Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Not to Do Politics.

 As I was walking by the small honk-a-thon prior to last Tuesday's MTA Board meeting Tariq Mehmood approached me with a smile. This surprised me. He usually waves his arms at me and shouts things like:

"Don't talk to me!" or "Leave! You don't belong here! You are not a driver!" or "Don't you laugh at me!"

He's been acting thus ever since I wrote this post about him. Naturally, I assumed his sudden conviviality stemmed from a desire to publicize some scheme or other in my blog. This proved to be the case.

Mehmood proudly pointed to the line of cabs circling City Hall and told me that he was planning a major strike.

"You mean you're not going to pick people up?" I asked. "Uber will be happy to hear it."

"This time we'll shut the city down!"  He said with a wide-eyed grin.

"Then maybe they'll charge double."

How Not to win the Hearts and Minds of the People.

Of course it would be impossible to seal off a city with so many ways in and out. (Is he going to block off Palmetto Ave, Brotherhood Way, Alemany Blvd, Brunswick St, etc?). What would be possible would be to shut down the bridges. This has been done before and the results of such an action would follow a predictable path.

1. The cabs would block the streets for a couple of hours.

2. Since no city can tolerate such behavior, the police would eventually tow the offending vehicles and arrest and fine or discipline the drivers.

3. The traffic would soon return to flowing (or not) as it had before.

The only lasting effect would be to alienate the public even more than those cab drivers who turn down credit cards. There is nothing that people hate more than being punished for something they didn't do. It would turn people, who might be sympathetic, against the cab driver's cause.

Think of what Critical Mass has done to win love for the Bicycle Coalition.

In short, blocking traffic would be monumentally stupid, meaning that Tariq will probably do it.

What cause?

And there would the problem of explaining why Mehmood and his minions would deliberately cause massive gridlock.

One certainly couldn't tell from the above protest. As usual Tariq substituted personal attacks for reason. Why should Hayashi, Heinicke and Ed Lee resign? (Ed Lee????) We don't know. A guy with a bullhorn kept kept shouting that "we" were, "against electronic waybills, backseat terminals ..." But would this win over the hears and minds of a public that's been stuck on the Bay Bridge for two hours?

 The gentleman in the photo below didn't know if he was against the noise or not.

"It depends what the honking is about?" He said.

"Basically, they're underpaid and don't have benefits," I told him. "It's not fair."

"I can see that," he said. "On the other hand, whoever said that life should be fair?"

"Wasn't that Spinoza?"

"Maybe ... Spinoza's complicated."

A Brilliant Protest: But How Not to Get a Message Across.

I liked this one. In fact, I wish I'd thought of it. I've got to hand it to organizer Brad Newsham.  He's quite the showman and he paid for the photographer out of his own pocket. This stunt did indeed get the attention of the press. The soundbites were there for the taking. But what were they?

An online paper The San Francisco Appeal quoted Newsham as saying that the MTA has been "abusing" taxi drivers, who he says are losing business to the private car service Uber.

"We've got an absolutely demoralized workforce that's being looted," he said.

Will Reisman of the San Francisco Examiner paraphrased Mark Gruberg of the United Taxicab Workers as saying,

"Drivers are upset about onerous credit card fees ..." and "... government overregulation ..."

Gruberg also pointed out that "the SFMTA gets a 15% cut" of $250,000 taxi medallion sales and "... hasn't invested any of that money back into the industry."

Catherin Al_Meten of SF Grandparenting Examiner described signs as reading, "We won't be your cash cow" and "Fire Mirakarimi."

There are no shortage of messages. In fact, there are too many. Some are ridiculous (Mirakarimi????) and others cancel each other out. Mark does't like "overregulation" but Brad wants to regulate Uber out of business. And, what are we to do about "abused" and "demoralized" cab drivers? Do we need group therapy?

Sorry. But there is no center in any of this, no concrete plan of action with which the non-cab driving public can identify. Given this potpourri of soundbites, the media focused on what most disturbs them.

Flikr descibed it as a "Protest of proposed credit card charges for "cabbies.'"

KRON 4 News asked on facebook, "Do you think 'cabbies' should have to pay credit card charges?" The count was tied at 4-4 at last ... count.

Reisman devoted most of his article to discussing credit card processing fees and the MTA's plan to cap them at 3.5% - about which Gruberg continues to harp, despite the fact that not taking credit cards is the one act for which the public most hates taxi drivers. Reisman writes,

"While the drivers and companies bicker about credit card fees, taxi passengers will continue to feel the impact of the argument. Some drivers, angry about absorbing the extra costs, are still refusing to pick up passengers who don’t have cash."

The journalist concluded with a story about a cab customer who was spit at by a "cabbie" when he tried to use a credit card.

Newsham's cab caravan was good theatre but, in the end, the mixed messages may have done little except feed negative "cabbie" stereotypes. The protest that the public is really paying attention to is the one the anti-credit card genius's are holding every day. Uber must be pleased.

How Not to Talk to High Ranking Officials.

Brad Newsham finally scores points.

But, first, Brad shoots himself in the foot.

Director Heinicke isn't going anywhere.  He's just been reappointed. Furthermore, for better or worse, when it comes to taxis, Heinicke is the most influential member of the MTA Board. Since, we can't get rid of him, maybe we should try to free his mind instead.

The self-proclaimed "most powerful and great leader the ..." taxi "... industry has ever seen" throws a "spontaneous" tantrum.

In recorded history, has anyone ever advanced a cause by embarrassing, insulting or threatening powerful officials?

1 comment:

  1. For the benefit of most of the working gates and gas drivers we operte in a relative reality picture show and while we may assume Healy, Schneider, Tariq, Heinicke, Hayashi are about as real as anything else and wish them all good wishes, we may have to oppose them if we don't find higher ground.

    I give Brad some credit although sadly we didn't back him up very well.

    That may be due to Dave's ego and the Phantom's ego: In Salvador Dali land: the karmic ramifications of collective negative ego manifesting as everyday reality. Perhaps.
    So many chief's and where are the Indians ... .