By Doug Porter
While lots of local politicos are willing to give at least lip service towards increasing the minimum wage or creating affordable housing, the abject lack of interest in rectifying a government sponsored system of exploitation in the local taxi industry is staggering.
The medallion based system of licensing currently in place in San Diego, wherein drivers pay for the privilege of leasing a vehicle that may or may not be roadworthy, insures consumers of two things: scarcity of service and higher fares. This form of regulation might have made sense 80 years ago in New York city when it was started, but today a privileged few and the politicians they fund are the only beneficiaries.
Of all things revealed in a 2013 San Diego State University/Center for Policy Initiatives study–the unsafe working conditions, the dangerous vehicles, the exploitation of drivers–it would appear that Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s response will be limited to the vehicles themselves and, perhaps, record keeping issues.
From a KPBS report last May:
At the crux of driver unrest is an unregulated market in which individuals pay high prices to operate cab companies and lease cars to drivers.
The permits, often called medallions, go for as much as $140,000, according to the report. The permits are similar to liquor licenses; they’re granted by a public agency and come with regulation. But unlike liquor licenses, the sale of taxi permits in San Diego has not resulted in income for the public. Buyers pay a nominal administrative fee to MTS to transfer the permit, but the larger transaction happens behind closed doors, typically in cash.
The sales do not violate local taxi ordinances. Taxi union representatives stop short of calling the dealings an illegal black market, but say they create a system that exploits drivers, who are often immigrants and refugees.
In the wake of the SDSU/CPI study last year, then-Mayor Bob Filner declined to renew the city’s five-year via the Metropolitan Transit System contract overseeing the taxicab industry, issuing a one-year extension and identifying funding for a study on whether the city should take over regulating the permitting system.
That idea went down the tubes along with a lot of other initiatives as his administration imploded. According to a story in this week’s City Beat, the industry’s response to this threat to the status quo was to urge the medallion owners connected with the newly formed San Diego Transportation Association to start charging cabdrivers a $10 a month fee to pay for a lobbyist. Oh, and they wanted to make sure and crush the United Taxi Workers of San Diego.
From the City Beat article, which has lots of what should be eye-opening information:
After Filner resigned in disgrace last year, City Council President Todd Gloria became interim mayor and put the study on ice, telling MTS the city would renew its long-term contract.
“I understand that some drivers agree to leases that are beyond what may be reasonable, and that vehicle and driver safety is a concern,” Gloria said in an email to CityBeat.
“Unfortunately, the study that was suggested by my predecessor wouldn’t have addressed those items. Developing regulations to actually improve the industry instead of fighting over who will oversee those regulations that haven’t been written would be more productive.
Come on, Todd. Those are weasel words and you know it.
I can’t help but wonder if the campaign contributions of the medallion holders are speaking more loudly than the nearly two thousand drivers—about 90 percent of whom are Middle Eastern or African immigrants. Or refugees. Y’know, people who aren’t likely (if they have the right papers) to get hired by In and Out or even Walmart (even when they have Phd’s from their old countries!).
Advocates for the drivers point out that MTS have explicitly said they do not want to regulate anything to do with taxi drivers working hours, earnings or retaliation, a position they put in writing, seen here on page 117:
City Councilman Todd Gloria and others purporting to support the Raise the Wage movement cannot be allowed to not forget about taxi drivers and other workers who are exploited as independent contractors.
Gloria make speeches saying no one who works full time should not live in poverty and forget about some of the most vulnerable workers our City has, especially since the City Council has direct control over how they’re treated. Taxi medallions are public property. They should not be used to exploit workers.
The Times May be a-Changing for Proposition 13
The Sacramento Bee has a story today about a newly released Field Poll, showing voter support for reforming for what is generally recognized as a loophole in Proposition 13.
The 1978 measure limiting property taxes was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1978 and has long been considered the “third rail” of California politics.
From the Bee:
The poll, done in collaboration with Carl Stempel, a California State University, East Bay, professor, found bipartisan support for changes to the law to prevent businesses from structuring property transactions to avoid triggering reassessments under Proposition 13. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans favor such a change, according to the poll.
Last year, a bill that sought to address that issue stalled in committee. The measure was opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce, which labeled it a “job killer.”
Here Comes Deja Moo to Barrio Logan
Today’s UT-San Diego has the opening salvo against the Barrio Logan Community Plan ballot measure set to go before the voters for this June.
For the record, in case you forgot, or in case the local daily fishwrap neglected to tell you:
- The Barrio Logan Plan was developed over a five year period
- It replaces a 35 year old plan and places future limits on mixed use zoning. Barrio Logan is the only area in San Diego allowing industrial locations adjacent to residential properties.
- Fifty public meetings were held
- The City of San Diego spent over $4 million in studies to make sure all stakeholders were considered.,
- Representatives of the ship building industry agreed to compromises negotiated by City Councilman David Alvarez last June.
- They changed their minds and sponsored a petition drive to overturn City Council approval of the plan.
- A San Diego Superior Court agreed with assertions by the Environmental Health Coalition that petition signature-gatherers misled prospective signers by claiming the new zoning regulations would lead to 46,000 job losses and $14 billion in lost revenues. Unfortunately she said her powers to to the industry measure were severely limited.
- Representatives of the ship building industry have consistently refused to make appearances at forums and news shows to debate Plan advocates.
Now, UT San Diego says in an editorial, they and their industry friends are the ones who are really concerned about pollution and children’s health issues. Drawing data selectively from a 2012 environmental analysis, they’d like us to believe implementation of the community plan would actually endanger residents.
Will these guys ever stop with the misrepresentations? If their evidence is so good, why won’t they be seen in public defending their position?
Defenders of the Barrio Logan Community Plan have “poll tested” the issues associated with the upcoming election and decided that voters are most receptive to pleas concerning the health of the children in the community. Obviously, the shipping industry and their allies have also done some polling, and this latest editorial is their response.
Children’s health issues aside, while it may only appeal to more engaged voters, I say the big concern here should be the power of of big money to overturn a democratically driven process whereby residents have a say in the future of their communities.
If the industrial forces (and the vast majority of their funding is coming from out of town) prevail in Barrio Logan, what’s next? High rises in beach communities? All it takes is enough money and the willingness of most of the local media to ignore blatant lies. Or, as in the case of the UT-San Diego, actually fabricate the falsehoods.
Remember, vote YES (as in I support the community plans) on measures B and C in the June election.
Good News in Escondido – A Progressive News Outlet!
On May 1st, a new bilingual newspaper will launch. The “Escondido Alliance/Alianza Escondido” aims to fill the news void left by closure of the North County Times, which folded after U-T San Diego publisher Doug Manchester purchased the publication. The former Escondido Times-Advocate had previously been absorbed by the North County Times, so the series of acquisitions has left Escondido without a local press to cover politics, events and more –until now….
…The newspaper will be available both in print and online as a monthly edition, starting with 10,000 issues. After six months or so, the publishers hope to expand to weekly or biweekly editions.
You can visit their web site here. (Ain’t much happening yet)
On This Day: 1961 – About 1,400 U.S.-supported Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. It was an unsuccessful attack. 1964 – The FBI lab reported that it could not determine the lyrics to “Louie Louie.” 1993 – A federal jury in Los Angeles convicted two former police officers of violating the civil rights of beaten motorist Rodney King. Two other officers were acquitted.
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John Lawrence says
“Buyers pay a nominal administrative fee to MTS to transfer the permit, but the larger transaction happens behind closed doors, typically in cash.” This is as clear as mud. Who are the buyers? Why do they have to transfer the permit? Who pays whom behind closed doors in cash? Who owns the medallions?
Brent Beltran says
The UT may be against Barrio Logan residents but at least Doug Porter and the Freeps have our backs.
bob dorn says
Thanks again (how many times have I said it?) to Doug Porter. This time for re-calling our attention to the Battle for the Barrio and the pollution industries’ attempts to annihilate a pueblo’s history. Vote Yes on B and C.
And thanks for raising the alarms about the City of San Diego’s promotion of what amounts to wage slavery in the Taxi business. The establishment of a limited number of cab medallions is like the printing of currency on the local scale, enriching those with cash for the medallions and forcing immigrants to work for low wages. Once that sort of oligopolitical scams are in place they’re as hard to get rid of as ACE Parking Lots, bringing you $25 parking downtown on game days because the City of San Diego likes that company.
Brian Brady says
Most occupational licensing and regulations are rent-seeking schemes, designed to enrich the few while defrauded the many of the true price discovery of a free market. The taxicab industry is the most transparent shake down around
Stephanie Mood says
I’m wondering if forming a taxi worker cooperative might work in San Diego. There’s one in Madison, WI. The cooperative business model may be worth looking into. http://www.unioncab.coop/