Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Change in TAC ... tics?

There were three new faces on the Taxi Advisory Council on Monday who are likely to mean a change in direction. Until now, the TAC has pretty much been an owner's council. But the addition of Rua Graffis, Tara Housman and Tone Lee seems certain to challenge that dynamic.

Ms Graffis (Left) is a leader of the United Taxicab Workers (UTW) and has spent over thirty years fighting for driver's rights. She replaces non-medallion holder not on the list, Timothy Ajaegbu, who regularly missed council meetings.

Mrs. Housman (Middle photo) is a medallion holder who also takes a driver's point of view. As she pointed out at the meeting, medallion holders can also be drivers. She replaces Laurie Graham who routinely gave Yellow Cab a second vote.

Tone Lee is a leader among the drivers at the airport. He replaces Dmitry Nazarov who was a lease driver at Luxor Cab and has bought his own medallion. Nazarov, who was supposed to be representing drivers on the list, voted with President John Lazar of Luxor Cab absolutely every time.

All three of the new councilors have regularly attended and spoken at TAC meetings so that they are already up to speed. 

When you add another recent addition, Richard Hybels (owner of Metro Cab who is well-known as a maverick that sometimes sides with drivers) to the mix, the council promises to be much more evenly balanced than it has been in the past.

Council Business

The council voted to have Chair Chris Sweis and Vice Chair Barry Korengold continue in their positions for another six months.

Driver's Fund

The main subject for discussion was, what to do with the drivers fund?

This was the first time that the council has seriously discussed the issue and it was primarily a brainstorming session. The councilors generally agreed that the sum of money (currently $1,462,500) was too small to pay for medical or retirement benefits. Some ideas put forward for the fund's use were:

  • Scholarships for the children of drivers.
  • Catastrophic insurance.
  • Benefits for injured or traumatized drivers who needed time off from work.
Councilor Barry Korengold introduced a plan to use a 25 cent drop fee to build the fund more quickly but the drivers could not use their share unless they were vested for 5 years.

Christopher Fulkerson liked the idea in general but thought that the fund should be invested in an IRA that drivers could access whenever they wanted.

Tone Lee wanted to set up a lottery that would pay $100 to fifty drivers every two weeks on the provision that they showed up at TAC to collect it.

In the end, the council voted for a motion make by TAC member and general manager of Desoto Cab, Athan Rebelos, to make certain that the funds would be managed by the beneficiaries (i.e. the cab drivers) and not the MTA.


  1. Only because in this game perception is so relevant, the motion to recommend that the "Driver Fund shall be managed by a Board of Directors comprised of beneficiaries", was mine. Oddly enough, the motion wasn't made by any of the new "driver friendly" councilors but by a "company boss"... Imagine that...

  2. Hey Athan,

    You have a point. I didn't meant to stereotype. I've changed the post and given you your credit.

    On the other hand, the council has most certainly been biased in favor of the companies. I think the vote for OTA a few weeks ago was first time that TAC over-road the interests of Lazar and Yellow. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Also I doubt that this particular group would pass a motion to help TAC members and their relatives get medallions without having to work for them.


  3. Gee,

    I thought it was biased in favor of the SFMTA.

  4. Ultimately I believe that if the companies are not solvent then the whole industry is at risk. My votes were for the health of the industry. I don't believe that the companies are the bad guys. I also don't think drivers including myself are qualified to judge the business practices of an industry. Throughout the country there are many different models as to how the taxi business is managed. We are lucky in San Francisco that working drivers are the permit holders. Thank goodness we are unique in many other ways. I'm sure Tara will do a great job representing drivers. She is honest to her values and knows as well as any one of us that what is good for the drivers is good for the company.

  5. Pesonally, I prefer the Washington DC model, that the city council is trying

    To get rid of, which is, no medallions and every driver buys their own cab and

    Drives whenever they want to, like true independent contractors.