Ballot initiative needed to stop the SFMTA’s taxicab medallion sales 

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s medallion sales programs should end. These programs do not benefit taxi drivers or the taxi riding public. Rather, these sales and leases benefit taxicab companies and the SFMTA itself. These programs do nothing to improve the quality of taxicab service in San Francisco. Rather, these sales, and specifically leases to taxicab companies, will greatly reduce the quality of San Francisco taxicab service.

The American form of government as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights was designed to protect individuals from corporations. Government in America is supposed to be a check against corporate powers. But, in this current situation we have government working for corporations and oppressing individuals. This is contrary to the founding principles of this nation and highly unethical.

These medallion sales programs are propelled largely by the notion that San Francisco 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.

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 had been written about by 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.”

Although between 1978 and 2007, the people of San Francisco voted down eight separate ballot measures crafted to allow the government sale and/or lease of medallions, this time, the insider crony capitalists sneaked one in.

I lay the blame for this situation squarely at the feet of the SFMTA. 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 SFMTA has consistently ignored the taxi-riding public, driver input and common sense. The SFMTA has shamefully acted as facilitators at the expense of taxi drivers and the people of San Francisco. The SFMTA has made it clear that they have no interest in the well-being of taxi drivers or their passengers. To the contrary, the SFMTA is only interested in raising revenue at the expense of drivers and passengers. The SFMTA defeats it’s own purpose. The SFMTA should have done the right thing in the first place. But, they just go ahead and do the wrong thing; leaving us to pick up the pieces.

Start dealing with the SFMTA on our terms. Reject the selling of medallions entirely; it is a false thesis not supported by law or the voters of San Francisco. Change the terms. Support a ballot initiative. I am confident we can get it done.

Peter A. Kirby is a cabdriver in San Francisco and is number 397 on the waiting list to get a taxicab medallion.

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Peter A. Kirby

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