Less than a month after the panel charged with regulating The City’s taxi industry fired its director, the Taxicab Commission late Tuesday voted to consider reinstating Heidi Machen.
The decision came after about a dozen speakers railed against Machen while an equal number spoke favorably of the one-time aide to Gavin Newsom.
Since Machen’s absence, which began June 28, commission analyst Tristan Bettencourt has filled her position and has been running the office. Bettencourt on Tuesday announced that today is his last day at the agency. He declined to say whether he was fired or resigned.
"I’ll be leaving my position at the end of the day" Wednesday, Bettencourt told commissioners and dozens of people packed into a City Hall meeting room. "It’s been a rewarding time for me."
Bettencourt, a former roommate and friend of Machen’s, admits to a felony burglary conviction from 1989 that was dismissed by a judge in 2002. Many speakers linked Bettencourt to Machen as a demonstration of her inability to run the agency.
"If you put Heidi’s name as a candidate, you’re condoning the criminality," said Carl Macmurdo, who represents taxi-permit holders.
Much of the meeting, which extended past 10 p.m. focused on whether Machen should again lead the Taxicab Commission.
"Machen was hired by Newsom to reform the industry," said Ruach Graffis, a cabdriver. "Bring Heidi back to do the job she was hired to do."
At the center of the controversy are the owners of taxi permits, or "medallions," which are necessary to drive a cab. Medallions are licensed by the commission and can be rented out for tens of thousands of dollars a year to cab companies and other drivers. There are less than 1,400 per