By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Even though the commission is responsible for regulating the city's taxicabs, it has somehow never occurred to the City Hall reformers that it might be useful to have a panel member who actually knows what it's like to drive a taxi.
Not that commission membership doesn't have its perks. When the Voice recently tried to ask TLC chairman Matthew Daus what he thought about the massive amount of campaign funds that one of his commissioners, former city councilman Noach Dear, was harvesting from taxi companies, Daus ignored the inquiries. He then had his spokesman relay that he was offended by a reference in the story that he belonged to a Democratic Party clubhouse. "His club, New Era Democrats, is an independent organization," said Allan Fromberg. "It is democratic in name only."
The same could be said for the way Daus conducts commission hearings. In May, as the panel held its final vote on the new technology, members of the taxi workers' alliance rose to testify.
Director Bhairavi Desai, a slight woman who wears traditional Indian saris, pointed out that some of her members had arrived at the morning's meeting after having driven until 4 a.m. "They went home and maybe slept for an hour and came back here," she said. And yet, despite the questions they raised, "every single one of you was completely silent after every taxi worker spoke."
As she spoke, Daus and his commissioners whispered. "The side talking is not appreciated," Desai objected.
"We have been listening to the same thing for three years," responded Daus.
"Exactly, and you have yet to hear us," said Desai. "What is your personal investment in this technology that you refuse to hear us?"
This apparently hit a sensitive spot. "Let me tell you something," Daus shot back. "That is a very inappropriate and loaded statement, and there are laws on the books against defamation. So you better watch what you say. When you make an accusation that anyone here has any type of interest, that's pretty outrageous."
Desai tried to interject that she was questioning his judgment, not his integrity, but Daus interrupted, giving the floor to fellow commissioner Dear, who commenced his own attack.
"All you care about is the cameras," Dear told her. "When I was at the City Council, I watched you. What industry and who is paying you, and how much are you getting paid?" Daus let this go on until Desai pointed out that Dear raised his own election money from the industry. Then the chairman interrupted. "Let's have a little decorum and professionalism," he said.
At this point, we imagine Bloomberg the computer salesman heading for the exit.