Saturday, August 25, 2012

What is the SFMTA Board Going to do With the List?

A few Board meetings ago Vice Chairman Cheyrl Brinkman (photo) gave a short speech saying that she really cared about doing right by cab drivers. If true, this is an indication that she and other members of the Board didn't fully understand the consequences of the vote they took on Tuesday August 21st to allow Pre-k's to sell (er, surrender) their medallions.

This became evident when the subject of continuing the List came up - after the vote.

Chairman Tom Nolan said that the Board should decide what to do with the Waiting List soon. Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin wanted to clarify the situation so that drivers should know whether or not they should wait to earn a medallion. Director Malcolm Heinicke was quoted in a paper as saying that the List was "the elephant in the room."

If so, Heinicke's been trying to shoot it down for five years. With Tuesday's vote, he succeeded. The pachyderm is laying on it's side gasping for breath. The MTA Board has already decided that few drivers will get their "earned" medallions.

Why? To understand let's look at Director of Taxi Services Chris Hayashi's proposal of May 2012.

Hayashi's Plan ....

called for the 350 Pre-K medallions to go to the Waiting List after the holders either returned them or passed on. It was based on her three year study of the cab industry and several assumptions that came from the knowledge she thereby gained:
  1. Few cabs would go to the List once medallions started to be sold. Revocations would be about the only source ... 
  2. ... except new issues. Hayashi proposed that 50% of them should go to the List. But, she's also a realist  and knew ...
  3. ... that Heinicke wanted to Bogart the medallions.
  4. Thus, the 350 Pre-K's would be the only major supplier to the List.
Another set of calculations and assumptions also came into play.
  1. At a certain point it would be just as advantageous to buy a medallion as it would to wait.
  2. Exactly when - would depend upon the age of the drivers and the length of time that they had been on the List.
  3. For instance, I put myself on the list at 48 and got my medallion at 62.
    1. If I had bought a medallion at 48, I figure that I would have been just as well off as I was from "earning" it 14 years later.
      1. This is calculated for $250,000 and buying the medallion.
      2. Paying for a "transfer" at $300,000 might be a whole different kettle of fish. I'd need some legal guarantees that I wouldn't be shafted before I'd sign up for this.
  4. There are huge advantages to holding a medallion.
    1. It's worth $10,000 to $20,000 a year in better shifts which helps balance out the loan payments.
    2. You have job security.
      1. Before I had my medallion John Lazar fired me for saying something he didn't like.
      2. After I earned my medallion I said something that Lazar didn't like then fired him.
    3. You can actually afford medical insurance.
Drivers in their 50's, 60's and 70's would be severally penalized if forced to purchase the medallions - especially after already waiting for 15 or 20 years. In most cases it would make no sense at all.

This would leave these people would have no "exit strategy" and cause them to keep driving until they dropped. Few would have been able to save any money on a $25,000 a year job. Many would die (No exaggeration or rhetorical flourish intended - just a fact.) in poverty.

Hayashi counted the number of such people at somewhere between 300 and 500 Drivers.

The Pre-K's, on the other hand, have already made around a million off of each medallion and don't have a driving requirement. Each medallion gives them from $3,000 to $4,000 per month for the rest of their lives to retire on.

Therefore, it seemed humane, rational and just to give the Pre-K medallions to the List.

But, it wasn't only a question of humanity that motivated Hayashi's plan. She has an understanding of people that seems to be totally lacking in the rest of the SFMTA. Her ultimate principle has been to serve the cab riding public.

"Happy cab drivers make happy customers," she once told me. "Bitter drivers sends Germans back to Munich telling their friends not to visit."

The only way to get more medallions to the Waiting List would be to convince the SFMTA Board that Hayashi is right.

San Francisco has the best and most knowledgeable cab drivers in the country. People from all over the world know this. It's only the locals who don't. People from all over the world tell me what a pleasure it is to take a cab in San Francisco. The reason that we are so good is that so many of us stuck around to earn the medallions. The drivers on the List helped make this city a prime tourist destination. They deserve to have the promises that were made to them kept.

Of course, the Waiting List is finished one way or other. If the SFMTA wants to attract quality drivers in the future, they will need to end the List with a legacy of justice and fair play.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Living the Farce 1

There is good news. The SFMTA Board changed the percentage for a transfer of a medallion (they are no longer to be sold) from 30% to 20% of $300,000 and raised the cut for a "surrender" of a medallion by both Pre-K and Post-K holders to $200,000 instead of $150,000.


video

Director Malcolm Heinicke came up to me before the meeting, told me that he read my blog and said that he had no hard feeling over what I'd written about him. We shook hands like pals in a debating society. He added that he did pay attention to my ideas.

I imagine that this was his way of telling me that my writing had influenced the changes that he'd made in the above figures. Flattering - but I doubt that I really had much to do with it.

I think it was more like the old scare-the-be-Jesus-out-of-them-and-they'll-be-happy-with-what-we-give-them gambit. There are a few reasons for my thoughts:
  1. Contrary to Heinicke, the financiers clearly did not "bless" the 30% loan. Rebecca Lytle of the San Francisco Federal Credit Union, who loves her work and has enthusiastically answered every question I've asked her in the past, politely declined to comment on the 30% figure; and her boss Stephen Ho spoke with relief about the drop to 20%.
  2. Nobody else on the SFMTA Board discussed, debated or questioned the amendments that Heinicke introduced, giving the impression that the subject had been vetted and agreed upon behind closed doors.
  3. Driver Tariq Mehmood claimed during public comment that he knew about the changes the Saturday before the meeting.
  4. If true, this would be a clear violation of the Sunshine Ordinance. But, the existence of a rule has rarely stopped people in power from abusing it.
  5. In any case, it shows that something other than the force of my prose motivated the amendments.
There was another theory going down on "The Street." Depending upon who you talked to, either John Lazar of Luxor and Jim Gillespie of Yellow or Lazar, Gillespie, Chris Sweis of Royal and Dan Hinds of National had either threatened to sue the MTA or had worked out a back door deal with them.

I asked Jim Gillespie about the rumors. He told me that he was "a Christian" and "wouldn't lie" to me. He assured me that no such events had taken place.

Gillespie reminds me of Ronald Reagan. He has the same ability to believe everything he says while he's saying it. I always believe him when I'm listening to him. Later in the meeting, Gillespie told God and the MTA Board that there was no enforced tipping at Yellow Cab. I'll leave it to the drivers at Jim's company to judge the relationship between his religious beliefs and his conception of truth.

But, do the amendments make the Heinicke plan a good deal?

My mother might have said that the changes were better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. $50,000 is $50,000 and 10% is 10%.

But, Heinicke is once again being misleading when he says that his amendments are "in line" with the Pilot Plan:
  1. In the Pilot Plan - there were no separate categories of medallions. Whether Pre-K, Post-K or re-sold, they all gave the same 15% to the MTA and 5% to the Drivers Fund.
  2. Under the Pilot Plan - any increase would apply to all medallions being sold. Therefore, capping the profit at $200,000 for a "surrender" has nothing to do with the plan that was worked out with the consensus of most people in the industry in 2010. If the price went up to $300,000 under the Pilot Plan, the medallion holder would get $240,000; at $400,00 the holder would get $320,000.
  3. This makes the cut to the MTA either 33% or 50% for a transfer. The national average is 5%.
  4. Under the Pilot Plan - an increase in sale price was to be based the Consumer Price Index (CPI), not Director Heinicke's thoughts.
  5. The CPI that I just ran calculates that $250,000 in 2010 is worth $262,666.47 today.
  6. As driver Tariq Mehmood and others pointed out at the board meeting, the combination of a slack tourist season and run-a-muck competition from illegal taxis and limos has greatly reduced the money coming into the taxi industry. 
  7. This challenges the very idea of raising the price of the medallions.
In addition, "surrendering" the medallions instead of selling them would also apparently take the 5% away from the Driver's Fund.

There is neither a policy reason for the increase in the sale price nor for the creation of "surrendered" medallions except to give the SFMTA more money from the labor of the drivers who have worked to earn it. The MTA would gain $18 million over time from the Driver's Fund and $72 million from $300,000 sales.

Is it worthwhile to get a medallion "transferred" to you for $300,000 with 20% to the MTA?

Depends.

The $250,000 figure was chosen because it was doable without too much pressure on the new medallion holder. The down payment on $300,000 would be $10,000 more or $60,000 and payments would increase about $400 per month. Balance that against making an additional $40,000.

More important might be the difference between a "sale" and a "transfer." The 300 or so drivers who bought medallions under the Pilot Plan actually own or owned them. In a transfer, the city owns the medallions as an "asset." And, as we've repeatedly been told, the city can do anything it wants with one of its assets ... for the public good as is, of course, understood.

Another way to put the question might be to ask, "Would you buy a used car from Director Heinicke?"

More tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

SFMTA Board Meeting on Tuesday August 21, 2012

 Come One! Come all! See the SFMTA Plan to sell us out!

The drivers on the Waiting List should go because the SFMTA intends to stop giving you medallions worth $30,000 a year in revenue or $250,000 in a sale and take the profits for themselves.

The 300 Pre-K's and 900 Post-K's should go because the SFMTA plans to take $50,000 away from the sale of your medallions to give themselves a nifty $60,000,000.

But, wait! The SFMTA has something for everybody!

To read more click "Read more" below.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Reward for Playing by the Rules?

Brian Rosen is fifty-two and has followed all the rules. He's done everything that he was supposed to do to "earn" a taxi medallion.

Rosen's been driving cab five shifts a week (2,000 to 2,500 hours a year) for almost twenty years. He takes a lot of dispatched calls, knows the city, rides for orders in the neighborhoods, has a good driving record, accepts credit cards and treats his customers well.

He's also one of the few cab drivers who has health insurance. He pays $854 per month for a policy with a $2,950 deductible.

 Brian put his name on the Waiting List in 1993 and he's currently number 38.

If the SFMTA Board had not replaced K with the Pilot Plan two years ago, he would almost certainly hold a medallion by now.

If the rules of the Pilot Plan had stayed in effect, he would almost certainly be a medallion holder soon. The Plan called for one newly issued or re-issued medallion to be given to the List for every medallion put up for sale. Whenever the city put more cabs on the street, he would have received a medallion.

If the Taxi Services Staff Recommendations worked out by Director Christiane Hayashi in May 2012 (calling for one medallion issued to the List for every permit issued or medallion sold by the MTA) were to take effect, he would certainly get a medallion soon.

But, if the SFMTA's current proposal (based on a plan of MTA Board Director Malcom Heinicke that was rejected by a Charter Amendment reform group in 2007) is passed by the MTA Board, there is no mention of the commitment previously made by the city under every other plan to reward drivers like Brian for playing by the rules.

"I'm very concerned," Mr. Rosen told me stoically. "The anxiety I feel is very frustrating."

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


Sincerely

Richard Hybels
Proprietor


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.

Sincerely,

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Arithmetic of Greed 2: Killing the Future

Perhaps the thing that riles me the most about the SFMTA's new Medallion Deform Plan is their cowardly and dishonest refusal to admit that they intend to KILL the WAITING LIST. 

I mean, as if these guys would shakedown everyone else in the business and let drivers earn medallions without paying for them.  As if the the MTA would reward cab drivers merely for the decades of service that they've given the public. As if the MTA would keep the City's commitment to these drivers. As if the MTA would consider fairness and compassion more import than a quick buck.

Actually, the MTA would make money even if they did give the medallions away for "free." It would just take a little time - but not too much. Most of the people on the top of the list are in their 60's or 70's. Their medallions would probably be turned around and transferred fairly quickly.

Let's do the Math (click "Read more" below):

Friday, August 10, 2012

The MTA's Plan to Rip Off Cab Drivers: The Arithmetic of Greed 1.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin - photo) has a new plan that is designed to transfer over $200,000,000 from taxi drivers to the MTA. Going from fairly innocuous to callous they want to:

1. Transfer (the MTA no longer uses the word "sell") medallions at a price of $300,000 with the MTA getting 30% instead 15% of the $250,000 under the current Pilot Plan.

2. Charge both Pre-k and Post-k medallion holders (who earned instead of bought their medallions) 50% to transfer their medallions for $300,000.

You heard that right. 50% - Five Zero - FIFTY PERCENT.

Did I say greed? The industry average for the sale of a taxi medallion (in New York, Boston, Chicago et al) is 5%.

While the MTA would take $150,000 from a $300,000 medallion, in Boston they would get $15,000 from the same medallion.

Conversely, a Boston medallion holder would keep $285,000 from the transfer or $135,000 more than a San Francisco driver.

Even the famous $1,000,000 medallion sale in New York only brought that city $50,000 leaving $950,000 for the medallion buyer and his or her banker.

The MTA justifies itself by claiming that San Francisco needs money. All the rest of these towns don't?

Greed, in context, seems an inadequate word. How about avarice, cupidity, rapacity, craving, lusting or money-grubbing?

Tomorrow: The Arithmetic of Greed 2 or Killing the Future.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The City vs the Cab Drivers: Now!

How rapidly the past becomes the future. Yesterday morning I wrote a post about a bleak moment in our recent past and today I find that it could become tomorrow's reality. The SFMTA has a new proposal.

It appears that Director Malcom Heinicke has convinced his colleagues that he is an expert on the taxicab business and they have taken in his gab hook, line and sinker.

Certainly, I doubt that anyone else on the MTA Board is cold enough to come up with a scheme like this.

Philosophically, the plan holds that public needs are more important those of any individual - especially if said individual drives a taxi. ("The city needs money, driver, and we volunteer YOU to foot the bill.") If enacted, the proposed legislation (on rough calculation) would result in the transfer of $100 million to $200 million from taxicab drivers to the SFMTA over a period of time - maybe more ... probably more.

I haven't gone through the specifics yet but in general the Medallion Reform Proposal would:

  • Increase the transfer fee to the MTA from the sale of a taxi from 15% to 30% while increasing the price to $300,000.
  • Allow Pre-K medallion holders to sell ... er ... I guess the world is "surrender" (as if the drivers had stolen the medallions when, of course, it's the MTA that wants something for nothing). Anyway, the "holders" can "surrender" their medallions to the MTA for $150,000 as opposed to selling them for $200,000 as they could have under the Pilot Plan.
  • Force Post-K medallion holders to "surrender" their medallions to MTA for $150,000 instead of selling them for $200,000 as they could have under the Pilot Plan.
  • Allow the MTA to turn around and sell the same medallions for which they had just paid $150,000 - for $300,000.
  • Leave the drivers on the Waiting List who have worked the job hard and served the public well for fifteen or twenty years, who have followed all the rules and were promised a medallion if they did so, who have chosen to drive cabs instead of doing other jobs or following other careers,  hundreds of whom are over sixty waiting for - NOTHING.
Maybe this should be re-named Medallion Deform.

There will be two Town Hall Meeting to discuss the particulars of this moral and political abortion on: 

Tuesday, August 7 at #1 South Van Ness, 2nd floor Atrium from 1:30pm - 4:30pm  & 5 pm - 8pm.

The following items will be on the agenda for the August 21, 2012 SFMTA Board Meeting, meaning that nothing we say at the Town Hall meeting is expected to have any effect. Talk about transparency, huh!

MedallionReformCalendarItemfor08212012_000(1).pdfMedallionReformCalendarItemfor08212012_000(1).pdf
24K   View   Download  
MedallionReformLegislationfor08212012.pdfMedallionReformLegislationfor08212012.pdf
72K   View   Download 

To Brad Newsham,

Sorry, Brad, if I said anything unkind. 


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.