Friday, May 18, 2012

Commentary On Recent Draft Recommendations For San Francisco Taxi Medallion Reform. By Brad Newsham.

(Brad Newsham is a medallion holder, and has been driving taxi for 27 years.)

WITH the deadline for ballot proposals just four days away, no member of the Board of Supervisors has agreed to sponsor the Stop the MTA Committee’s proposal: 1) Medallions for drivers only; 2) Allrevenue from the cab industry will be reinvested in the cab industry).

Two supervisors have not yet given Final Answers, so the possibility of a late hero emerging still does exist, but even the most optimistic committee member now feels that the ballot option is at best a longshot.

All supervisors have been sympathetic (how can one not sympathize with 5,000 cab drivers being forced to fund paychecks and benefits for 5,000 other MTA workers?) but sympathy does not get us on the ballot.

The supervisor showing perhaps the most engagement on the issue is Scott Wiener, the Board’s leading proponent of improved cab service. 

In the past, every politician who has pushed for service improvements has wound up issuing a flood of new medallions, declaring victory (even though floods of new medallions have never solved the industry’s problems), and then leaving to run for higher office.

Wiener promises that he is not that kind of politician. He says he is committed to seeing world-class cab service in our world-class City (so is the Stop the MTA committee!) and will not rest until he sees it. 
Wiener, the last of the six to be shown the proposal, has not given a final answer. Before he would sponsor any measure, he said he would want language guaranteeing service improvements. Where this would leave things (a flood of taxis?) no one knows.

The other “still-possible” supervisor is Christina Olague, the Board’s newest member (appointed by Mayor Ed Lee to fill the Ross Mirkarimi seat). Meetings were also held with Supervisors David Campos, John Avalos, Eric Mar, and Jane Kim (or their aides), in that order.

​At the May 16 meeting of the Stop the MTA committee, members discussed options for how to proceed – no plan emerged. 

There was unopposed agreement on three points: 1) the committee is solidly behind the two points in our ballot proposal (above); 2) drivers must show up at the Tuesday’s Town Hall meetings (see inside page) and express their opinions, whatever they are; and 3) the 5,000 workers in this vital industry must have a well-funded, professional organization representing them – otherwise the MTA will abuse us forever.

Editor: Brad Newsham – 415-305-8294 –

“Stop the MTA” Friday newsletter, Issue #4, May 18, 2012


TUESDAY will be a high-impact day in the cab industry.

Not only does the deadline for submitting ballot measures pass, but two cab industry town hall meetings will be held that afternoon. (Times and place information below.)

At the meetings, MTA Deputy Director for Taxi Services, Christiane Hayashi, will present a new MTA proposal, which was released last Friday, May 11. This proposal contains significant changes from the MTA’s previous proposal, released February 14, 2012.

Many drivers have expressed the opinion that the new plan contains moves “in the right direction.” 

Many drivers have also expressed the opinion that any agreement or cooperation with the MTA, so long as the MTA’s number one commitment to the cab industry is to take away as much money as possible, will turn out very poorly for the cab industry.

The unanimous sentiment at Wednesday’s Stop the MTA committee meeting was that it isvitally important that all drivers: 1) study the new proposal (it is posted on the cab industry blogs listed below); 2) try to figure out exactly what this will mean for themselves and for the future of the industry, and how they feel about these things; 3) and then COME to the Town Hall Meetings and speak up. 

One driver said, “We all know that these things are desperately important to drivers – but the MTA needs to see that drivers are engaged with these issues.”

Tuesday, May 22, 1 South Van Ness, 2nd Floor 1:30-4:30 pm and 5-8 p.m

NEW MTA PROPOSAL posted at these blogs: by John Han by Ed Healy

EDITOR: Your reaction to the new MTA proposal will probably differ greatly depending on your personal industry position. Gas and gates driver or affiliate leaser? Post-K or pre-K or ramp medallion holder? On the List or Not? Company owner or manager? Dispatcher? Passenger? 

I’m a cab driver, proud of my 27 years; also, a former ramp medallion holder/ driver; holder of medallion #914 for seven-plus years; member of Green Cab for five years. 

But primarily, like you, I’m a human being, and as such I’m deeply embarrassed that we 5,000 workers in this vital San Francisco industry are so unorganized that we would evenconsider a plan under which we are asked to pay for the salaries and benefits of the SFMTA’s other 5,000 workers. 

I am not interested in winning (or even participating in) a fight over permits or money. I am in this for self-respect – for all of us. I am in this so that in future years, a person can enter this industry without being casually disrespected and abused by the people “in charge.” 

Self-respect needs to be demanded, and we need to figure out the best vehicle for demanding it. I appreciate the many of you who have told me you feel the same way, and who’ve had kind words for this little newsletter. 

I, and others, are trying to figure out how to Stop the MTA from abusing us. So far we haven’t quite got the idea just right. What have you got?

How the Natives lost their land:

PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL of settlers, Natives occupied America for millennia. 

But during thousands of “powwows” and some 350 treaties, politicians representing the settlers developed a foolproof strategy:

1) Move onto the most appealing Native lands; 2) When the Natives complain, slaughter as many as possible; 3) When the Natives weary of the fighting, send someone they trust to propose a powwow; 4) “Guarantee” the Natives eternal rights to, say, half of their land in exchange for signing a treaty. 5) Repeat and repeat…

Prior to 2007, the cab industry was plagued by occasional skirmishes and fistfights between tribes (drivers with medallions; drivers without; company owners; Taxi Commission, Taxi Detail, and others), but still, the industry was delivering roughly 20 million rides each year. And medallions were awarded to drivers only.

And then (in 2007) a group of politicians emerged from a back room and (while trying to suppress smirks and guffaws) said, “We propose a…oh, hah-hah-hah-hah… We propose a…hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo...a powwow – to discuss a peace treaty!”

At the powwow, they said, “We will regulate you. Everything will be better. It will be good for you savages.” Before the ink on the treaty dried, the politicians said, “You know – maybe instead we’ll just take all your medallions and sell them to the highest bidder!”

When the Natives declared war, the politicians said, “Don’t be such crybabies – okay? You can keep a whole bunch of medallions – if you pay us millions of dollars every year. But if you go and declare war again, we swear it, we’ll send in our army to kill you!”

The Natives, very tired, said, “Okay. Take some more medallions, and millions every year – probably better than being killed.” In no time, the Natives had been “regulated” out of more than $23 million.

The end? Oh no – not quite. Next, the politicians announced: “We’re putting continuous audio/video cameras in your cabs, advertising terminals in your backseats, and now you have to pay 5% on all credit card charges. Also, we want more of your medallions. Or we’ll kill you. Your choice.”

The Natives voted for war.

The politicians called for a powwow – and a new peace treaty. 


  1. If you take an inch, you gotta give um back a mile.

  2. I wonder how the effect of uber announcing the launch of 1500 tcp Prius's, to compete with the cabs,

    With a 10 dollar step in fee will have any effect on the drivers, companies and SFMTA'S plans to screw

    The drivers?

    Just asking, Johnny Walker

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