Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TAC 9-12-11: Or, What Happened to Civility?

Barry Korengold (photo) of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association (SFCDA) had the dual and unenviable task of both chairing the meeting and explaining his proposal for modifying the Pilot Plan called, Limited Driving Requirement. Since John Han has already done a good job of covering Korengold's plan and other aspects of the meeting Taxi TownSF, all that's left to me to do is editorialize.

However, one idea that Han did not emphasize enough was that the reason for the MTA not to sell medallions outright was that "each one deprives a career working cabdriver from obtaining their medallion..." Indeed, the thrust of the proposal is to help the drivers at the top of Waiting List get their "earned" medallions and to keep the List going into the future. Korengold's plan could work, if you wanted it to work, and aspects of it were actually part of the Pilot Plan prior to the final cut.

Therefore, the behavior of TAC's Owners and Managers block toward Korengold's proposal was rude and inappropriate. This ranged from the patronizing sarcasm ("I can see that you've worked very hard on this but ...") of the Medallion Holders Association's (MHA) Carl Macmurdo to the open hostility of Athan Rebelos of Desoto Cab, Dan Hinds of National Cab and John Lazar of Luxor Cab. 

On top of this, Rebelos appears to have borrowed a page from Tariq Mehmood and packed the TAC with a group of eight or ten drivers. 

But, gosh, am I slandering Athan? Of course they could have all spontaneously showed up. The fact that they were all young, all on The List, all worked for Desoto, were all attending their first meeting and all wanted open transferability doesn't necessarily mean a thing. 

They all were also ignorant. One speaker after another said he was in favor of the "Pilot Plan" when what they really wanted was to end the part of the plan that "gives" medallions to drivers on the basis of their position on the Waiting List.

One of them said a couple of amazing things. 

He appeared to be about 40, said that he'd been on the List for 13 years and couldn't see any difference between his situation and that of Councilor Bill Mounsey who's been on the List for 15 years but is 65 years old. They could both buy couldn't they?

The Desoto driver also said that he was number 2004 on the Waiting List but 97 on the Buyer's List. Struck by the disparity of the figures, Korengold tried to find out where the driver got those numbers (which seemed to annoy some people) but he didn't get a satisfactory answer.

At any rate, the driver clearly hadn't thought his position through. If the MTA stops giving away "earned" medallions, the Waiting List and the Buyer's List would become one and the same and he'd have 2003 buyers in front of him. The best outcome for him would be a continuation of things as they are.

The main person in the room actually defending the Pilot Plan was Barry Korengold. He's also one of the few people on the TAC who's interested in doing anything other than feeding his own face. From a personal standpoint, the best outcome for Korengold would be an open auction with no age limit. Instead, he remembers his roots and is trying to do something for people who are in the same situation as he was in a few years ago. Whether you like his ideas or not, he deserved a hell of a lot more respect than he was shown at the TAC meeting Monday.

Some people told me that they thought Korengold shouldn't have chaired a meeting where he was presenting a proposal. He would probably agree but he didn't have a choice. Chris Sweis, the usual chair, couldn't be there. Some people thought that Korengold got a little angry but he was dealing with a lot of hostility and probably did better than I would have under the same circumstances. Some people thought Barry talked too much but he'd been waiting a year to speak and look at who's complaining:

Dan Hinds and Carl Macmurdo who took up three whole meetings forcing a vote on a subject that wasn't even on the agenda. And, Athan Rebelos and John Lazar who voted to make themselves and their children eligible for medallions without having to follow the same rules as a working taxi driver. 

Lazar's sidekick, Charles Rathbone (photo), topped them all by rudely shouting out that Korengold had already spoken 30 times - A ridiculous and asinine accusation since he was both chairing the meeting and explaining his proposal. As Korengold pointed out, Rathbone shouldn't have been speaking at all. It wasn't during public comment and he isn't even on the council - for good reason. The only person Rathbone represents is his master.

But I digress ...

Dan Hinds tried to force a vote on Korengold's proposal but Barry said that he was only trying to open up a discussion. Indeed, I think he's the only member of the TAC to even address the problems of the people on the Waiting List or the Driver's Fund.

The Owners and Managers Block, on the other hand, doesn't see a problem. Hinds and Macmurdo, both of whom got their own medallions by waiting on the List, along with  Lazar and company want to stop the MTA from giving out any more "earned" medallions to working drivers and make everybody buyers.

I ended my first post on the Taxi Advisory Council by writing, 

"Given the make-up of the council, it would behoove drivers on the Waiting List and ordinary drivers to attend. It's a good idea anyway."

I would add a note of urgency. If you guys don't start showing up at the TAC and MTA Board meetings, nobody's going to know you exist.

And, if anybody has any ideas or proposals about the Waiting List, the Driver's Fund, driver retirement, medical insurance or any other subject relating to the Pilot Plan you should send them to Chair Chris Sweis before the next TAC meeting on Monday the 26th.

1 comment:

  1. There is no reason a chairman may not present material. Claims to the contrary is a clear example of the type of uncollegial behavior demonstrated by the cab companies, who propose shut-outs of their perceived adversaries and do not worry that this violates democratic process. They run a complaint up the flag to see if anyone salutes, and if anyone does salute, they act as though there are laws to support them. In fact theirs is a lawless method. If Chairman Chris Sweis had made a presentation saying medallion sales should run the planet, no company reps would have batted an eye (which is not to say Mr. Sweis would do this).

    It is disturbing that DeSoto is making such a strident move to create an artificial front. Is is quite typical that people who say they want, or who say they are happy with, medallion sales do not know what they are talking about.

    There is little doubt in my mind that, regardless of what they or anyone else says, the DeSoto drivers were there under duress.

    I wish DeSoto would cool it with this type of move. DeSoto President Han Su Kim has a chance to lead the industry in actual integrity if he would seperate out and re-prioritize his interests; instead I fear he is still trying to have it all, and risking that very edge in ethics. He has spoken eloquently about the future challenges to the industry, but until the MTA corrects its conflict-of-interest over medallion sales, the medallion sales program contributes to the very factors he warns about.