Sep. 20. 2014 (San Diego) The Living Neighborhoods and Safety Committee voted to move Taxi reform to the full city council. At issue is whether to remove the cap on medallions or not.
Emotion was very high, as most of the seats in the main city council hall were taken over by owners. They wore green t-shirts with different messages, such as “I am a success story,” or “I was a lease driver, now I am an owner.”
A few of the lease drivers were able to take some of the seats and even fewer of them wore white t-shirts and carried yellow signs that read “remove the cap.”
The city had to open three other overflow rooms, where drivers watched the proceedings through city tv.
This is about changing city policy 500-02, which will remove the number of taxi permits in the city, otherwise known as medallions. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith reminded the owners who were in the gallery that the permits were city property and were not transferable. “The city of San Diego does not believe there are vested property rights,” and wondered how people could speculate on this.
Staff recommended the change, since it will open the market. They also recommended it since competition will increase lowering the fares.
Some other recommendations included five years experience, proof of insurance, background check and U.S. Citizenship. The Metropolitan Transit System will also have to hire more personnel to do the necessary inspections.
The permits, he added, are city property. They were not supposed to be sold or transferred. He also promised that the city will defend the new policy in court, and cited precedent from places like Minneapolis St. Paul.
The testimony included both sides and went for over five hours. There were hundreds of slips presented. Tony Young, former member of the council, was one of the people testifying in the name of the owners, and asked those who were opposed to the policy change to stand up. Almost the whole room full of green shirts did.
The owners argued that this was stealing from them, and punishing them for succeeding in the American dream. For example, one of the speakers said, “my father was an immigrant who came to this country with $100 in his pocket. He did not speak a word of English or know anybody. Through very hard work and savings, he was able to succeed.”
He also said “the American dream that these people here want today, involves taking away from other people.” This was a common theme. A few of the owners even accused the drivers of abusing the system. A couple said that these drivers were not working for taxi companies but Uber and Lyft. These two companies are not regulated and almost anybody can participate. They are giving taxis a run for their money.
Reporting San Diego was able to talk with a couple of the drivers, who did not give us their names, since the owners have retaliated against others for speaking with members of the press.
One of them said that he works 16 to 18 hour days. He has to pay his lease. This lease is %500 a shift, and he only starts making money after he makes the lease and pays for the gas. It doesn’t matter if he work that day or not, I still need to make the lease payment.
This does “not leave enough to provide for my family.” He also said that he starts his shift at 07:30 in the morning, and ends it at $11:30 at night.
Another one of the drivers said that he needs to pay $2400 a moth, there is not enough money left over to survive. Many of those testifying told similar stories. They want respect.
Ironically one of the owners made the case for the drivers. He told the committee that drivers make $80 a day. If the driver works 12 hours that comes down to $6.66 an hour; if he is pulling an 18-hour shift, this comes down to $4.44 an hour. These hours are common in the taxi industry.
City council will be hearing this issue early in October as the committee has forwarded the issue to the full city council.
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