Monday, September 19, 2011

Tariq: Or, "It's True If I Say It's True."

There were 170 hours of Town Hall Meetings leading up to the creation of the Pilot Plan in April 2009.

Tariq Mehmood showed up at around the 160th hour, after the plan was more or less in place. Claiming that 90% of the drivers were behind him, Mehmood declared that the taxis should all be sold at auctions. 

This was similar to they way he behaved at the airport meetings in December 2010 where the record shows that he said,

"Each driver of the taxis industry knows me personally... 6,000 drivers are known to me but they cut me out.  I had to push myself into it.  As regard to the people, the 6,000 drivers, 18,000 family members has come to you to beg you."  

Tariq rarely mentions the merits of an idea. In fact, he appears to be incapable of arguing rationally. Instead, he takes a position then claims that he has 90% of the drivers or 6,000 or 18,000 people behind him. He once told me that my thoughts didn't matter because I only spoke for myself.

Mostly what he did in 2010 at SFO and at the 2009 Town Hall meetings was try to take over and gum up the works.

Selling medallions at auctions was a position that had already been discussed and dismissed before Tariq showed up at the Town Hall meetings because it would penalize both drivers on the waiting list and those with A-card seniority. 

He gave two memorable speeches at the Town Halls.

In the first, he said that he was fighting, not for himself, but for other drivers. He, Tariq Mehmood, didn't even want to be a medallion owner and had never put his name on the list.

In the second, he took credit for the medallion sales pilot program and praised Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi for her role in helping negotiating it.

At the last Town Hall meeting, Hayashi informed us that she had closed the Waiting List in order to preserve A-Card seniority for the purpose of future medallion distribution, which is a key element of the Pilot Program.

Mahmood started screaming at her that she shouldn't have closed the list without warning him. He hasn't stopped shouting at her since.

He was not arguing that she shouldn't have closed the list at all, mind you, only that she shouldn't have closed it before Tariq Mehmood - the man who'd claimed a week ealier that he didn't want to own a medallion - had had a chance to put his own name on that list so he could buy a medallion.

Flexible Reality.

The "truth" for Mehmood appears to be whatever he says it is at any particular moment. 

This truth was borne home to me at the August 8, 2011 TAC meeting that resulted in recommendations to curb illegal brokering that were passed by the Council by a vote of 14 to 1.  

Contrary to everyone else who spoke at the meeting, Tariq declared that brokering was a minor problem and shouldn't even be discussed.

My inside sources tell me that the practice includes from 200 to 500 cabs and involves millions of dollars a year.

Why would Tariq Mehmood, who lives in the milieu where the brokering takes place, deny that it exists?

A Man Who Lives to Hate.

"Tariq reminds me of the character in (James) Joyce who lives just to hate," a driver who'd known Mehmood for years told me.

The quote seems apt.

Hayashi isn't the first person that Tariq has trashed. Instead of arguing a position, he makes personal attacks on anybody who disagrees with him. At various times, this has included Mark Gruberg, Brad Newsham, Christopher Fulkerson, members of the Airport Commission, Sonali Bose and Tone Lee.

Mehmood and his disciples have sent dozens of attack e-mails my way. The one below is my favorite. It was supposed to have been sent by one of his goons but he can't hide his unique style from me.

"Bullshit and lies. That's what you are doing. Are you defending your girlfriend. Wait till she get fired. The die is casted. Murai did not defend her. I found Tariq the most powerful and great leader this industry has ever seen."

Mehmood, of course, has made a special project out of hating Deputy Director Hayashi and has spent over a year and a half going around trying to get her fired. At this point he probably can't even stop. He's boasted so often that he'd be able to get rid of her that he'd lose face with his followers if he failed to do so.

The 2011 Town Hall Meetings.

His animosity reached its height during the these meetings when he showed up at every one of the three two-a-day sessions to harass and verbally attack Deputy Director Hayashi for long periods of time.

The Town Hall meetings are intended to be democratic with people being able to speak without time limits as long as they are reasonable and stay on the subject.

Tariq Mehmood, who has accused other people of being communists, actually borrowed an old trick that communists used to take over unions in the 1930's. He undermined the democratic process by bringing an entourage of 6 to 12 people with him for every meeting. Thus, he had a built in majority for almost every vote and, even when he didn't, he claimed he did. In one case, he went out into the atrium next door with 9 of his disciples and returned to claim that all 7,000 drivers were behind him. 

Mehmood rarely stayed on point, constantly interrupted other drivers, monopolized the floor, repeated himself ad nauseam, and, incredibly, complained that he was not being given a fair chance to speak. His preposterous behavior would have been entertaining if he wasn't so vicious.

When he sat down, one of his disciples would usually take over to either express the same viewpoints or harass the Deputy Director. His acolytes repeatedly told Hayashi that if she did what Tariq wanted they would make her popular and successful among all the people of San Francisco, but, if she went against the great Mehmood's wishes, she would suffer the consequences of his wrath. 

Hayashi responded saying, "it's not my job to be popular."

In the end, the only thing that drivers not in Tariq's entourage agreed with Mehmood on was that they didn't like back-seat terminals. His insistence that the meter should be increased 40% was thought ridiculous and most drivers liked Hayashi's compromise plan on electronic waybills that would allow the MTA to gather statistical information without taking individual driver information.

Medallion Financial Of New York

Mehmood has repeatedly attacked Hayashi for conspiring with Hansu Kim of Desoto cab and Rebecca Lytle of the San Francisco Federal Credit Union (SFFCU), to cheat San Francisco cab drivers by keeping a loan company "so big it's on the Stock Market" out of The City. These  verbal assaults included a 40 minute diatribe carefully transcribed by Julie Rosenberg (photo) of the MTA during the Town Hall meetings.

Talk about Doublethink

Setting up driver loans though SFFCU is actually one of Hayashi's finer accomplishments and the terms the drivers are getting are far better than many people expected when the Pilot Plan was drawn up. 

Tariq's "Evidence" for a Conspiracy.

Hansu Kim introduced Christiane Hayashi to Rebecca Lytle.

That's it, folks! That's the alleged evidence. That's all there is. Nada mas.

In short, Mehmood's accusations are pure slander.

Some Facts.

A taxi cab medallion hadn't been sold in San Francisco for over 30 years when the Pilot Plan was put together and many people, including Mark Gruberg of the UTW, thought that nobody would loan money to a cab driver.

Deputy Director Hayashi had trouble finding anyone willing to risk money on such a loan. At one point, she invited more than 35 banks and credit unions to a meeting to discuss medallion loans and only four loan officers showed up. Three of them left before Hayashi's presentation was over and the other guy never came back. 

Even the San Francisco Federal Credit Union originally declined to participate because this was an untested loan program.

San Francisco Federal and Montauk Credit Unions.

Some time after the above meeting, Hayashi was contacted by the Montauk Credit Union of New York (which has a lot of experience making loans to cab drivers) to get the ball rolling. Then,  Rebecca Lytle became Vice President of Lending at the SF Federal Credit union and became interested in the Pilot Program. Lytle worked with the Montauk Credit Union and convinced her superiors at her  uredit union to rethink their opposition to medallion loans.

The result is the Pilot Plan Sales Program that is tailored to San Francisco's unique situation.

Two things that both Hayashi and the drivers who helped draft the Pilot Plan insisted on were: (1) there be no prepayment or other hidden fees and (2) that the loan payments be no larger than the monthly amount that a taxi company pays a "gates & gas" medallion holder. 

Both of these conditions have been met by Montauk and SFFCU. The program has been going on for a little over a year and about 150 cab drivers have received loans. So far, no cab driver has been turned down for a loan nor has anyone defaulted on a loan. In fact, no driver has even missed a payment.

Ms. Lytle says, 

"We’ve moved our rates down twice now because of movement downward in the interest rate markets and because we’ve gained a little more knowledge about the borrowers ..." 

For a look at the San Francisco Federal Credit Union's current rates click here.

So, are San Francisco's taxi drivers being cheated by Christiane, Rebecca and Hansu?

What Rates?

A good way to answer that question might be to compare SFFCU's rates with the rates of Tariq Mehmood's favorite loan company.

The problem is that - unlike SFFCU or Bank of America or Chase or Wells Fargo or any other bank or credit union that I checked -  Medallion Financial does not publish its loan rates.

Why? It's one those questions that would seem to answer itself. If their rates were lower than the competition they'd certainly want you to know about it, wouldn't they?

And, they also hit their taxi customers with prepayment penalties. This means that, if drivers tries to pay off their loans early, Medallion Financial charges them penalties equaling three months of payments for every prepayment. Grotesque but apparently true. There are stories of cab drivers who've paid on their loans for years only to discover that they owed Medallion Financial more money than they had borrowed in the first place.

And, Tariq Mehmood has accused Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi of not letting this company do business in San Francisco. Can you imagine that?

But, like so much that Mehmood says, it's simply not true. 

The Deputy Director will allow any loan company that meets her criteria to do business here. Medallion Financial did inquire about making taxi medallion loans locally and Hayashi sent them her guidelines (i.e. No prepayment penalties or other hidden fees, payments be no larger than the monthly amount that a taxi company pays a "gates & gas" medallion holder.) 

Medallion Financial never got back to her.

So Why Does Tariq Mehmood Keep Trying to Bring Medallion Financial into San Francisco?

Is that another question that answers itself?

A driver who had aligned herself with Mehmood during the first few summer protests changed her mind after watching Tariq spend 3 or 4 hours a night at the airport trying to sell drivers on Medallion Financial. 

"He'd tell them not to worry about the prepayment penalties because nobody paid off their loans early," she said. 

Tariq Mehmood, the self-proclaimed "powerful and great leader of the taxicab drivers," has repeatedly declared that he has no connection with Medallion Financial of New York.

1 comment:

  1. I have read this article especially closely and I find it gives a reliable and complete verisimilutude between word and fact regarding Tariq Mehmood.

    I was there on the occasion Mr. Healy describes, when Mr. Mehmood convened nine drivers outside, and then re-entered the meeting, saying that unanimity among all the cab drivers in San Francisco had been achieved on all points then under discussion, what that unanimity was, and, once Mr. Mehmood gave his oracular version of things, he seemed genuinely to believe there would then be no further need for any discussion. At all. By anyone. About anything.

    On that occasion, Mr. Healy asked Mr. Mehmood dryly, "Is that your idea of democratic process?" Mr. Mehmood had no idea what Mr. Healy was getting at.

    On another occasion Mr. Mehmood shouted in the, as usual, most violent way imaginable that all drivers are "family;" I had earlier heard him say he was "having" to act as the grandfather of us all. I truthfully said in the meeting that no one in my family ever behaved as badly as he did. He seemed momentarily surprised by that.

    The worst thing about him is that even when he gets his way, as with Miss Hayashi when she reconfigured the electronic data issues according to Mr. Mehmood's preferences, he does not change his remarks. When last I heard him he still acted as though Miss Hayashi were making all the same demands, to which he objected. IT DOESN'T DO ANY GOOD TO TRY TO WORK WITH MR. MEHMOOD. I think Mr. Healy is quite correct in his suggestion of Mr. Mehmood's deeper agenda.

    Persons who have only heard Mr. Mehmood speak at the SFMTA Board meetings have no idea how violent and uncivil he is at the Town Hall meetings. He is a Pied Piper figure, and a violent one.