Wednesday, June 13, 2012

TAC Votes to Commit Hari Kari.

On June 11, 2012, the Taxi Advisory Council voted by 5 to 4 to disband when the Pilot Program officially ends - possibly in August.

Only ten of the fourteen councilors showed up to discuss the future of the TAC on Monday which speaks to the spirit of ennui that has taken over the meetings. The four no-shows - John Han, David Khan, William Mounsey and Chair Chris Sweis - may have been voting with their feet.

Bill Minikel (photo), who once was the fifteenth member, quit some time ago.

The vote would have been 6 to 4 against continuing but Councilor John Lazar of Luxor Cab resigned prior to the vote after a lengthy and impassioned rant.

The Taxi Advisory Council was set up specifically to study the Pilot Plan and make recommendations for permanent medallion reform. The TAC is an advisory council - meaning that it can recommend but, not make, legislation.

 The Council has spent almost two years (and hundreds of hours) discussing various aspects of the plan along with other taxi matters. Chair Chris Sweis spent a great deal of time writing up an excellent Taxi Advisory Report that he presented to the TAC in March.

Then ...  nothing happened.

The report has never been put on the MTA Board's agenda despite Sweis's repeated attempts to do so. Roberta Boomer, the Board's secretary, has refused to even return Sweis's calls, much less speak to him. Sweis has also talked to the Director of Transportation, Ed Reiskin (photo), to no apparent avail.

Mr. Lazar (photo), along with other council members, was especially angered by the Board's ignoring of the TAC's recommendations concerning money taken from the taxi industry by the MTA, specifically the:

"Recommendation that all revenues generated from the taxicab industry should be re-invested in the taxicab industry. Adopted Unanimously by a 14 - 0 vote.

In his report Sweis (photo below) wrote,

"There is consensus among all industry members that revenue generated from the industry should be reduced and that the SFMTA should re-invest these revenues in the industry."

This was also reflected in other TAC votes:

  • Recommendation to reduce the SFMTA re-sale transaction fee to 5%. Adopted 13:1
  • Recommendation to restructure the transaction fee so that 10% goes to the SFMTA and 10% goes to the driver fund. Adopted 8:6
  • Recommendation that the SFMTA not have a financial interest in medallion sales. Adopted 9:5
The TAC Report also made recommendations on Medallion Sales, Medallion Distribution and Purchase, Industry Functions and the Drivers Fund.

Councils Dan Hinds, Richard Hybels, Timothy Lapp, Carl Macmurdo and Athan Rebelos voted for the TAC's demise. Rua Graffis, Tara Houseman, Vice Chair Barry Korengold and Tone Lee voted to keep the TAC. 

Those who didn't like the TAC thought it was a complete waste of time. Those who liked it thought it was good for different groups in the industry to get together and talk - even if it didn't lead to anything. "When people talk," said Lee (photo), "there is no war."

Korengold (right ) thought that the TAC should exist in some form. "It's good for cab drivers to follow rules," he says. Rebelos (left), on the other hand, thought that Town Hall Meetings have proven more productive.

Mike Harris of the MTA staff said that the TAC's vote was only advisory so they couldn't even officially disband until the Pilot Plan came to an end. Korengold than set up the next meeting for June 25th. Rebelos wanted to know if they could vote on where the five TAC nay sayers should go on the 25th.

Be that as it may, the councilors along with many member of the public, spent a great deal of time, energy and thought in helping to put the the Taxi Advisory Report together.  It deserves to be officially heard and vetted by SFMTA Board. And, it should be heard before the Taxi Services Staff makes its recommendation for medallion reform on August 21, 2012. 

 If the Board continues to stonewall the report, either Chris Sweis or Vice Chair Barry Korengold might consider reading it into the record during Public Comment at the next Board meetings.

Next: My take on TAC.


  1. I would not sum up what I said as "It's good for cabdrivers to follow rules". My main point was that it's a formal, orderly forum where cabdrivers sit at the same table as company owners and managers to discuss issues concerning the industry.

    This tends to benefit drivers more than company management or owners, because they already have the upper hand and a seat at "the table". Thus, you will notice the split in the vote.

    I also said that certain changes needed to be made, such as regular reporting at SFMTA Board Meetings and that companies should not be allowed to charge gates on TAC meeting days to drivers who are council members. This is why at least one driver council member, John Han, wasn't there. Yellow Cab charges him gates even on TAC meeting days. Alternatively, the SFMTA should pay their gates.

    1. Hi Barry,

      Sorry for not giving you more space. I didn't want to write a long article. Thanks for Clarifying this and making your points - which as usual - are excellent.

      I agree that, once Hayashi balanced the board, it was more for the benefit of drivers than companies. Companies always find the back door open.


  2. I don't know how anybody could stand to listen to Tone Lee ramble incoherently for as long as the chair will let him. That alone would make me run out of the room.

    1. That's not a very nice thing to say.

      It is true Tone Lee talks at a length longer than most of us are comfortable with; and he could be accused of rambling but I don't find him "incoherent" at all. I think he's very wise and ultimately is very much on point.

      "When people talk, there is no war" summed up an hour of debate.

  3. I humbly take credit for making the motion. After 35 years of talking cabs to no particular end I've had my fill of it. The TAC might as well have these conversations leaning against a cab. at SFO for all the impact we have.

  4. Since the TAC's recommendations are seldom followed by the MTA it is completely understandable that its members should be bored of the sham.

    The MTA is facilitated in ignoring the TAC by the fact that the Taxi Division is in the third tier down from administrational management. It is possible that the only good the MTA has done is in the interaction with Christiane Hayashi, by mutually informing one another of problems, needs and values.

    The TAC has been the instrument of corrupt MTA policy, in the form of the implementation of of the Medallion Sales Program. No common sense answer has even been given to the simple question, how can a job that will never get someone into the middle class be worth a quarter of a million dollars?

    No one who may disagree with this assessment can reasonably disagree with the USE the MTA makes of the money it gets - the TAC voted unanimously about this. So even if you think medallion sales is great, you don't think the MTA is doing the right thing. Bottom line: MTA corruption, guilty as charged.

    It is clear that the MTA Board wishes to continue its corrupt exploitation of the taxi industry, ignoring the many TAC resolutions to the contrary, but we have all benefited from the TAC's existence.

    The TAC has been a divisive group with a lot of weaknesses but I have attended enough of its meetings to believe that if it has been ineffective it is not because enough of its members did not try to use the opportunity offered by the MTA, however disingenuous we now believe the MTA has obviously been about the whole idea of supposedly being "advised by the industry."

    Through its existence the TCA has proven that the MTA only PRETENDS to democratic process. That, alone, is worth the trouble the members put into it, and I thank them for their effort. It is no small task to prove government to be cynical and predatory! The drivers are worse off than before, and we have a better idea why.

    If the TAC does disband, there will still be a need for some kind of public involvement in the process of deciding what gets done with the Driver's Fund, and other things.

    We need a real voice in democratic process, but since the TAC is not that voice, and we can see clearly that a sham is a sham, it is quite understandable that the members might wish to discontinue the TAC.

    The MTA is going to look even worse. Since we can be sure that the companies will not lose complete contact with the City administration, if the TAC disbands, it will be the little guys, us drivers, who suffer the most. Therefore, I, as a driver of 21 years experience, appeal to the City and the MTA to continue some form of representation for the industry.