Tuesday, December 6, 2011

SFMTA Board Okays Sales for K Medallion Holders Over 65

I should subtitle this : "But Not For Pre-K's - Among Other Things."

Specifically the Board okayed the following legislation changing the transportation Code:

1. Creates a ramp taxi enforcement program to hold ramp taxi medallion holders responsible to
ensure all drivers of the vehicle are qualified, and to require service to at least eight wheelchair users per month, with a $150 penalty for non-compliance, and provision for 90-day suspension for repeated violations;
2. Eliminates six month notice requirement for leaving the ramp taxi program;
3. Waives application and renewal fees for two battery-switch electric vehicle permits; 
4. Creates documentation requirements for applications to transfer a color scheme permit; 
5. Eliminates mandatory December 31 permit expiration date for permits; 
6. Eliminates the financial responsibility inquiry for driver and medallion permit applicants; 
7. Eliminates jitney bus provisions left over from the Police Code; and 
8. Re-opens the opportunity to sell medallions to individuals subject to the full-time driving
requirement who attain the age of 65 or older as of December 31, 2011, or who have a disability that prevents them from fulfilling the full-time driving requirement, clarifies that a medallion purchaser may sell regardless of age or disability, and that a medallion seller can be removed from the list of qualified sellers if they decline to sell their medallion within 15 days after an offer is made.

The item that interested most people was number 8. Since the legislation only opens sales to "individuals subject to the full-time driving requirement ... or who have a disability ..." it excludes all Pre-K medallion holders. Twenty or so of the Pre-K's (along with several K's) spoke to the unfairness of the measure. My favorite was the Pre-K who concluded by saying, "Why don't they just gas us?"

Indeed, why not? The poor dude would only get $3,000 a month for the rest of the his life, a figure that would warm the hearts of most people - except, of course, those who work for the MTA.

Please excuse the levity. Watching one Pre-K after another obsess about the injustice of their fates has been one of the more amazing aspects of the entire Pilot Plan process. These guys have made between $800,000 and $1,000,000 off a $10,000 or $20,000 investment and, as near as I can tell, they haven't stopped whining about it for thirty years. 

Or, as John Milton put it in Paradise Lost,

     "The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven."

On the other hand, there was no separation between the K's and Pre-K's in the Pilot Plan and no warning was given that something like this might happen. If there had been a warning, most of the Pre-k medallions would have already have been sold.

The legislation on this particular matter lasts only until the end of the Pilot Plan and is designed to keep medallion sales going until a final plan is adopted. Otherwise I probably would have been against the measure. 

Barry Korengold felt no such compunction and favored the legislation because he thought that it would give earned medallions to drivers on the Waiting List.

The MTA was divided on the issue and wanted to know Deputy Director Christiane Hayashi's reasoning.

(To read the rest of this article, click below.) 

Hayahsi said,

 " ... this is an interim measure and that we are still waiting for the Taxi Advisory Council to come to a recommendation. In the meantime we have a lot of eager medallion buyers and we have run out of medallion stock ...the two competing sides here are, on the one hand, we want to open up more opportunities for sellers and purchasers. On the other hand, every time we allow a medallion to be transferred ... that medallion will no longer be available for any other long-term and permanent solution that we come up with ..."

"This is intended to let off a little steam while we wait for a long term solution ... This is just for the purpose of limiting the number of medallions to where there is a very serious policy need. First, those who have become disabled ... and those who are driving and are over 65. The Pre-K medallion holders do not have a driving requirement so there is less of a policy argument there."

"Ultimately, what is the right policy? That is something that we should look to in the long-term program."

Then, she threw in a bolt from the blue. She said,

"I would be remiss if I failed to mention the financial considerations as well. Because, if somebody were to sell their Pre-K medallion, the City would realize $37,500 in transfer fees. If somebody were to - it's a terrible thing to say but the way medallion have been circulated over time is though death and revocation - and so if somebody were to pass away and their medallion came back to the City, it would be worth $237,500. So if you're talking about the entire population of 300 Pre-K medallion holders, you're talking about a value of 71 million dollars and change."

Oh, oh, Barry?

Just when I'm getting bored with this whole thing somebody tosses another cat onto a hot tin roof.

Hayashi claims not to be a politician but she sure knew her audience. Director Malcolm Heinicke began talking about "income streams" and the legislation soon carried by a vote of 4 to 2.

To be fair, Vice Chairman Jerry Lee and Director Bruce Oka were strongly in favor of giving the Pre-K's a chance to sell as, to a lesser extent, was Director Heinicke.

Heinicke said that a perment plan needed to be worked out so that the business could become stable and predictable. Hayashi promised that she could have such a plan ready for the MTA Board by February. The Board thus passed the legislation with the understanding that it was a short term measure and not a final solution.

Director Heinicke, by the way, defended Ms. Hayashi against one of Tariq Mehmood's patented, slanderous attacks on the Deputy Director's integrity by saying, 

     "I feel obliged to note that if you chose to make ad hominen attacks on our staff; in particular one person who is working very hard to bring harmony into this industry, it makes ... me not really value the rest of what you say. If you have an argument, make it on the merits ..."

He was seconded in this by Director Joel Ramos who added,

     "The idea of attacking someone personally to get your point across is below low... I won't tolerate it as a director and I think the level of respect needs to be turned way up here ..."

Kudos gentlemen. Good words. They'd have been even better if they'd been said last April when Mehmood first started making these attacks. 

But, better late then never. Thanks from all of us who value reason over hatred, intimidation and fear.


  1. Surprising that Oka would be against Pre-K's selling as he is the hand maiden of the companies.
    I hear Nate Dwiri is really pissed about not being able to sell. What a greedy prick. Paid $30k for two medallions 33 years ago and has made a couple of million off the backs of drivers that he increased gates on so many times the city had to step in and control gates.
    Most of these pre-k's should thank God they were not able to sell them all these years cuz many of the idiots would have sold long ago and blown the money.

  2. Sorry I used a double negative. I meant to say that Lee and Oka were strongly in favor of Pre-k's being able to sell. I'll change it when I finish writing this.

    As for the rest of your paragraph, I'm in complete agreement.

    The Phantom.

  3. I'm curious if the pre-Ks and others in the MHA who have been actively trying to convince city officials that the city should be making money off "these valuable assets", still feel that's such a great idea. Particularly that the city sell them outright.