Sunday, June 6, 2010

Two Hearings and a Score: Taxis 2, Gruberg 0

The first Medallion Pilot Program Hearing took place on Friday, June 4, 2010. Contrary to the press and rumor, these hearing were NOT for the purpose of selling medallions but only to discover if the applicants were qualified to buy medallions.

Hearing Officer Henry Epstein (photo), with the help of Investigator Michael Harris and Attorney Jarvis Murray of Taxi Services, found applicants Muwaffaq Mustafa (photo), Raymond Chiu, Johnny Huynh and Ahmad Sidaoui to be qualified to buy a medallion - if and when a sale takes place.

The fireworks, however, occurred prior the hearing when Mark Gruberg made two attempts to stop the proceedings.

Attempt Numero Uno

took place on the morning of June 4th when Gruberg filed a "PETITION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER ..." in Superior Court on behalf of William D. Pallas and five other drivers on the waiting list.

Using a throw-enough-stuff-at-a-wall-and-some-of-it-might-stick strategy, Gruberg's complaint rambled far and wide. However, there were three main points of attack.
  1. The Pilot Program imposed "a special tax" that hadn't been approved by two/thirds of the voters.
  2. The Pilot Program denied "due process of law" and continuing with the hearing would do "irreparable harm" to the plaintiff's chances of getting a medallion for "free."
  3. The Pilot Program was an "abuse of power."
I didn't know about the proceedings until they were already over so I interviewed Director Christiane Hayashi on the subject yesterday.

She dismissed the arguments about a special tax and abuse of power as "ridiculous."

Hayashi went on to say that she and her attorneys argued:
  • The positions on The List of the plaintiffs would actually be improved by the Pilot Program.
  • The six plaintiffs would advance from 20 to 200 positions if the all the medallions scheduled for sale were sold.
  • At the rate of selling 35 medallions per year, this could shave as many as 6 years off the wait.
  • Because the plaintiffs would actually benefit from the Pilot Program, at this point it would be impossible to prove irreparable harm.
  • In any case, the hearing in question is only to see whether or not an applicant is qualified for a sale. Therefore, it would not have an adverse effect on the plaintiffs at all.
Director Hayashi also said that the Pilot Program had been discussed for 175 hours at Town Hall Meetings and also had been written about so that what the program contained was public knowledge.

Attempt Numero Dos

took place at the hearing when Gruberg tried to delay the proceeding by claiming:
  1. A proper notice of 30 days was not given before the hearing.
  2. A proper notice of 72 hours was not given under a different rule
  3. It wasn't properly specified as to what the hearings were about.

Hearing Officer Epstein answered thusly:
  1. The 30 day notice was for the applicants not the general public.
  2. More then 72 hours had passed since the hearing was posted so the public had been adequately informed.
  3. The notice for the hearing could have been more clearly written but it was clear enough.
Hayashi added that any public comment was allowed at the discretion of the hearing officer meaning that Gruberg's whole line of argument was lame.

Of course the more interesting hearings will be the ones where they actually sell the medallions. And, to tell the truth, I don't have the foggiest notion of when this might occur.

I'll try to find out. So, no doubt, will Gruberg.

You'll have noticed, gentle reader, that I haven't stopped posting. My threat to do so was due to a temporary burn-out. Sorry.

Many thanks to the many people who either complimented me in person or wrote me that I shouldn't quit. It's nice to know that people appreciate what you do. I'll stick it out to the end.