Letter to Skyler Swezy of the Bay Guardian - Taxi Turbulence
March 3, 2010
Hi Mr. Swezy,
I'm the 3rd guy who was standing near Bill Mownsey and David Barlow outside the hearing room - the one you weren't interested in talking to.
It appears that the cab business is simply too complex for the layman - at least the journalistic layman - to fully grasp. But, you've done better than most.
I suppose we are doomed to having Gruberg giving the main quotes in all the media's articles. He always speaks in the cliques that everyone is familiar with: greedy owners, windfall profits, medallion holders who get their medallions for "free." He's entitled to his opinion and I guess you're entitled to think he speaks for "the cab driver" and thus pass on a message that no one who is actually in the cab business pays any attention to.
However, there are a factual errors that should be corrected.
1. The pilot program was not the brain child Christine Hayashi with a the help of a few drivers. It is a plan that was hashed out over 175 hours by cab drivers, company representatives and others including Gruberg (who spoke for about 3 hours all by himself), Rua Graffis and Bill Mownsey. It was a compromise that was worked out by the various sides from over 20 plans that were submitted over the course of the 175 hours.
2. The fixed price sale was one of those compromises. An open auction was predicted to bring in prices as high as $500,000 for each medallion. We chose not to do this because we thought that drivers on the waiting list would not be able to afford them.
2A. The fixed price is to be set at price where a driver can afford to cover the loan payments with the monthly payments that he or she will get for leasing out the taxis when he or she isn't driving it. That is to say - the whole point of the fixed price is that it should affordable for the drivers.
3. The plan calls for the list to stay intact at least until all 3,200 names have been gone through. At that point, it will become a seniority list. There is nothing in this plan about ending the list. In fact, this plan kept the list alive despite the fact that Mayor Newom and others wanted to kill it by holding open auctions that would have brought in much more money to the city and the greedy medallion holders.
4. This plan also has a Driver's Fund, meaning that for the first time in 32 years the average driver will be given benefits.
5. At $200,000, 20% would go to the city and the driver's fund = $40,000. 200,000 - 40,000 = $160,000. There will also be a 15% federal tax = $30,000. $160,000 - $30,000 = $130,000. And there is a state sales tax of 9.5% = $19,000. $130,000 - $19,000 = $111,000.
6. Is this really your idea of a lot of money that someone would get for "free" after working in a job with substandard wages and conditions for 15 or 20 years?
7. In my opinion, the only one who gets windfall profits from this is the city - but that's my opinion.
I see that number 6 is clumsy and confusing. It should read, "Is this really your idea of a 'lot of money for a person to get ('for free') after working ... for 15 or 20 years?"
I also see that I downplayed the role of Madame Hayash in my letter. Of course she was the mediator, driving force and ultimate arbitrator of the final form of the plan but almost everything in it came from one of us - that is to say, a working driver.
March 4, 2010
Hi Mr Swezy,
I did miss one thing in your article that's of importance and I also underrated the role of Chris Hayashi.
First, you mentioned that the cabs would be sold on an "open" market. This is totally incorrect. An open market would be an auction and these medallions will not be auctioned off. They will sold only to working cab drivers on that list. It is thus a closed market.
Second, once again this is not Chris Hayahi's plan but it would not exist without her. She was the driving force behind making those Town Hall Meetings an actual study and mediation of the possibilities for reforming the cab business instead of the dog and pony show that the Mayor had intended them to be. The fact that an actual reform plan was created by Hayashi and the drivers, rather than rubber stamping the Mayor's rhetoric, is the real story of this event - one that every journalist missed.
Chris Hayashi mediated and was the ultimate arbitrator of the final form of the plan but everything in that plan comes from a working cab driver. The fixed price idea comes from me. The driver's fund comes from Rua Graffis and Mark Gruberg. Maintaining the list comes everybody except the MHA, the cab companies and the mayor.
I've tried to tell every one of you guys what actually went on to create this plan and it's gone in one ear and out the other. Why? Is the idea too unusual? Are you only trained to listen to cliques? If this subject is too complicated for you, what are you qualified to report on?
On the other hand, I liked your title. I think summed up the situation rather well. Of all the articles I've read on San Francisco cabs, this is the least worst.