Friday, August 3, 2012

The City vs the Cab Drivers 4: Heinicke's Schemes

Over the years Director Malcolm Heinick has presented us with a few variations on a major theme. The basic plot has always been to take money away from the cab drivers who do the work and give it to the City. This is usually to be accomplished by taking individually held medallions and turning them into special medallions or permits that are to be leased to drivers or companies by the city.

But, since the specifics change, I thought that it might be interesting to see the reception that these designs have been given by the people in the taxicab industry (the experts in the business) before looking at a version of the plan itself.

There was a Charter Amendment group studying taxis in 2007. I didn't attend but everyone I've talked to about it tells the same story.

Numerous industry people (drivers, medallion holders, managers) gave their ideas about how the taxi business should be reformed. Heinicke was then either assigned the task of writing up their ideas into a report or took it upon himself to do so. His report, however, included no thoughts or plans of anyone else - only his own. The other members of the group all repudiated the report.

It should be pointed out that in 2007 the economy was booming and San Francisco was flush. The city didn't need the money that Heinicke proposed to take away from the cab industry. Thus, for Heinicke, politics appears to precede economics. The principle of separating cab drivers from their coin - of turning the industry into an "income stream" for the SFMTA - appears primary for the Director even if there is no pressing reason for it.

Director Heinicke's ploy popped up again in 2009.

After Christiane Hayashi was demoted to Deputy Director, she was instructed to present this plan to the drivers by the MTA Board. We were told that we could "tweak" or "make "improvements" to the gambit but it was to be the future of the cab industry.

The new Deputy Director then proceeded to present Heinicke's stratagem at a couple of Town Hall meetings. She asked drivers, medallion holders, company owners and managers what they thought of the plan. Then she copied down the comments and brought them back to the Board to read.

The people at the Town Hall meetings universally expressed loathing for Heinicke's disregard of people working in the taxi industry.. Jane Bolig, who then was president of the board at Desoto Cab, quipped that, if the plan was implemented, the taxi industry would "look like Berlin after Wold War II."

Medallion holder Mike Spain thought that the plan looked like it was "drawn up by a grad student." Those were two of the nicer comments. 

The MTA Board finally "got it" and set up a new series of Town Hall meetings that culminated in the Pilot Plan - still the fairest and best conception of how to improve both the taxi business and taxi service that anyone has come up with - probably because people from all aspects of the cab industy helped create it.

I hate to have to spell out the moral of this story but some taxi people tend to be a tad slow on the uptake.

In 2009, it took all the people in the taxi industry acting together to stop Heinicke's nefarious ruse to turn the cab business into a feeder stream for the SFMTA.

1 comment:

  1. The drivers REALLY need to create One Entity, and have a spokesperson, and first, meet in private and see how much you all can agree on....
    You should get a brand name "labor economist" to do a brief analaysis of their "Opening gambit"...

    Get some folks from Cal, or Stanford, to do this as a "graduate student project", to keep costs down..


    But, cheer up. They are firing this salvo, knowing the figure will be cut in half by that great humanitarian Mayor, and you all will only have to kick back 25%---35%....

    This is Nego.101.