Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Staff Recommendations Well Received at TAC

Deputy Director of Taxi Services, Christiane Hayashi, presented her recommendations for medallion reform yesterday at the Taxi Advisory Council.

The plan (See May 13, 2012 post) carried forward Hayashi's signature idea from the Pilot Plan of giving something to all the various interested parties in the taxicab business without giving too much to anyone. In short, a gravity defying balancing act.

The proposal was surprising well received and praised by people as different as Barry Korengold of the SFCDA, Carl Macmurdo of the MHA, Councilor Tone Lee, Desoto Cab owner Hansu Kim and myself.  Macmurdo and Kim called it brilliant as did I.

Of course almost everyone disliked some item or other of the proposition. The main bones of contention were:

Maintaining the Driving Requirement for Medallion Holders.

Coucilors Barry Korengold, John Lazar of Luxor Cab and Carl Macmurdo all thought that medallion holders should have the requirement of driving 800 hours or 156 half-shifts lowered or eliminated for older drivers. Korengold wanted medallion holders be given the choice of either selling their medallions or retiring with them and having the medallions go back to The List after their deaths.

Hansu Kim, on the other hand, thought that the requirements should be maintained so that medallions would become available more quickly for younger drivers.

The Driver's Fund.

Macmurdo and Lazar thought that the Driver's Fund should become an Industry Fund." Lazar wanted the fund to be used to help wannabe medallion buyers make their down payments.

I spoke in favor of using the fund for non-medallion holding drivers, pointing out that three-quarters of cab drivers will never own a medallion and have no benefits or retirement. The fund therefore should be used for these drivers as was originally intended by the people who created the Pilot Plan.

I ran out of time so I was unable to suggest that, if Councilor Lazar wanted to have an industry fund, he could pool the money that he and his fellow taxi company owners have grabbed by way of "voluntary" tips from their drivers. This could well be enough for the entire industry to retire on. Conversely, the money could be used to pay off the MTA's debt so they wouldn't take so much money from the rest of us.

Dedicate All 350 Pre-K Medallions to the Waiting List.

Councilors Macmurdo and Dan Hinds of National Cab said that it was unfair to not to allow the Pre-K medallion holders to sell. Hinds thought that we should have "compassion" for the Pre-K's who had worked so hard to develop this industry.

Former Yellow Driver Art Lembke came up from his retirement in Texas to argue against the item and with Barry Korengold who backed the measure. The pair engaged in what some might call "lively repartee" and others might describe as "insane caterwauling." Staring at Korengold, Lembke called the people who didn't want Pre-K holders to be able to sell "vindictive."

Well ... I don't think I'm vindictive but I think it's more "fair" and "compassionate" to give these medallions to the working drivers who have been on the Waiting List for fifteen or twenty years and would have nothing to retire on without a medallion.

I'd also like to point out that about 95 of those 350 are corporate medallions and many Pre-K owners, like Art Lembke, hold at least two medallions. So, what we are really talking about is around 150 people, all of whom will earn at least $2,500 from each of their medallions every month for the rest of their lives.

The Issuance of Temporary Permits to Select Companies.

I had expected much hostility toward this measure but, aside one outraged exception, the criticism stayed on point.

Many people accepted the provision because it was limited to 5% of the fleet but, along with Carl Macmurdo, feared that it could lead to a "slippery slope" of more and more medallions going to companies instead of drivers.

Many people liked the idea that the permits would be temporary and could be rescinded if necessary but others wondered whether or not this would work out in practice.

Athan Rebelos, who has long pushed for corporate medallions, thought that this limited release would give people a chance to see if his plan would work.

I suggested that the MTA should return half of leasing income from these permits back to the taxi industry to help improve service and build up the driving fund.

Is Cluelessness really that blissful?

The outraged exception was Brad Newsham (Photo) who likes to carry protest signs and give stirring speeches at meetings which he leaves before he has a chance to find out what's really going on.

Newsham's always entertaining but he outdid himself at TAC when he read a mock letter of resignation that supposedly came from Deputy Director Hayashi.

The text was confused and confusing but apparently Brad thinks that cab drivers would be better off if Hayashi defied MTA Director Malcom Heinicke's orders and quit her job rather than lease out permits to the companies  ... or some such. Highly entertaining to those of us who've taken the trouble to understand a little of the MTA's byzantine politics. No doubt it will prove so to Heinicke as well.

Maybe Brad thinks on a deeper level than the rest of us, but, I find it hard to understand how drivers on the Waiting List (who Newsham supposedly supports) would be better off if the person most responsible for the continued existence of that list leaves the field.

Or, maybe Newsham is alphabetically challenged and merely attacked the wrong "H." If Brad wants to take cheap-shots at a person, Heinicke would be a more appropriate target. He's the one who wants to ripoff cab drivers and gut the taxi industry for more MTA funding.


  1. Johnny walker sez,

    It might come as a day late and a dollar short.

    Word on the street is that uber intends to put 1500 TCP Toyota prius's to com-

    Pete with the cabs, oh well I guess thats what happens when taxi companies

    And the SFMTA conspire and collude to shaft the drivers, and as a result of

    These actions by aformentioned entities competition has come int to fill the void

    Of poor dispatch service which might undermine all efforts of all parties con-



  2. A dollar in 1978 would buy $3.53 worth of stuff today.
    I would say that the investment in a pre-k medallion fetched about $1,000,000 in 34 years all things considered.
    Dan Hinds thinks the pre's developed the industry?
    does he mean like raising the gates so many times the City had to step in and control the gates? Or did he mean by sitting on their asses collecting a check they freed up a job for somebody?
    And BTW how bout that Chas Rathbone! Hayashi gives him his wish to pre-pay part of his med. selling fee so his heirs get to sell the medallion if he dies. That is one more that won't go "free" to a driver like he got his. Yet within minutes of getting the good news he complained that Hayashi's plan gives drivers way too much. Wasn't he President of UTW once? Now he is part and parcel of the greediest, extortionate company of them all. Sellout