Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An End To A Personal Era

Yesterday was my last day on the Seattle & King County Taxi Advisory Commission, having resigned effective end of June.  I attended this month's meeting because my City contact requested I stay until a replacement is found.  That idea changed when Kenny told me that the mayor's office had issued a letter thanking me for my service and that I was no longer officially a commission member.  I am still waiting for that mayoral missive. Kenny still does not have an adequate pool of candidates.  Is there anyone out there willing to make a commitment?  The commission needs you.

The irony is that I remained the Chair one last time because the vice-chair, my long-time colleague Manjit failed to show up again, making it three consecutive meetings in a row we haven't seen him.  As I have pointed out before, I am the only member with a perfect attendance record. How can anything be achieved when no one shows up?  The answer to that question is more than obvious.

Overall it was a good meeting minus much overt conflict.  The one major disappointment was our guest from HopeLink, a very nice guy who knew little to nothing about the working relationship existing between HopeLink and the local taxi industry.  As it turns out, he has only been at the agency for six months, HopeLink essentially sending us an inexperienced rookie.  Why did they do that?

For those who don't know HopeLink is a non-profit agency managing transportation services for the needy and disabled.  Using private donations and government-based funding, it coordinates and arranges  rides for visits to hospitals and dialysis centers and methadone clinics and doctor offices.  Much of what they do is vital and literally life saving which is why I personally continue to service HopeLink account rides despite some real difficulties related to them.  That is why I requested a presentation in the first place, to achieve some resolution. 

Jon Winters, the mobility coordinator HopeLink sent to talk to us, did leave with a number of questions to be addressed by his superiors but unfortunately serious issues were left hanging just like they always are.  Amazingly HopeLink acted just like they always do, providing us with another "no-show" while we wait endlessly for even temporary repair.  This is not acceptable though of course we have to accept it.  What other choice do we have, allowing instead the ill passengers to sicken and die?  Is anyone paying attention?

Their response unfortunately is not surprising, my long experience telling me nothing is ever satisfactorily resolved when the taxi industry is concerned.  All issues are allowed to fester, infecting the entire taxi body.  That is the primary reason I am pulling back from all active industry advocacy.  No one is truly listening.  I have had enough.  I request assistance but it never arrives.  There is no 911 number to call, being left to perish marooned on the roadside, a tow truck arriving weeks later.

Yet though I know leaving, for me, is the correct decision, I depart with truly mixed emotions, a complex chemical morass of anger, sadness, frustration and regret.  My affection for my fellow drivers remain.  Let no one doubt that.  I wish I could have done more.

The kind of systemic and institutional dysfunction I have faced is a looming, blank wall.  The maintainers of this barrier wave from above, shouting, "How are all of you doing down there?  The weather is just fine up here!"  For them everything is fine.  They go home every night after a mere eight hours behind a desk providing sage advice and guidance to the unwashed.  None of them have ever driven a taxi and never will.  Nonetheless they know more than I do.  Just ask them.  They will tell you all about it.

That is why I give up.  I can't take it anymore.  Being insulted and molested by drunks is one thing.  Insults from the privileged anointed few is another.  I will not do this any further.  This has not been a give and take dialogue. Very far from it! 

Instead we have dictatorial mandates disguised as negotiation.  This is one fool then who stops being one.  I made every effort to be accommodating and cooperative.  And where did it take me? No where is where it took me, only to long waits and dead ends.

Despite the worst of traffic conditions, cabbies always reach their destination.  What I have found during my seven plus years actively working on local taxi issues is that all conversation with the bureaucrats is a circular detour. You never, I repeat never arrive at your expected destination.  They tell you first to "turn right," then changing their tactic and now instead it is "go down that road, then turn left and left and left again...." until realizing, as I now understand it, this is an ongoing spontaneous comedy,a stage play, with the taxi industry, the taxi commission and everyone else the butt of their humor.  I for one am not laughing.  I am leaving the theatre.  None of this is funny. 

And who is paying good money for this sorry performance?  Why of course the all of us obediently paying our fees.  Is there an alternative?  I ask again.  Is there an alternative?  I don't see one upon the taxi horizon.  Just pain and obfuscation dished out over and over and over again.  This is reality?  They must be joking and I can guarantee they are.   They are not serious.  They do not care.  Goodbye.

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