Sunday, November 20, 2011

November 2011 Town Hall Meetings

A new series of Town Hall Meetings began on Monday, November 14th to discuss, "Consideration of Proposals for the Future of Taxicab Sales."

I couldn't come on Monday but caught the end of the afternoon session on Tuesday, November 15th and stayed for the evening (see schedule below).

In attendance were Naim Malik, Tone Lee, Mark Gruberg, Christopher Fulkerson, MTA Investigator Mike Harris,  Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi and myself. Richie Weiner and Jim Gillespie from Yellow Cab management attended in the afternoon and Barry Korengold came by at night, followed much later by Tariq Mehmood.

Forgetting that he was talking to cab drivers and not trying to snow City Supervisors or the general public, Richie Weiner tried to convince everyone that drivers would make more money if more cabs were put on the street. However, most of the conversations generally followed the outline on Hayashi's whiteboard.

Despite the small turnout almost all the usual points of view were put forth on the question of sales:

  • Taxis should continue to be sold as in the Pilot Plan.
  • The age for selling should stay at 70.
  • The selling age should be lowered to 65.
  • All Taxis should be sold.
  • No taxis should be sold.

Most people thought that the seniority should continue for the waiting list and purchasing medallions but Tone Lee thought that a few medallions should be handled though a lottery.  There was also talk about combining the A-Card list with the Waiting list in some way. Ending the Waiting List was also mentioned.

There was debate as to whether or not medallion holding drivers should continue to have a driving requirement or be able to retire and continue to hold the medallions at ages 65 or 70.

The idea behind purchasing transfer rights is to give medallion holders of selling age a chance to continue working their medallion after they agree to sell. If they paid the $50,000 transfer fee in advance, they would be able to sell anytime afterwards and the money from sales would go to their families if they died before selling it themselves.

Having exhausted these subjects for the moment we went on to a discussion of the Driver's Fund which now has $2.4 million in it.

  • Some drivers wanted the fund to be used as a down payment for medical insurance.
  • Since $2.4 million obviously isn't enough to cover such benefits, I thought that we should raise the percentage for the fund from sales to ten per cent in order to help it grow faster.
  • Tone Lee thought that we should build a recreation center for all drivers to use. 
  • Director Hayashi came up with the idea of giving money to drivers who had been robbed or in an accident so that they could have time off to relax and psychologically recover.
Tariq Mehmood himself honored us with his presence while we were talking and sat silently listening to what we were saying for fifteen or twenty minutes. I had never before seen him go without speaking for such an extended period of time and wondered if he had been reading How to Win Friends and Influence People or I'm Okay, You're Okay. Had the Mehmood become a team player and developed an interest in the thought, opinions and feelings of others?

"The Driver's Fund is not for discussion !" Tariq loudly decreed when he finally graced us with his speech. "We will now talk about the sales program!" Then, he lectured us in a loud, abrasive monotone for a half an hour, before proclaiming, "The age should be 70!"

There didn't seem to be much to add so we went back to discussing ways to grow the Driver's Fund so that it would be large enough to help with medical benefits. Christopher Fulkerson mentioned that the companies owned the drivers  millions of dollars from an agreement made with the old Taxi Commission. I thought a percentage of the meter drop could be helpful.

"We are not here to talk about medical benefits!" Mehmood commanded. "$2.4 Million dollars is not enough for a medical program!" He then proceeded to spend eight and a half minutes educating us on the details of his profound insight. Then, he left.

The next sessions will be on Tuesday, November 22nd from 2 to 5 and 5 to 8 as per the below schedule. Earplugs are optional.

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