Home   Google ARCHIVE SEARCH: Date:


With h. brown

h. "Court Jester" brown with his homies.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

Court Jester not happy with Alioto-Pier war on SF cabbies

By h. brown

January 15, 2008

Alioto-Pier’s war on the working class
(Sandoval a co-sponsor)

I’ve seen some pretty scummy crap watching the Board of Supervisors over the past 10 years or so but nothing compares with Item #12 on today’s agenda for the Full Board of Supervisors meeting. Naturally, it is sponsored by D-2 Supervisor Alioto-Pier. She wants everyday cabdrivers to pay the cab companies another $5,000 a year (they already pay $20,000) just for rental of a cab.

District 2 Supervisor Alioto-Pier

Cab companies limitless greed

The legislation Supervisor Pier is carrying before the Full Board on behalf of the companies is, at bottom, an attempt to force out the senior rank and file drivers.

They are a pesky lot, these drivers. The last 3 times the companies were allowed to raise their gates (rental fee per shift), the working stiffs tied their approval to some kind of health insurance plan on their behalf.

The companies agreed, then reneged. Then, they called for another 500 new cabs on the street to compete with the regular shift drivers who don’t have medallions. Would it surprise you to learn that Pier’s predecessor as D-2 supe who pushed that legislation was Gavin Newsom?

The increase comes on top of ever-skyrocketing gasoline costs and competition from ‘Gypsy Cabs’ to poaching of fairs by limo drivers. And, all of those 500 new medallions Newsom added haven’t hit the street yet.

The industry’s lawyer (one cold fish named Ward – whom Pier illegally gave an extra 10 minutes of public comment at a previous hearing so’s he could do an elaborate chart show) says the answer to the drivers’ complaints is: “They don’t have to drive a cab.”

That’s their point.

They don’t want these veteran drivers with all their demands for at least a marginal living and health insurance. They want immigrants with low expectations like in, say, New York City. This is just one more front on a 30 year-old attack on veteran drivers.

Quentin Kopp, working class hero

It might surprise you to know that the San Francisco taxi industry has the fairest laws of all the cities in the U.S.. This is all because Quentin Kopp (former supervisor and judge, now retired) devised a plan whereby drivers could get on a waiting list (usually takes 15 years to reach top) to receive coveted medallions from the City, just for the price of busting their asses.

A driver able to maintain their health for a reasonable time could expect to drive another 20 years and have 2 other drivers driving on his/her medallion, and tripling their income for that time. Of course the industry wanted it all, and they’ve fought to destroy the Kopp measure since its inception.

Kopp set up a Taxi Commission (appointed wholly by the Mayor) where drivers could go to lodge complaints and lobby for better working conditions. Cab companies hated it all and vowed to overturn it.

It took 9 tries at the ballot and 30 years

Little less than 30 years, actually, but not by much. The companies declared yearly that they were ready to go under and needed more money from the rank and file. They never never wanted to give anything in exchange.

The chief goal of the companies is to dump the drivers’ waiting list and sell the medallions on the open market. In NYC, a taxi medallion sells for around $350,000 dollars. Estimates are that a San Francisco medallion could easily sell for a half-million dollars. That’s ¾’s of a billion dollars and makes the companies’ 30-year war on the drivers well worth the effort.

The just-passed Prop A gives the cab companies pretty much all they’ve sought for all these years. It folds the Taxi Commission into the MTA (and, they made Newsom dump Commission Executive Director – a great appointment – in favor of industry favorite Jordanna Thigpen) … and, unless I read the thing wrong, it gives the MTA the power to sell the medallions to raise money during a cash crunch.

Ever know MUNI not to have a cash crunch?

All that remains is to force out the senior rank-and-file drivers by making the cost of doing business (even with the prospect of owning their own medallion), intolerable. Raising the gate on these drivers a whopping 20% should accomplish that.


There are 1,500 taxi medallions on the streets of San Francisco, 4,500 drivers work for these medallion holders. While driving a cab is a horrible job (you not only don’t get health insurance, but you don’t get sick-leave either – if you’re sick, you still have to pay for your shift) … while it’s tough, once you get your medallion, you can make triple what the average driver makes and join the other side trying to screw them, if history serves.

I’d expect the MTA to put the medallions up for sale sometime during Newsom’s second term. I’d expect that out of 6,000 drivers now on the streets of San Francisco, 4,000 will stop driving.

Hey, it makes sense. If you’re a medallion holder, you cash in for a cool half-million. If you’re a driver on the waiting list, you quit because it simply isn’t worth your time to wait for a future that has been erased by Peskin’s legislation.

The Board should reject Item #12 today. It didn’t even pass the smell test with D-7’s conservative supe, Sean Elsbernd. He once told me that the cab companies didn’t like him and that I was all wrong thinking that he was one of their toadies.

He had the measure passed out of committee ‘without recommendation’ (Daly and Pier being other members). Of course, Daly will oppose it.

Pier not cruel to super-rich

Why do billionaires always need more and more and more? And, how the hell are they able to act like they are doing you a favor by taking huge tax breaks for themselves, or taking control of a public garden?

Pier ran an item through Land Use the other day that ‘accepted a donation from Richard Blum, for work upgrading a public garden at the top of the Lyons Street stairs.

Well, let me tell you this about that. Accepting a gift from Blum (after he engineered the firing of UC Chief Robert Dynes, Blum found 29 billion in the CalPers vaults that could be invested in riskier projects like the ones he and his buddies prefer – with your money of course) … accepting a gift from Blum is like accepting a Trojan Horse from the Greeks.

Blum never mentioned that the space in question (says he’s spent a quarter million so far) … he doesn’t mention it’s in front of he and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s house!

Doesn’t mention that he tore out the perfectly good public garden that was there. Tore it out without permits, or a plan-check and approval of the planned conversion.

I suggest that you plan an outing at the top of those stairs on Lyons street. I would particularly like to recommend that teachers and mentors of At-Risk kids from the Mission and Bayview plan picnics there. Hell, they can even peep into Dianne’s front window. It’s only a foot or so off the sidewalk which, along with the garden, as they say, is ‘public land’.

Which is why you can (as predicted here when this mess started a year or so back) … why you can safely assume that the Board will be asked to make some special easement, or encroachment legislation ceding the garden for the irrepressible and madcap Dianne Feinstein, and her multi-billion dollar Iraqi war contract URS major partner husband, the war mongering Richard Blum.

War profiteers Senator Dianne Feinstein and Richard Blum
at a pro-Israel war rally in San Francisco, July 23, 2006.

Why the hell would the City even need to accept such an incursion on public land? Shit, we already own it. They’re lucky we don’t make them put it back the way it was.

Should Donald Fisher build his personal memorial art museum at Hunters Point?

Robert Haaland is working hard to pass pot permit at 722 Columbus.

Who put the rocket up his keyster?


h. brown is a 63 year-old keeper of sfbulldog.com, an eclectic site featuring a half dozen City Hall denizens. h is a former sailor, firefighter, teacher, nightclub owner, and a hard-living satirical muckraker. Email h at h@ludd.net.


Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



The Hunger Site

Cooking Classes
in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires B&B

Calitri in southern Italy

L' Aquila in Abruzzo

Health Insurance Quotes


Bruce Brugmann's


Civic Center

Dan Noyes

Greg Dewar

Griper Blade


Malik Looper






MetroWize Urban Guide

Michael Moore

N Judah Chronicles


Robert Solis

SF Bay Guardian





SFWillie's Blog



Sweet Melissa