Photo shows (from left to right) Taxi Advisory Councilor Dan Hinds, Taxi Services Investigator Mike Harris, Executive Secretary Mau Anu Flieder, TAC Chair Chris Sweis, Councilor John Lazar and Councilor Tim Lapp waiting to see if enough councilors would show up for a quorum. Only Councilor Carl Macmurdo made it before Sweis ended the meeting at 1:15 PM. Councilors Tone Lee and Athan Rebelos came as we were leaving. Eight Councilors are needed for a quorum.
Councilors Ruach Graffis, John Han, Tara Housman, Richard Hybels, David Khan, Barry Korengold and William Mounsey (half of the TAC's 14 members) have resigned or are resigning over the SFMTA's new Medallion Deform Plan.
The Taxi Advisory Council supposedly had been founded as a way for all sides of the taxi industry to come together and make recommendations to the MTA Board about how to replace the Pilot Plan for medallion reform with a permanent plan. The councilors have met every two weeks for two years and have made a couple of dozen proposals to improve various aspects of the business. The Council also created and wrote the Taxi Advisory Council Report that has been ready to read since May.
The SFMTA Board has not so much as looked at any recommendation or proposal that the TAC has made. But, after much ear pulling by Sweis and others, the Board finally agreed to hear the TAC Report on August 21, 2012.
Then, on August 3, 2012, the SFMTA released its own vision for Medallion Reform that will also be vetted and possibly voted on August 21, 2012. Meaning that the TAC report will be heard and most probably ignored before the MTA Board tries to cram its agenda down our throats.
Councilors are angry and insulted at having wasted their time and money for two years only to be stonewalled and ignored. Even the ones who showed up at TAC last Monday disliked the MTA plan. Athan Rebelos may have summed in up for them when he wrote me,
"I want to continue to represent DeSoto Cab and to bring progressive ideas to this industry. If the TAC can be a vehicle for that then I will not resign."
"I the TAC can ..." If the MTA dumps its Plan? Or not? (A career in politics beckons, Athan.)
Councilors Richard Hybels, Barry Korengold and Tar Houseman were more direct.
Richard wrote me:
"This was written in haste and not as good as the 2 others I saw but if you want to print it OK. I wish I'd praised staff among other things."
Mr. Tom Nolan
SFMTA Board of Directors Chairman
1 South Van Ness, Floor 7
San Francisco, CA 94103
Dear Mr. Nolan
I have served on the Taxi Advisory Council for about 18 months. I own and operate Metro Cab by myself with one helper and I am very busy.
If you are not aware, the Pilot Program was created because no one in CCSF wanted to rip medallions out of the hands of the sick and elderly, which was actually mandated by Prop K. The Program has worked rather well and put twenty million dollars into MTA coffers. Almost none of this money will be used for anything Taxi related. Even the work to carry out The Program was paid for by Taxi fees while enforcement of rules against hundreds of illegal transportation providers goes begging.
It has become rather painfully obvious that the TAC is nothing more than window dressing and I am no longer willing to waste precious time attending.
Everyone I know is completely and utterly opposed to the scheme being proposed for your next meeting.
"Justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or a footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and daily realities of people: their ability to make a living, care for their families, achieve their goals."
Director of Transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
1 South Van Ness Ave, 7th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103
Cc: SFMTA Board of Directors, Taxi Services
Dear Mr. Reiskin,
It is with deep regret that I have decided to resign from the Taxi Advisory Council. After reviewing the medallion reform proposal that will go before the SFMTA Board August 21, I realized more than ever before, that all of our efforts at analyzing, monitoring and discussing of the Pilot Program over the past 2 years, have been a great waste of our time and for some of us more than others, money. All of our concerns have been ignored, if even heard.
I for one have attended nearly all of the Taxi Advisory Council meetings, as well as the Town Hall Meetings over the past 3 plus years. Whoever came up with this proposal either has not attended any of these meetings, or is simply disregarding any of our discussions or analysis we’ve done.
This proposal makes clear that the primary concern of the MTA is to extract as much money from the taxi industry as it can get away with. There is no regard for drivers who have invested their lives driving a cab in San Francisco, safely transporting the public and making tourists feel welcome. These drivers also put up with many emotional stresses and dangers, such as being spit on, assaulted, robbed, having to clean up others vomit and being broadsided by drunk drivers.
For the 32 years prior to the SFMTA taking over the taxi industry in San Francisco, longer than most drivers have driven a cab, medallions have been “earned” by waiting one’s turn in line, and driving the required hours or shifts per year. Getting one’s medallion can be compared to attaining tenure, or a management position in other careers. Since “Daly/Ma” went into effect in 2005, the qualifying driving requirement has gotten significantly tougher, making it difficult or impossible for a driver to work fulltime elsewhere and pursue another career while remaining eligible.
As a medallion holder, I believe we need a dignified “exit strategy”, but I also believe drivers who have been following the rules set out by the city years ago, and have structured their lives accordingly, should not be left out to dry.
This plan includes NO medallions going to those who’ve waited years and altered their lives believing they’d eventually “get their medallion”, or gain tenure. Instead, the author of this plan seeks to take that raise and promotion these drivers have worked towards, and give it to the MTA, or sell it to them for $300,000! Keep in mind that most of these drivers at the top of “the list” are getting up there in years and don’t have the time or energy left to pay off this kind of debt or to find a new career.
Is the primary purpose of having the MTA regulate taxis to provide better service to the public and to have better quality cabdrivers, or is it to extract as much money as possible from them? Why isn’t this money used to quell the tsunami of illegal taxis, limos and towncars that are invading the city? How can the MTA even consider selling more medallions before addressing this issue? What will they be worth in a couple years if this isn’t stopped?
Those of us who’ve worked in the industry for years know that when drivers are earning a decent living and have a future to look forward to, they drive better, are calmer, friendlier, and tend to be of a higher quality. This may not be obvious to someone who has merely served on the Taxi Commission for a year or two.
I think a Taxi Advisory Council is a good idea if it reasonably represents the different sides of the industry and its suggestions are considered and taken seriously. However, after reading this proposal, and of its presentation the same day that our recommendations are finally to be considered by the Board, it has become clear to me that the TAC is being used to help the MTA appear as though there’s a legitimate process, when in reality, our concerns are ignored.
I have decided to make better use of my Monday afternoons and the considerable money I spend on parking. I do not wish to continue being part of this facade.
Vice Chair, SFMTA Taxi Advisory Council
President, San Francisco Cab Drivers Association
August 13, 2012
Mr. Tom Nolan
SFMTA Board of Directors Chairman
Dear Mr. Nolan,
It is with great regret and heavy heart that I feel compelled to resign from SFMTA’s Taxi Advisory Council, effective immediately.
My fellow Council members and I have worked hard on the task assigned to us two years ago. We have not only offered many constructive ideas but we have also made tremendous progress in bringing about industry consensus, all geared toward smoothing the implementation of the Taxi Medallion Sales Pilot Program.
We were pushed to finish our report to you many months ago, yet it has languished somewhere in the SFMTA hierarchy since then. We were finally told two months ago that we may present our report at the August 21st Board meeting.
Now it seems that, at that same meeting, you will be asked to pass a cunning, cutthroat, and cold-hearted piece of legislation which totally circumvents not only the efforts we have put forth, but which has, so far, never even been mentioned at a Taxi Advisory Council meeting, much less vetted.
Such an action, with such coldly strategic timing, shows utter contempt for the hard work of the Taxi Advisory Council, and for our industry as a whole.
I, along with the other TAC members, have shouldered the expenses ($20 parking per meeting, for starters), and given our precious time, to help craft a workable medallion system to serve the people of San Francisco. In return, we have been disgracefully and disrespectfully treated.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Taxi Services. Director Hayashi, Jarvis Murray, Michael Harris, and the staff have been a hard-working breath of fresh air in San Francisco’s taxi regulatory realm. In addition, my previous contacts with Muni, during my eight years on the Paratransit Coordinating Council Executive Board, were very rewarding.
I look forward to working with SFMTA again in the future, in an atmosphere of mutual respect.