Saturday, February 27, 2010

MtA Board Unanimously Backs the Consensus Plan

Late friday afternoon, the MTA Board agreed in principle to back the Consensus plan. As presented by Director of Taxis Chris Hayashi, the plan lacked details both on how an oversight council would be chosen and how much the fixed price sale would be set at - as well as how it would be financed. Director Hayashi promised that the information on both these things would be in place by the time of the final vote on March 30, 2010.

The usual suspects spoke both for and against the plan.

Mark Gruberg and other UTW members used the lack of financial information as the main point of attack. Joe Mirable presented an amazing chart showing the "actual" monthly payments for a loan running to over $4,000. Bud Hazelkorn said that the solution to a retirement plan for all drivers was to "tax the rich" - meaning medallion holders who earn about $25,000 a year.

Curiously lacking as a speaker was Rua Graffis, who attended, but didn't speak for the first time in the 25 years that I've know her.

Speaking in favor of the measure was medallion holder Peter Fox, Jane Bolig of the San Francisco Taxicab Coalition, Rober Cesana of the Medallion Holders Association, myself and others.

Barry Korengold of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association "reluctantly" went along with the plan in a "spirit of compromise" in order to back the efforts of Chris Hayashi.

The most effective and affecting speaker, however, was 74 years old medallion holder, Paul Harting, who told the Board that he was already over 70 when he got his medallion, hadn't had time to save much money and that the consensus plan would give him a chance to "retire with dignity."

Two drivers who had attended most of the Town Hall meetings and, previously had been more of less neutral, spoke against the plan.

Driver John Hahn said that he was coming out against the plan because to the lack of information about the fixed price sale and he was also concerned that the plan contained no reform for the drivers who won't end up holding medallions. Driver Bill Mownsey, who is number 200 on the List, thought that selling medallions would ruin his chances of getting a medallion without charge after waiting for 13 years.

Before the meeting, Director Hayashi told me that she intended to put out over 100 medallion during the next year which, she assured me, would be an all time record. (These would not be new issues but, if I understand it correctly, medallions mostly taken from people holding them illegally.) If so, Mr. Mownsey should get his medallion and much of the criticism directed at the plan should disappear.

One sour note (and may I say an increasingly sour note) was a talk given by Director Malcom Heinicke who once again stated that plan wasn't giving the city enough money. He didn't like the idea of medallion holders keeping 80% of the proceeds of a sale and also approached the idea of auctioning off the cabs.

His speech went far toward endangering the fragile coalition that provides the consensus for the plan. Barry Korengold and the SFCDA would never back an auction and most drivers have trouble understanding what right the MTA has to $15 million in the first place.

For me, it's simply been the price one has to pay to get rid of an extortionist. But, if the dude wants too much more money, I'm going to have to reload my weapons.

Or, as Jane Bolig put it in her much more civilized manner, "We note that the mayor is again threatening to inject himself into this process. To the extend that he works within the consensus, we welcome his input. To the extent that he is in conflict with it, we will oppose."

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