Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why the UTW Plan (or lack thereof) Doesn't Work

Over the course of the Town Hall Meetings, almost every group or person involved compromised on their original ideas of how the reform the taxi business. We were all in search of a consensus we could support.

Hansu Kim and the MHA wanted open auctions but they accepted a fixed price sale. Barry Korengold and the SFCDA want a retirement option for medallion holders but, for the time being, accepted the fixed price sale. Mayor Newsom and his man, Malcom Heinicke, wanted 600 million dollars but were willing to settle for less. And, they didn't want a Driver's fund but there is one in the Consensus Plan. Newsom, Heinicke, Kim and the MHA didn't want keep The Medallion Waiting List but they all agreed to do so.

The only group not to compromise, not to accept any new ideas, not for a moment to reconsider their own plan was the UTW.(The only exception was Rua Graffis [photo] who offered a plan to based on the London taxi system.) Every third or fourth meeting, Mark Gruberg would respond to someone else's reform proposal by rhetorically asking,
  • "I don't see why we can't just keep Prop-K and have the medallion holders pay for everybody's retirement."
The problem. Mark, is that neither of your ideas work.

Prop-K is fatally flawed:
  • K offers no exit.
  • 600 of the 1,500 medallions are thus held by people over 60 years of age.
  • If all these taxi drivers magically disappeared, the same situation would soon reappear.
  • It's human nature. Once somebody has something - especially if they've waited 15 0r 20 years to get it - they don't want to give it up.
  • And most medallion holders wouldn't be able to retire even if they'd wanted to. Drivers getting a medallion at 60 probably wouldn't have enough time to save enough money to retire.
The idea that medallion holders should pay for everyone else's retirement is unworkable:
  • Medallion holders make from $20,000 to $30,000 a year off of their medallions.
  • In San Francisco, this is barely enough money to save up for one's own retirement.
  • A small, fixed group of people would be paying for an ever expanding group of retired people.
  • In few years, the medallion holders would be overwhelmed by the costs.
  • Gruberg claimed that it would only cost $300 per month but San Francisco's controller estimated that a package that included medical benefits would cost from between $18 million and $67million a year.
  • The total yearly gross from all the medallions in San Francisco is between $30 million and $40 million a year.
So, that's why we can't keep Prop-K.


  1. In some defense of Gruberg, Hayashi's plan is starting to look like a bit of a fraud. Here it is near the end of February and what must be by now a large pile of Medallions are locked away in her office. This is a dis-service to the public who need cabs on the street and the qualified drivers sitting on the waiting list. The list hasn't really moved in over a year. By the time it does move, the December 31, 2010 trial period will have already passed. How can anybody assess how it went when it's off to a stalled start?

  2. I really don't see how this is a defense of Gruberg but you seem to be implying that Hayashi is deliberately not giving out medallions ... in order to what? Make sure that they are never given out?

    If so, you are absolutely incorrect. The only reason the waiting list still exits and that medallions are given out at all is Chris Hayashi.

    Newsom and Heinicke's various plans would have put an end to the list. Hansu Kim and the MHA didn't like it much either before Hayashi convinced all parties that the list was part of the Consensus.

    She has not been sitting on the medallions. She's been giving them out slowly. I think a couple of them went out last week.

    The reason for the slow down is that she was convinced (by Gruberg among others) that unqualified people had received medallions in the past. To make sure that this won't happen on her watch she's set up administrative hearing to rule on whether or not a medallion applicant has actually met the requirements and is a working driver.

    She has only one investigator who needed to be trained as did the judge doing the hearings. Both are now up to speed so the pace should be picking up soon, if it hasn't already.

    You can look this up at the MTA website. Click on TAXI and then HEARINGS.

    Are you the same anonymous that liked my blog in the past. I can't understand why cab drivers might not want to use their names but it can be confusing.

  3. A proofing error on my last post. The last two sentences should read:

    "Are you the same anonymous that liked my blog in the past? I CAN understand why cab drivers might not want to use their names but it can be confusing."

  4. Dear Crocker Amazon,

    Yes, I'm the same one who liked your blog in the past. And I still do. Very much. But, you should know that Director Hayashi promised over 7 months ago that the list would be moving along just as it always had been. This is obviously not the case. A movement of 40 or so names in that period is not even close to the snails pace of the former Taxi Commission. I understand that there were staffing issues, et. I understand that she fought hard to save the list and that Heinicke wished to see it eradicated along with small pox. But, for those may be close and have waited and worked for so long, it could easily be perceived as a betrayal. This gives a person like Gruberg an opportunity to portray the current system as secretive and corrupt. And he has a sympathetic ear. Was this the best way for Director Hayashi to win hearts and minds? I think the stumbled here. While the debate and Town Hall meetings were going on, there was a belief that the list would move as it had before. It did not.

  5. You seem confused. You mention that she saved the list and then you accuse her of betrayal. If the list didn't exist no one would be getting a taxi. It kind of reminds me of all the nonsense in on tv about Obama non-functioning government.

    Since she took over 30 medallions have been put out - which is about the same pace as the taxi commission.