There have been two main attacks leveled against the meetings: that they were unfair and that the outcome was fixed or predetermined.
The first assertion is ridiculous and the second is false.
1. Aside from the famous 175 hours of meetings, there were at least twenty presentations given and anybody who had a thought or a question was encouraged to speak. Mark Gruberg of the UTW, the main critic of the meetings, not only spoke for three or four hours all by himself but his idea for a "driver's fund" is now part of the plan. Furthermore, Director of Taxis Chris Hayashi went far beyond the normal call of duty and talked with taxi drivers at the airport, at cab lots and anywhere else she could find them.
2. I think that these meetings were supposed to be fixed. They were supposed to be the usual dog and pony shows designed to manufacture consent. Only, thanks to Hayashi, they were not.
- This is the plan that was supposed to be shoveled down our throats. It comes from Malcom Heinicke, a director of the MTA board.
- This is an outline of the Pilot Plan we developed at the Town Hall Meetings. (The final version is still being drafted.)
Those of us who took part in these meetings know how absurd these attacks against the Town Hall process are. We sat and watched the plan being drawn up from scratch on a blank slate. Chris Hayashi started out by asking the people at the meetings what they thought should go into the plan and then wrote in the suggestions.
Over a period of four months, the plan constantly changed and evolved as people debated various points or came up with a fresh ideas. The plan remains a work in progress and will be subject to change even after it is accepted by the MTA. The final version won't be drawn up until we see how the various parts of this pilot program - like the fixed-priced sale of taxis - play out in the real world.
I doubt that workers from any industry of any kind have ever been given the chance express themselves more freely, openly, thoroughly and, yes, fairly than the people at these meetings. I think that few groups of people have ever had more say in reforming the future of their business.
Currently, Hayashi is working to find the best financing possible for the drivers who might want to buy a medallion under the new plan. She's decided to hold a Town Hall Meeting for all the banks and lending institutions that are interested - on Friday, February 12th from 2pm to 5pm.
I asked her if it was okay if I attended.
"Of course," she told me, "It'll be open to the public. We don't do anything in secret around here."