When A Few Taxi Cabbies Get Crabby, Will MUNI Reform Suffer?

Ah, the end of August. The weather’s nice and sunny, my birthday’s coming up in a few days (one I share with such luminaries as “Weezy” from the Jeffersons, John McCain, and Elliot Gould), and….and…well that’s about it. Oh, and then there’s some election thing going on this fall too, right?
Given how things have gone for the MUNI reform measure, Proposition A, it is unclear if there will be any formal opposition to the measure this fall. But that’s not to say someone won’t say something to spoil the fun.
In today’s Examiner, we got a taste of that, and found why it’s so hard to eliminate government agencies once they’re created, as some taxicab drivers announced their opposition to Prop. A, because it eliminates the bureaucracy at the Taxicab Commission, and instead put taxicab decisions (as well as all transit decisions) in one place – the SF MTA.
Frankly, it makes sense to have one agency be in charge of all things related to transit, to better coordinate efforts and avoid the duplication of service San Francisco seems almost in love with. Any changes, though, are bound to be difficult, and in this case there’s a fear about what the merger may bring – coupled with a lot of anger that’s now being used to try and stop MUNI reform. That’s unfortunate, but not unexpected.
Cutting out the Taxicab Commission and placing the decisions regarding taxis in the same place where decisions are made about cars, buses, trains, parking, tickets, et al would allow the MTA to coordinate policy better, so there’s some coherence to decisionmaking. And, if they screw up, or try to violate the public’s will on things like taxi medallions, it will be pretty easy for the public to nail the folks responsible – instead of diffusing responsibility as we have all too often in San Francisco government and policy. Most other cities and counties, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere, coordinate policy like this – why should we be any different?
Besides, given all the problems this agency has had in its short lifetime, perhaps it’s just as well it be eliminated. Although it was created by an initiative by Supervisor Gavin Newsom, Mayor Gavin Newsom apparently had so little interest in appointing people to serve on said commission, it allowed for all sorts of taxpayer funded drama. Now, according to the article in the Examiner, the Mayor supports eliminating the commission he created in the first place.
To me, that seems to say it all. If the guy who invented a new city commission no longer has any interest in keeping it going, and merging it with the MTA ends up with a more streamlined government decisionmaking process and a better-run MUNI, well then, so be it.
Change is never easy, but I’m not convinced that in the end taxicab drivers will be hurt by this measure in the long run. No one will dare mess with the voters’ will as expressed in previous ballot measures, and let’s face it, in this town, if someone did, concerned folks I am sure would put forth something for us to vote on in the future. MUNI reform is too important to let it be badmouthed by critics who may end up better off than they are now.

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