Friday, January 29, 2010

My Response to the SF Weekly

Here's my response to Chris Roberts the writer of "Cabbies cry foul over plan to sell medallions" which appeared in the SF Weekly. (I've edited it slightly for this post.)

As a San Francisco cab driver and medallion holder, I think this article is a poor example of journalism.

1. The claim that the majority of drivers are against this plan is false.

2. This plan is a response to Mayor Newsom's threat to take all the medallions away from San Francisco's cab drivers and sell them at open auctions for $600 million.

3. This is not an MTA plan or a taxi company plan. It is a mediated compromise plan created over a period of 6 months by all interested parties including: the MTA, cab companies, public representatives, medallion holding drivers, drivers on the waiting list to own a medallion and regular drivers.

4. The majority of people who made this plan are cab drivers. Almost every provision in it is a compromise among these groups.

5. For instance; The $11.2 million to be derived from the sale of medallions is less than the the $600 million the Mayor wanted or the $30 million MTA tried to get last year. $4 or $5 million of this will probably be put back into the industry to build infrastructure and improve service.

6. The sale of medallions will be limited to the medallions of a few holders over 70 years of age as a way to let them get out of the business without dumping them on the street.

7. The price is not set at $250 thousand. This fixed price sale is a negotiation between drivers who wanted open auctions and those didn't want medallions sold. The final price will be determined by whether or not an average working driver can afford to make payments.

8. Most medallions will continue to be given out for "free" to people on the waiting list on a first come first serve basis. The drivers on the list will also be given the first choice to buy medallions if they choose to do so.

9. A Driver's Fund will be set up for the benefit of non-medallion holding drivers - hopefully to help them retire. It will be funded by the sale of the medallions - among other things.

Chris Roberts, the writer of the SF Weekly article, did as sloppy a job of journalism as I've ever seen.

1. He got most of information and his "slant" from the UTW - A group that stonewalled the Town Hall Meeting where the plan was created and have been running a "disinformation" campaign ever since.

2. He did NOT interview Barry Korengold, head of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association - a group made of medallion holders and regular drivers. It probably has more drivers on the waiting list than any other group. Korengold spoke in favor or the plan.

3. NOR did he interview Carl Macmurdo of the Medallion Holders Association who also spoke in favor of the plan before the MTA board meeting that Francis was supposed to have covered.

4. He did interview me and he quoted me more or less accurately but he quoted me totally out of context.

5. I gave him three or four reason why I supported the plan. Except for mentioning that I backed it because it helped older drivers retire, he basically ignored what I had to say and chose instead to quote my one reservation about the plan - placing my quote in the 2nd most powerful position of his article, the end.

6. He neglected to do even the most basic research about the business. At the time he filed his article, he didn't even know what the function of a medallion really was.

7. Most egregious - he did NOT interview the MTA's Deputy Director of Taxis, Chris Hayashi, who is the person that negotiated the plan between the various factions. Roberts neglected to interview Hayashi even AFTER I told him that she knew more about the taxi business than anybody else in city government. She's also the most accessible person in city government. She will talk to anybody who calls - especially a writer.

All in all a poorly researched piece by Roberts: A disservice to all the people who worked so hard to put the taxi reform plan together and to the public who deserve to know what the plan is really about.

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