The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s medallion sales programs should end. These programs do not benefit taxi drivers or taxi riders. Rather, these sales and leases benefit cab companies and the agency itself. These sales, and specifically leases to cab companies, will greatly reduce the quality of cab service in San Francisco.
The American form of government, as outlined in the U.S. Constitution, was designed to protect individuals from corporations. But in this situation, we have government working for corporations and oppressing individuals.
These programs allowing the sale of medallions — permits that allow cabbies to license their vehicles out to other drivers for a fee — are propelled largely by the notion that The City is broke and needs money. The problem with this argument is that it puts the needs of the state above the needs of the individual. Many drivers have spent years on waiting lists to obtain taxi medallions for a nominal processing fee, only for that waiting list to be replaced with a cash payment system.
The practice of government selling and/or leasing medallions is in direct violation of the historical will of the voters of San Francisco. I cannot tell the story better than medallion-holding cabdriver and activist Brad Newsham.
Newsham wrote on a blog in 2011: “Deep within the fine print legalese of a mind numbing, ten page ballot proposal, the insiders hid a bomb; three devastating sentences designed to abolish the San Francisco Taxicab Commission and place the cab industry under control of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Most cunningly, the bill specified that all previous taxicab legislation would be nullified, and henceforth any decree from the SFMTA would automatically be law in the taxicab industry.”
Between 1978 and 2007, the people of San Francisco voted down eight ballot measures crafted to allow the government to sell or lease medallions, but this time, the insider crony capitalists sneaked one in.
I lay the blame for this situation squarely at the feet of the transportation agency. At every turn, this organization, which purports to represent the people of San Francisco, has arrogantly violated the public’s trust and doggedly pursued only financial gain for themselves and the taxi companies.
The agency is defeating its own purpose. The SFMTA should have done the right thing in the first place, but now we must pick up the pieces.
Reject the selling of medallions entirely; it is a false solution not supported by the law or the voters of San Francisco. Change the terms. Support a ballot initiative. I am confident we can get it done.