds.

Kim then spend the next 7 or 8 minutes attacking people who he claimed had gotten their medallions illegally. He gave very little actual evidence that this was true. For instance:
  • He said "We all know" drivers who have gotten their medallions dishonestly. "We all know?" Well - I don't know anybody like that or at least I don't know that I know them.
  • He then brought up one example of a former deputy sheriff who used obviously phony waybills to get a medallion. As an ex-philosophy student, Mr. Kim should know that this is a major No-No. It's the logical error of generalizing from the particular. Because one person does something illegally, it does not mean that anyone else in a group did. It's also hared to find any human activity that someone hasn't cheated on.
  • Hansu went on to say that before Daly/Ma "we" really had no way of knowing if people on the list were honest of not. But he would not have brought the subject up unless he wanted us to think - "not honest."
  • Than Kim went way overboard and, throwing all pretenses to logic and rules of evidence aside, said that before Daly/Ma "it was possible" for a driver to pretend to work and not do so. "It was possible?" Can't you just imagine Kim as a prosecuting attorney telling a jury, "it was possible for Mr. X to murder the butler in the tea room. Therefore he's guilty."
If Hansu is really in favor of keeping the waiting list, it's hard to see why he spent so much time attacking it in this (for me) bogus manner. Intentionally or not, he often used words in an imprecise and misleading way.

For instance, Kim went on to say that he wanted to get medallion into the hands of "real working drivers" and the only way to do that of course was by holding auctions open to all "working drivers."

From the context of his talk it sounded to me as if he was implying that people on the list were not "real working drivers."

This brings up a problem that Kim didn't go into: how do you tell who "a real working driver" is? All the arguments that Hansu used against "possibly" unworthy medallion holders and "possible" cheats on The List could be doubled and tripled for drivers not on the list:
  • Unless a driver is on The List, he or she doesn't have to keep records.
  • Without waybills, how would you know if somebody has ever even driven a cab at all?
One reason that the waiting list was developed in the first place was precisely to be able to tell who was or was not a "real working driver" qualified to own a medallion. It was also a way to reward people for years of service and insure that experienced drivers stayed on the job.

It hasn't been a perfect solution. Nothing done by humans is. A few people have been left off this list who should be on it. A few people have gotten medallions who shouldn't have.

Hansu apparently wants to help drivers who have worked hard and didn't put their names on The List for one reason or anther to get medallions. Fine. He also wants to help younger drivers enter the business. Also fine - as long as it's not at the expense drivers who have been working and waiting for medallions for 15 years.

But I don't see how these constant attacks on medallion holders and people on the list are in any way shape or form productive or conducive to bringing unity to this business. If he does know people who cheated, he can turn them over to Chris Hayashi. She'll cleanse them for us.

Otherwise, I'm sick and tired of having to defend myself against what I might "possibly" not have done before Daly/Ma when I was working 2,400 hours year but don't have the waybills to prove it.

If Mr. Kim really wants to bring unity, he should be concentrating on how to improve The List now instead of harping about a small minority that broke the rules in the past.


  1. Ed,
    Thanks for keeping us, not attending the meetings, informed. Great writing, too.

  2. Thanks, I haven't even finished the post yet.