Shooting from the hip ...
Nobody thought that cab drivers could agree on anything. Yet here we are on the brink of a consensus.
We're still waiting to hear whether or not Newsom will back the plan. But he'd be politically foolish not to do so. Opposition by him would raise a storm of protest.
Director Chris Hayashi says that there have been 150 hours of meetings. I haven't kept track but I'm sure I've sat through at least 130 of those hours.
The most interesting (and beautiful) aspect of these meeting has been watching one person after another change his or her fixed positions and move toward the consensus that Chris worked so hard to develop.
Look at the results:
The MHA, Tarik Mahmood, Hansu Kim and even Michael Spain have dropped their demand for open auctions in favor of Hayashi's plan. Hansu Kim tells me that he's working hard to talk all his numerous political connections into backing the plan.
Barry Korengold and the SFCDA have dropped their opposition to a fixed price sale and agreed to support Hayahsi.
The cab companies have agreed to back the plan despite the fact they will lose their corporate medallions.
Personally, I was in favor of a compromise to begin with and thought that a fixed price sale was the only way to do this. I also thought that the non-medallion drivers should have some sort of fund.
My mind has been opened to several ideas that I hadn't thought of before like the retirement option and a seniority system based on A-cards.
My main point of opposition has been (and remains) to the City and the MTA using us as an "asset" to cure their budget problems. The $30 million they want to get from us amounts to a tax ten times higher than any other business is being asked to pay.
However, I have decided not to oppose Hayashi's plan to sell 60 medallions with all the proceeds going to the City for the following reasons:
- The City does have a budget crises and does need to the money.
- This need for money is what is moving this entire process. It's the price we have to pay to create a better cab system.
- I think the City is going to get it's money one way or another and Hayashi's plan is far better (and should result in far better cab service) than the plans that Newsom and Heinicke have tried to impose on us.
On the other hand, I will fight hand and pen to keep this from becoming a regular yearly budget item.
- The idea that cab drivers should be taxed to pay for the bloated salaries, overtime and bonuses of bus drivers and MTA staff is ludicrous and, for want of a better word, probably racist.
- It would define cab drivers as a permanent underclass to be exploited like the peasants and serfs of the past.
At the end of the year, when we put together a charter amendment, I will fight for a provision that would limit the amount of money that could be taken from us to the cost of administering the taxicab industry plus standard business taxes.
In the meantime, the plan that Chris Hayashi has put together with our help is far better than anything that anyone else has come up with. It's far better than the status quo. It's far better than anyone could have imagined when we started Town Hall Meetings back last March.
Plus - it's an experiment. It will give us the chance to modify, change and delete until we come up with a product that everyone can agree on. We can cherry-pick the ideas that work and throw away the rest.
I hope that everyone will show up to support this plan before the MTA Board at 2 PM, Room 400 of City Hall on Tuesday January 19, 2010