Friday, April 16, 2010

The True Story of the Town Hall Meetings: A Radical Approach, A Revolutionary Plan


We people who took part in the Town Hall Meetings, who developed the Pilot Plan, know that we did things new and extraordinary. We looked at an industry where almost everyone was at odds with everyone else, where no two cab drivers could agree on anything, where there were at least three sides to every issue, where even the taxi companies needed two associations instead of one because they couldn't get along with each other and we forged a consensus, a compromise plan that gave something to every single faction and is backed by the vast majority of people in the taxicab business.

Even more remarkable was the fact that we got the SFMTA to sign off on the plan instead of stealing all the taxis and selling them like Mayor Newsom originally wanted.

This was an amazing, unprecedented accomplishment and I'll be proud to be associated with it until the day I die.

I was therefore stunned when I read press coverage describing a Pilot Plan that had nothing in common with the one we actually created.

Of course we all now know that the UTW, the one taxi group that refused to go along with the plan, had embarked on a campaign of misinformation, disinformation and downright lies for the benefit of local journalists.

It must also be said that many of these "journalists" were only too eager to be sucked in. I believe that this was mostly because Mark Gruberg and the UTW fed the press clich├ęs with which they were familiar (evil owners and oppressed workers.) On the other hand, these pundits didn't exactly raise a sweat trying to discover the truth behind the lies.

My favorite one of these characters was Barbara Taylor of KCBS who reported that the plan called for auctioning off medallions and would lead to the taxi companies owning them all. I called her on the phone and got involved in the following conversation:
  • Me, "You got the facts wrong."
  • BT, "That's your opinion ... what I do is collect opinions. You have your opinion and they have their opinion."
  • Me, "But all you have to do is read the document."
  • BT, "I'm a very busy woman. I don't have time to read."
  • Me, "But what you said was false."
  • BT, "That's your opinion."
Then she hung up the phone. When I e-mailed her a copy of the Pilot Plan she spammed it.

We've been on the defense ever since. I think it's about time we change this dynamic and tell the world what the Pilot Plan really is and how it came about.

The first thing to know is that Plan is the result of negotiations involving every group in the taxicab industry that took place over a period of months and included: drivers on the medallion list, drivers not on the medallion list, medallion holders, taxi company personnel, the UTW, the MHA, the SFCDA, Director Chris Hayashi and members of the public.

Therefore the Pilot Plan is NOT Mayor Newsom's or the SFMTA's or Malcom Heinicke's or the taxi companies' or the "owner's" or Chris Hayashi's. The plan is a product of negotiation, it's a compromise, between all these people and groups as well as working cab drivers. It's our plan.

Coming Soon: How the Pilot Plan's provisions were arrived at.

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