Friday, July 27, 2012

The City vs Cab Drivers 3: Newsom & Heinicke

Looking back at my posts, I see that I don't really need to write much that's new to summarize the pre-Pilot Plan era. A few older posts should be enough to give my thoughts on the subject. See:

Millionaire Mayor’s Plan to Bail Out San Francisco by Soaking Its Cab Drivers: Part 1 Millionaire Mayors Plan to Bail Out San Francisco by Soaking Its Cab Drivers: Part II and Mayor Newsom's New Plan to Soak the Taxi Industry.

Please accept my apologies for any repetitions and typos. Back then, I didn't have retired driver Paul Harting (who has graciously volunteered) to do my proof reading for me.

For comic relief you might also check out Gavin - the Sun King? and The SFMTA's Plan to Breed Cab Drivers. These pieces were supposed to be satirical but ... I now wonder if it was merely reality mocking us?

Exaggerations aside, former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and SFMTA Director Malcom Heinicke have come up with a new way of exploiting cab drivers - what really amounts to a new governmental philosophy. Previously governments, local or whatever, have either regulated taxis with minimal interference or, if liberal minded, would make sure that the drivers were treated fairly.

This latter attitude fled San Francisco along with the taxi unions when they were broken over thirty years ago. Since then taxi companies have cheated their "Independent Contractors" out of millions with impunity. Despite being repeatedly told about this, local officials have ignored the issue until recently.

The Newsom/Heinicke insight was to realize that, without unions and the legal protections that come with being an employee, a local government agency could take money away from cab drivers even more easily than the cab companies; and they could do so legally ... or not?

One perhaps can envision an "aha" moment, an Epiphany, when the two, not-quite-so-young legislative Turks looked at each other, whispered "income streams," shouted with glee and high five'd ... or perhaps not?

Not that taking advantage of the powerless of cab drivers is unique. Let's face it. We're second and third class citizens everywhere. We're considered lowlifes worldwide. The effects that government policy might have on cab drivers is not generally considered important.

In most of the world, however, the main abuse of cab drivers has been though one form or another of taxicab deregulation. Depending upon how it's done, this can result in lowering driver income and undermining  the value of taxicab medallions - usually hurting service at the same time. Willie Brown's releasing of 500 medallions as the country was going into a recession in the late 1990's remains a perfect example. It could be argued that driver income is still being undermined by this on slower shifts. (For an excellent study of deregulation see - Taxicab Deregulation: International Comparison.)

Whatever the results, the motivation for putting out more cabs primarily has been to improve taxi service for the public.

 Newsom and Heinicke, on the other hand, have been interested solely in using cabs to pay the City's bills. Whatever the rhetoric they may have engaged in, the idea of improving cab service by siphoning off a huge percentage of the taxi industry's profits was, and is, preposterous.

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