Tuesday, August 14, 2012

SFMTA Plan Creates Lack of Quorum at TAC

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."

President Obama


Richard Hybels

Barry Wrote:

Ed Reiskin
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.


Barry Korengold
Vice Chair, SFMTA Taxi Advisory Council
President, San Francisco Cab Drivers Association

Tara Wrote:

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.
 Tara Housman


  1. No surprise Lazar, Rebelos and Hinds did not resign. They give a damn about anything but the people that butter their bread.
    "if the TAC can be a vehicle for that". I wonder how many more years of meetings it will take before he figures out he is wasting his breath.
    A progressive idea would be to stop squeezing money from drivers at Desoto and end these bullshit shifts that start in the middle of the night.

    1. Sounds like a split between Gates and Gas drivers and Medallion owners! Hmmmm imagine that!

  2. Dear anonymous,

    You should read the TAC minutes from the past two years. You should read previous blog postings from Ed. I believe that I was one of the most vocal critics of the SFMTA board for ignoring the TAC. I believe that I was the first to motion that we disband the TAC. Let's talk about who butters my bread. As GM at DeSoto Cab the over 550 drivers butter my bread by paying gate fees and lease fees. Affiliate medallion owners pay monthly color lease/radio fees. These men and women are my customers. I spend every minute of every day working to build a culture that supports working drivers and have implemented system after system to be sure that dispatch orders and vehicles are assigned in a fair way. Our dispatchers and cashiers are trained to treat everyone equally and with respect. My team of managers works tirelessly to support our drivers on the street. We provide transparency and we are driven by solutions. We have literally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the work environment (including vehicles and GPS dispatch) and on marketing, so that there are plenty of jobs available for our drivers. You anonymous from your hiding place are a liar and a fool. We run a 24 hour a day service to the public. That by definition means that shifts will start and end throughout the day. You remind me of one of my favorite quotes, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do" -Dale Carnegie.

    1. Cab drivers tip because it is implicit that if they don't it won't go well for them. Your verbose comments fail to address the tipping and shifts that start in the middle of the night. Of course cabs run 24 hours but I can't remember any co. having shifts that start at 2 am. Nor do you address why you don't resign with the others in protest of the MTA's cuthroat plan.

    2. Actually I explained it just fine. We run cabs 24/7 and shifts start and end throughout the day. It's as simple as that. DeSoto drivers are treated with dignity and respect and if any driver feels that our employees are treating them unfairly they should discuss that with me. I have an open door policy and I fully investigate any complaint by a driver and I share the results of the investigation with the driver. Our technology affords me 100% transparency with every order, every shift assignment and every transaction.

      Resign from what? From representation? Read the TAC minutes from the past eight meetings where I not only called for an end to the TAC but stated my dissatisfaction. I said that I thought the town hall meetings would be a more productive alternative. I'm not going to knee jerk react by resigning without first having a full understanding of what the options are. If the MTA board was not listening to the TAC before then what makes you think it will listen if I resign? My goal is not for me to make a lot of noise and to kick and scream, it's to promote a fair deal for cab drivers, medallion holders, ridership and cab companies. I can't do that if I'm locked out of the room. If the TAC truly becomes what it's name implies then I most certainly want to be a part of it. I can always resign, I can't always rejoin.

    3. You keep talking about transparency but you keep avoiding the "tipping" question. Do drivers tip out of the kindness of their heart? No they do it because they are afraid ultimatly. The message is very subtle. You have been a cab driver. Did you tip because you wanted to?

    4. You're speaking about yourself. Obviously my experience is different and as I've already replied and you have acknowledged, I keep talking about transparency. That is the answer.

    5. You are transparent alright. Squeezing money from drivers is OK by you. That much is very transparent.

    6. Nice grandstanding anonymous. If what you say is true then why have why reinvested virtually everything back into the company. We've upgraded to gps dispatch, put in a new phone system, upgraded the parking facility (including free driver parking (space is limited, it's first come first serve), remodeled the driver lounge (including carpeting and satellite tv), replaced most of the vehicles, keep the gas prices competitive, aded more lifts in the garage, and deployed an online marketing campaign? We do quarterly reviews of all of our employees, we promote the gas and gate system and have added over 12 gas and gate cabs in as many months. I'm not and DeSoto Cab are not what you claim, it's as simple as that and I will not let you're agenda represent DeSoto Cab.

    7. Maybe I missed something. Anonymous said you transparently don't want address tipping and you say: "Nice grandstanding anonymous. If what you say is true then why have why reinvested virtually everything back into the company."
      What has putting all the money back into the company got to do with tipping? Surely you are not suggesting you are putting the tips back into the co. and not into the pockets of managers and dispatch?
      Seems to me and I imagine anybody reading this that you are congratulating yourself (AKA grandstanding)in the guise of answering a question that nobody asked. Next you be telling how you gave blood I guess.

  3. Athan, though you may not agree with whoever that is that decided to remain anonymous it concerns me that you would call the person a fool! what if in fact this was a Desoto Cab driver speaking out and afraid to place their name because of retaliation. I quote you! "My team of managers works tirelessly to support our drivers on the street. We provide transparency and we are driven by solutions."

    If in fact it is a Desoto cab driver than you are the liar and fool!

    Athan I have been following your comments on other blogs, Your comments are sometimes disturbing. Face it dude you do not care about the public and their transportation needs so how can anyone expect that you really care about cab drivers at Desoto!.

    1. You're entitled to your opinion Dean, regardless of how inaccurate it may be. My track history proves otherwise and I'm confident in that. I've never retaliated against a driver and I never will. No one has any reason to fear me and dissent and civil debate are a regular part of my day. In fact, debate and dissent are a healthy exercise which I encourage. However slander, baiting and mud slinging accusations are nothing less than a distraction from truth. You clearly do not know me and are not familiar with my work to serve the community or to engage my drivers. That's ok because the truth exists regardless of how you perceive it.

    2. Your perception is acquired by your statements you make on blog posts. One would think you may act more responsibly when leaving comments on random blogs. Athan correct I do not know you, as you do not know me. I will let you know a few drivers have come to me from Desoto asking for help on unfair business practices regarding deposits which I referred them over to the State of California. I have no problem with Desoto cab company and think that you guys there are striving to be a good node in the industry and applaud you for that, however the point I was making is that the person you called a fool could be a Desoto cab driver and if in fact you work to help your drivers. Why would you call this person a fool? The taxi industry is facing some difficult issues right now and should not be fighting against one another. One last thing truth is a perception of the beholder and I am just letting you know what I have read from comments of yours it raises a concern that you may not be what you say you are! Just Saying ;)

  4. Minutes June 11, 2012
    Mr. Hybels made a motion to disband TAC after this meeting.

    Unknown second the motion.

    Future of the TAC: Disband the TAC. No means you want to continue in another form; yes is to disband it.

    5 in Favor 4 opposed

  5. It was an inappropriate vote. The TAC voted earlier to continue.


    1. It was on the agenda as an action item. That seems to imply that another vote contradicting this first vote is not inappropriate.
      A body is not allowed to re-vote and change it's mind?

    2. I think the point was Athan said he made the motion to disband which is apparently inaccurate.
      Odd he thought to vote for disbanding in June now it does not seem to be such a good idea. He says "if they did not listen before will they listen if I resign?"
      Well obviously not but I guess he enjoys meeting for no purpose. If MTA is never going to listen which seems obvious, then what is the point of going on?
      Looking at the picture one wonders if these company big shots agreed to let the fools resign then we can pack the TAC with like minded big shots. The they can make and pass all the motions they like but so what?

    3. I think anon was trying to point out that Rebelos said he made the motion which does not seem to be the case.
      Interesting that he voted to disband for obvious reasons but won't resign for less obvious reasons. Looking at the picture it looks like all the real brains in the industry showed up and won't resign. Maybe they figure that now that the others have resigned they can make and pass all they resolutions they like. But so what? Nothing ever passed in 2 years has ever had any impact on anything at all.

  6. The ones who resigned are all the "good guys." As Chairman, perhaps Chris Sweis may be exempted from the observation that the ones who showed up are all the "bad guys;" if there is any chance the resignations will have an effect, maybe it would not do to allow one of the others to be Chairman. That's the best I can say for any TAC member who showed up.

    Dan Hinds and Carl Macmurdo in particular have been in a very bad odor ever since the TAC was cited by the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force. They were the ones who forced the violations over both the Chair and the Vice Chair (this is not to say that collectively the TAC was not in the wrong). Now all that remains of the TAC is the core that caused or supported the violation, which was all about pushing Medallion Sales. Since pushing Medallion Sales - and trying to achieve a 50% profit rate where the nearest in any other city in the nation is 5% - is the object of the MTA "reforms," it may safely be said that the MTA is trying to continue the same effort that the TAC illegally pushed forward before.

    Of course, the MTA is being more judicious about actual Sunshine violations, but they are certainly overstepping their mandate. Who will stop them? Federal graft-busters? Who enforces the correct interpretation of the law, in a land where nothing is enforced without a lawsuit? Up to now, Since Proposition A, City government has behaved in a breathtakingly callous, selfish way. The rank and file workers are helpless, confused, and, in the taxi industry, very often clueless.

    Structurally, though there are no doubt many nuances of meaning for each resignation, the collective message of the resigners' action is: medallion sales is wrong. There are those (bad guys) who will say I am interpreting things according to my own preferences, but it remains true that, at the very least, the resigners' message is, if medallion sales is right, it is not being done ethically. An idea that was sold to us as an "exit plan" is about as moral or effective as other "exit plans" in history.

    I for one applaud the resigners' action. It is now abundantly clear that the TAC has never been intended as a real "advisor" on industry matters to the SFMTA. The TAC is now proved to have been a sham.

    The first level of government hypocrisy is exposed: there was no City commitment to representation of the people they are regulating. The SFMTA is only pretending to be the law. The resigners won't go along with that. Good for them.