Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Malcolm Heinicke's Confirmation Hearing Scheduled Thursday, April 19, 2012. By John Han.

For those who haven't heard yet, Malcolm Heinicke is being re-appointed to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors.

The appointment is made by Mayor Ed Lee, but the Board of Supervisors must confirm his re-appointment.  His confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 19, 2012, at the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, 1:30pm, Room 263.   

The committee members are Supervisors Jane Kim, Mark Farrell, and David Campos.

It is Item #4 on the Regular Calendar. 

CLICK HERE for more information. 

Whether Heinicke's re-appointment is a good or bad thing, I care not to say, as it's not the point of this essay.  I'd rather just try to quickly highlight some of Heinicke's more notable influences on the taxi industry, starting with when the SFMTA took over regulations of taxis in 2009.  

As many already know, Heinicke was appointed by former mayor Gavin Newsom to the SFMTA Board in 2008, and previously held a seat on the now defunct Taxi Commission.  

Here's a description from the SFMTA's website

"As a Taxicab Commissioner, Mr. Heinicke focused on neighborhood and peak time service issues, and he is focusing on these same issues as a member of the SFMTA Board."

But despite Heinicke's commitment to those noteworthy causes, he grew to near infamy amongst many people in San Francisco's taxi industry for something else.

After the SFMTA gained regulatory control over the taxi industry in 2009,  Heinicke proposed to turn the City's taxi medallions into what was, and still is called a "cash cow" for the City, but not very cash cow for the taxi industry, or its workers.

The idea originally was to recover the City's 1500 taxi medallions, largely from working, older taxi drivers, and then re-auction them back to the highest bidding drivers for as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars each.  That was intended to raise as much as $20 million in City revenue, and help ameliorate the City's woeful budget deficits at the time.  

The plan was legally plausible because medallions are a City government property... a government asset that wasn't making much government money back then (except for some medallions, that have since then been sold to drivers under the Medallion Sales Pilot Program).  

However, that early version of the proposal for medallion sales died because of virtually unified opposition from the taxi industry. 

Demonstration and press conference, April 21, 2009. Cabs circling S.F. City Hall. Don't fix a city budget shortfall with $20 million on the backs of taxi workers.

(CLICK HERE to read the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of the 2009 early version of the proposal.)  

But back to the present.

Today, the fingers are pointing at Heinicke again as the originator of yet another controversial MTA plan - to recover one-third of the City's medallions, (including issuing new ones), and converting them into "direct lease medallions".  

This means the MTA would take back holder-ship of one-third of the City's medallions, lease them directly to cab companies the same way a driver would, and then collect the revenue from the medallions.  (This would be instead of re-issuing the medallions to drivers at the top of the waiting list so drivers could collect extra income from the medallions, or selling them to drivers so that drivers could own the medallions.)  

It's simple math.  If the MTA leased roughly 500 medallions directly to cab companies, at say, $2000 per medallion per month, that's about $12 million in continuous, annual revenue, and so on, and so on.  

It's appealing to an agency that's currently looking at more than $53 million in budget deficits over the next two years, and needs to find ways to fix it -  $19.6 million for 2013 fiscal year budget, and $33.6 million for the 2014 budget.   

It's also appealing to a City that's looking at an overall budget deficit of approximately $170 million right now, according to the Huffington Post

Budget deficits are important.  And fixing them is even more important.  

But trying to do it is coming with a price.  And this price would be falling on the necks of low-income, working taxi drivers.  It would take one-third of the medallions out of circulation that would otherwise go to taxi drivers. 

Director Malcolm Heinicke listening to public
comment at a 2011 MTA Board meeting.  File photo
by John Han.  
I'd like to re-iterate that this essay is not to try to convince drivers to advocate for or against Heinicke's confirmation by the Supervisors.  I'll even go out on a limb for Heinicke this once, and say that he helped to hasten a meter increase last year after demands made by some cab drivers protesting other issues.

More so, the point of this essay is to say, that whether Heinicke gets confirmed or not, and it's a guess is that he probably will be, the MTA must nevertheless re-evaluate how it allocates taxi revenue.

Currently, only 5% of the City's taxi medallion sales revenue is going into a "Drivers' Fund".

Who knows where goes the rest. 

CLICK HERE to read the Huffington Post's article titled, "Top City Officials Get Raises Despite City's Massive Budget Hole".  

CLICK HERE to read Brad Newsham's account of how Prop K was repealed, and the City government's profit from the taxi industry. 

CLICK HERE to read Brad Newsham's personal view on the one-third direct lease medallion proposal. 

And, according to an SFGate blog published over a week ago, it is unclear whether Mayor Lee wants to re-appoint Director Bruce Oka.  


  1. Even so, do you know the most best anti aging products graded and opulent
    manufacturers for that pores and skin, is affordable. [url=http://vevofootball.com/groups/rx-youthful-series/]wrinkle cream[/url] One more function called 'Dermabrasion' has been utilized for a long http://cyberpaketes.
    and acid hyaluronic as elements are worthless in removing the creases
    in your skin.

    my homepage; anti wrinkle cream

  2. This has been an informative site. I really enjoy the way you publish.
    Minneapolis limo, Limo Minneapolis


To report abusive comments, send email to this address: 1johnhan@earthlink.net.