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Charter Reform Working Group


January 29, 2009 at 10:30 a.m.

City Hall,1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place

Room 305


Present:  Director Thigpen, Laurie Graham, Rich Hybels, Rich Schlackman, Charles Rathbone, Malcolm Heinicke, John Lazar, Tone Lee, Autumn O’Keefe, Thomas George Williams, Bruce Oka, Paul Gillespie, Rick Wilson, Tom Owen

Absent:    Adam Millard-Ball, Hansu Kim

1.       Call to Order/Roll Call-quorum

2.       Adoption of Minutes from the August 19, 2008 Meeting: Adopted without objection.

3.      Public Comment (Please limit public comment to items NOT on the agenda).

  • Heinicke:  (Provided an overview of a proposal).
  • Bruce Oka: Many proposals are still coming and we will consider all of them, nothing will be implemented for approximately 18 months.

·         Jane Bolig:  One concern is entering a phase where decisions are made and plans are drawn up and we are notified after the fact.  The Taxi Commission put this group together to make recommendations.  I’m not happy with the way things are proceeding, this is a reverse bailout.

·         Tariq Mehmood: The proposal presented by Heinicke is trouble, it will not succeed.  I distributed my proposal, listen to me.

·         Carl Macmurdo:  Matt Gonzalez came up with a proposal four years ago in case medallions are sold.  The problem with the system was the down payment. If the city goes in this direction they should provide down payment assistance.

·         Keith Raskin: This is the first chance I’ve gotten to look at this, after the first paragraph I would throw this out.  This is a slap in the face; this city hasn’t done anything for cab drivers.  Now the city wants to take my medallion and say here’s the opportunity to take away my job.  Ten years from now we will be here, this is personal. 

·         Robert Victor: I understand that this proposal was started in New York.  What is being proposed would really affect the lives of a lot of people.  Auction off those pre-k medallions when they die.  I would urge you to take your time.  Beyond that I would like the profits to go back into the industry.

·         Joel Anderson (Public Citizen): I represent 400 people, St. Orthodox Church.  The system that the mayor has in place is the best system for the taxicab drivers, I’ve studied this situation.  These men don’t have any benefits, leave them alone. 

·         Mark Gruberg: Any kind of an auction system is fatal.  Drivers will over bid on these medallions because there is a need and desperation for these medallions.  People are paying $4,000 a month on a long term lease.  This idea ignores people on the list.  If revenues are needed, put a rental fee on the existing medallions and use the money for industry purposes. 

·         Dominic Rodrick:  There should be a minority representing drivers.  How much can you work, everyone gets old.  I think this whole thing started because the city needs the revenue.  At the present time its $4500 a month to lease a cab from a company. 

·         Firouz Mahdavi:  I read the proposal and it’s so vague, you cannot understand what’s going to happen with your life. I have been driving for 30 years.  We have kids, mortgages and families.  We don’t even know what’s being proposed.

·         Joe Morabale: I’m with Green cab. I’m very concerned that a situation like this would enable these permits to gravitate to the big companies. It’s a big threat to smaller companies.  The city should help with a down payment.  This is a terrible idea. 

·         Barry Korengold:  I am totally against the idea. I think it’s wrong, medallion holders are not really high paid.  This would affect them also. Cab drivers don’t get benefits.  Don’t look to us to fix the city budget problem.   

·         Kamil: You didn’t come up with anything positive.  I would like to be paid like Muni with benefits.  As for the commission, I don’t see your purpose. 

·         Richard Templeton:  I was slow on putting my name on the list.  With a medallion, I make half of what a Muni driver makes.  We medallion holders have to put in 25-30 years of service to make 35-40k a year.  And you want me to buy it again?  How many guys do you think have been robbed and close to losing their lives?  You are going to take money from my kids to support your salary.  I am 58 years old with health problems.  If this happens I will collect welfare from you.

·         Michael Spain: I think that New York is the best example. San Francisco issues 20-25 medallions per year. 

·         Bajun: I have driven a cab for 20 years and I’m against the idea.  You are taking money away from me.  I have no doctor and I cannot afford it.  I never take my kids to anywhere more than McDonalds.  You are hurting me and you are not happy.  You are disturbing people every night. 

·         Saam Aryan:  I just want to speak the facts.  Why is it that the cab industry is being choked?  You put the commission in place to milk the industry.  We have people who have permits in real estate, insurance and law, why don’t you go and increase the fees for their permits and get the money you want.  Rising tides helps everyone.  We have laws on the books.  We have administrative fees for people that violate the law.  We are losing around 4 million dollars per month.

·         Unknown: The city never gives us the money.  The city is taking the cab drivers money.  Why do they always come to the cab driver’s?  No one helps us.  When we call police they never respond to us. 

·         Abison Chirackal: Yesterday I got my medallion.  I didn’t even smell the plate before there is a proposal.  I don’t have the money to pay for this.  I’ve also worked for 20 years; this is a total insult to the cab drivers.   You don’t have any respect for the working cab drivers.  You just want to fix the city problems.  If Muni is running deficit, why don’t you guys merge Golden Gate Park or the Presidio into the MTA.  You can make money. 

·         Mary McGuire:  There is nothing in this for anyone in this industry. I have sleepless nights.  I can’t even sleep because I am worried.  You have a lot of nerve doing this. 

4.     Consideration of Proposal to Change the Manner of Issuance and Associated Charges for Taxicab Permits in San Francisco [ACTION]

·         Charles Rathbone: As someone who has worked for many long years I truly appreciate the need to absolutely protect the full value for the people who are on the list.  Tariq made a suggestion; you preserve the list side by side.  One block goes to the list the other goes to the auction block.  Another solution came about from Cousian system; (explains).  I agree that it is essential to protect the interest for the people on the list.

·         Rich Schlackman: Why issue medallions every year?

·         Heinicke: I do think if we go to a reform system, we should do it very gradually.  From a policy standpoint, if you do it all at once and do it wrong it will be hard to correct.  As far as yearly the new medallion would be held for longer than a year. 

·         Rich Hybels: What would you think about someone who has a medallion, to be able to sell it to someone on the list for $150k?

·         Charles Rathbone: I would want to hear what the people on the list think about that. 

·         Tone Lee: Anything that cab drivers can gain, I will support. 

·         Thomas George:  This is not a UTW proposal.  I brought driver benefits into the proposal and created an exit strategy.  I also created a minimum age of 65 years for public safety reasons.  We shouldn’t work until we drop dead.  I’m not too happy with auctioning. 

·         Laurie Graham:  In this proposal you say this will give a pride of ownership. 

·         Heinicke:  The financing barrier is very significant which concerns me and only working drivers can buy them. 

·         John Lazar:  These proposals you have are good and bad.

·         Bruce Oka: Do you think the financial structure we have is ready to implement what is in your proposal?

·         Heinicke: We have administrative resources as well as enforcement.  I want to reiterate something, this is a long process.  This committee does not make rules it only refers them out to MTA and the City Government. 


Committee Comments:

·         John Lazar:  We have a very great cab industry, 96% compliance with customer satisfaction.  We see businesses shut down, how can the people in the cab industry help the people in San Francisco?  If you’re going to sell permits you have to make it real property.  Transferability must be available at the market value.  You have to supply your demand. What makes it good for everyone?  If we had a panel of drivers, medallion holders and color schemes, we can fix problems.  I’ve screamed for taxi stands, nothing has happened.  I try to treat everyone equally.  I think we can cover the outlining areas, selling permits is a great thing for San Francisco.  When they wrote Prop K, they didn’t write an exit plan.  To buy a cab permit is a good thing. 

·         Laurie Graham: I would like to see the industry be very stable and I don’t see anything in these proposals that would stabilize the industry anymore than it is now.  Transferability is an option.  I believe it’s important to maintain some sort of even course and slow moving.  I started driving in 1982 and I still don’t feel secure in my job.  As a driver I can get fired, and there are Rules and Regulations to take my medallion away.  If you contribute 25 plus years to an industry, you would hope to stay or get something out of it. 

·         Paul Gillespie:  Thank you Malcolm and Bruce for participating in this committee.  The best part of my job is issuing medallions to people.  I don’t support any proposals on the table.  To use New York as a model is inappropriate.  I think it’s a bad idea.  We had a reassurance from MUNI that the money would not be used for them.   I know people on the waiting list in their 50-60’s and they are still working.  I appreciate the work that has been done, but I fundamentally disagree. 

·         Rich Schlackman:  There is a lot of good merit in the different proposals.  We have no ability to write proposals.  I want to make something real clear.  The city must get money out of every department.  The state is going broke as well as the city.  I would like most of the money to go back to the drivers in the industry to get benefits.  The reason these things can’t be done is because it has no money.  I want to save the system and not the industry.  We take parts of all the proposals and work through the best way to make it work.  If we do not make a change this industry will die. 

·         Autumn O’Keefe: I want to thank Thomas for his proposal.  Coming from the perspective of the public, it’s hard to say if this is a good proposal or not.  We have a service problem in the city. 

·         Tone Lee: A combination solution is a lot better. I think that the city should guarantee how much they are going to pay when their medallion is turned over.  And you can pay the holders for the rest of their lives. Muni can set up their own medallions to sell or auction, then drivers can bid on their medallions.  The city should charge 20%, that way the whole industry will be healthy. 

·         Rich Hybels: It just blows me away how diabolic this plan is.  If you had any idea what it took to get it to this point for these guys. 

·         Heinicke: how do you feel about transferability?

·         Rich Hybels: Only care about people that are too old to drive.  They can sell them to someone on the list.  You look to us, to generate money for the city.

·         Charles Rathbone: Thank you conducting these meetings.  I think what works best are plans that have a lot of winners.  I’m concerned that this has way too many losers.  If the buy sell plan is properly constructed I believe it has a lot of winners.  Potentially medallion holders are winners.  At the end of the day, I’m not asking you to help me; it’s not about taking care of people in the industry. We as citizens have a fiduciary duty to look after a valuable asset that the city owns.  My appeal is to the public members to consider the enormous values.  A buy sell system preserves it.  There could be 10 millions of dollars going back to the city and preserve the interest of thousands of drivers. 

·         Thomas George: Let’s address transferability. It does not change anything for the drivers or the public; there is no security in it.  We can very soon see a medallion battle blowing up.  You ask driver to pay 400k, what type of business position would that bring.  It’s totally out of this world.  I ask you to never vote for that model it will make things worst.  Don’t sell them, it’s a public asset. My amendments look for the drivers and an exit strategy.

·         Heinicke:  Thank you to everyone who as participated.  I have seen new perspectives today.  You have represented yourself today effectively.  I urge you to stay involved.  Rich Schlackman suggested that there is a need for reform.  Can I take that as a motion for what we do here?

·         Rich Schlackman: Motion to move this to MTA.

·         Charles Rathbone: I second that motion.

·         Heinicke: No one has said that we had to change this system.  The mandate of this working group is whether we should reform it.  We entertain Rich’s motion that the final act be a recommendation that they seriously consider changing Prop K. 

·         Bruce Oka: If we know that is nothing is going to work.

·         Dir Thigpen: The plans in particular that we are talking about are going to be Malcolm’s, Charles and Thomas’? 

·         Heinicke: Prop K to be reformed.  Three things to consider, Malcolm, Charles and Thomas proposals. 

·         Rich Schlackman: And all the comments that were made.

·         Thomas George Williams: It was the service first proposal, it should be four proposals.  We are making a recommendation that reform is necessary of Prop K?

·         Rich Schlackman: Yes

·         Paul Gillespie: A yes vote on this motion is to submit these three proposals.  This is against the prop k?

·         Rich Schlackman: Yes

·         Heinicke: All in favor of forwarding for further review

Yes: Heinicke, Bruce Oka, John Lazar, Tone Lee, Autumn O’Keefe, Charles Rathbone, Rich Schlackman

No:   Laurie Graham, Rich Hybels, Thomas George Williams

Motion Passes 7 Yes/ 3 No

  • Heinicke:  There is a lot of process left; I would urge you to stay involved in this.  The public comment in here was remarkable.  This is really a very incremental step. 
  • Paul Gillespie: This will be on the next Taxi Commission meeting agenda (3 minutes) public comment.  February 10, 2009. 

4.       Adjournment 12:03 pm



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