Thursday, January 21, 2016

Two Posts

SF Taxis: Service with Heart

In a recent public dialog, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff asked Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, ““How do you know your company has a heart?” Apparently flustered, in a “less than smooth response” Kalanick eventually talked about delivering gifts to kids during Christmas and making charitable donations.
Benioff could have found evidence of compassion more easily by looking at the San Francisco taxi industry. Each day, San Francisco taxis:
  • Provide subsidized rides to seniors and disabled persons through the city’s Paratransit Taxi program.
  • Use ramp vans to serve people in wheelchairs.
  • Serve the city’s hospitals, medical clinics and senior housing facilities.
  • Provide transportation to people who must, or prefer to, pay with cash.
  • Operate clean energy vehicles (98% are required to use alternative energy).
  • Charge consistent fares, without “surge pricing” that amounts to price gouging.
  • Are driven by professionals who know where they’re going and can share useful information with visitors.  
  • Serve tourists who can’t use a cell phone to summon a ride because they’re in town without local cell phone service.
In addition, compared to Uber, the industry treats its drivers more decently by:
  • Providing extensive training to new drivers.
  • Protecting drivers with relatively robust insurance in case of injuries to passengers.
  • Charging fees (for the use of cars) that are predictable, rather than squeezing profits out of drivers by increasing those fees or lowering prices to customers.
  • Not requiring drivers to use their own car and get their own insurance.
  • Allowing them to accept tips.
  • Enabling them to turn off the meter and offer a flat rate for private tours and long rides.
  • Providing workers’ compensation benefits for drivers who suffer work-related illness or injury.  
  • Retraining drivers who need it.
Faced with competition from “sharecropping” companies like Uber, the “Walmart taxi,” the San Francisco taxi industry is becoming more committed to its primary mission: to provide the best possible service to its passengers. Ever more, the industry realizes that compassion, if it is genuine, is good business and greed is counter-productive.
Accordingly, cab drivers are increasingly treating their passengers as they themselves would like to be treated — a human being rather than merely an object with money. They realize that each ride offers the opportunity for a rewarding human connection. That attitude leaves drivers in a better mood. And when drivers are happy, that happiness is contagious and often leads to better tips.
With its growing commitment to providing better service, the industry is stepping up its monitoring of drivers and its retraining of problem drivers. Industry leaders are pushing the SFMTA to help even more by: 1) sharing with companies complaints that are filed with the city’s 311 number, and’ 2) conducting retraining classes more frequently (at present those classes are held only once a year). Some experienced drivers have offered to volunteer their services to help with that retraining. has distributed and posted “How To Be a Great Cab Driver: Passenger Service,” which includes suggestions for how to treat passengers. And the SFMTA is taking away permits from cab companies that have failed to fulfill minimum standards.
Those efforts are paying off. A recent investigation by the SFMTA found that requests for service from several different locations elicited a prompt response from the cab companies that were called.
Passengers can help the industry further improve. If you receive poor service, call 311 and file a complaint or ask the driver, “Do you mind if I give you some feedback on your service?” and be honest with them.
As thousands of Uber and other ride-booking cars congest our streets and pollute our air, San Francisco is becoming increasingly crowded. Over time, the need to regulate all cars-for-hire will increase. In the meantime, by working together, we can steadily improve the quality of taxi service and make the industry ever more compassionate.


Inspired by John Carver’s book, Boards That Make a Difference, and his Policy Governance Model, I offer the following principles for consideration by candidates for the Yellow Cab Cooperative Board of Directors election to be held later this year.
All candidates, potential candidates, and members are welcome to take these ideas and modify them as they see fit. Or they could start from scratch and develop a much different platform.
Either way, one or more slates of like-minded candidates could form, articulate in writing the direction they propose for the co-op, and ask members who support that platform to vote for them in the next board election.
The following scenario could play out:
  1. Two or more members form a drafting committee to formulate a draft platform, invite members to discuss that draft online and in a face-to-face meeting, and then modify their platform by incorporating feedback.
  2. Roughly one week prior to the deadline for candidates to announce their candidacy, the Board convenes a membership meeting, at which: a) Current Board members make statements about their thoughts concerning the future direction of the Co-op and respond to questions. b) Any drafting committees that have formed present their platform and solicit endorsements. c)The membership engages in an open discussion.
  3. Following that forum, slates of candidates that back the same platform gather endorsements for their platform from members.
  4. Roughly one week prior to the circulation of election materials, the Board convenes a candidate’s forum, at which: a) Candidates make statements about their thoughts concerning the future direction of the Co-op and respond to questions. b)The membership engages in open discussion.  
  5. The candidate statements that are circulated with the ballot include any platforms that have been developed and the names of members who endorse that platform. Any current board members not standing for re-election this year who endorse a platform are identified (so members can better gauge the viability of the platform).
–Wade Hudson, #1229, wadeATwadehudsonDOTnet
A Platform for Yellow Cab Board Candidates (1/4/15 Draft)
  1. The primary responsibilities of the Board are to: 1) adopt written policies that define the goals of the co-op; 2) adopt a job description for the General Manager (GM) that delegates to him/her the responsibility for achieving those goals; 3) hire the GM; 4) regularly evaluate how well the GM is achieving those goals.
  2. The GM’s job description will: 1) direct him to operate in a collaborative manner, rather than a top-down authoritarian manner; 2) direct him to direct Yellow Cab staff to operate in the same manner; 3) direct him to work with staff to adopt job descriptions for all staff; 4) direct  him to report fully to the Board concerning his/her efforts.
  3. Goals established by the Board will include items such as: 1) percentage of calls re-sent; 2) percentage of calls forfeited (accepted but not picked up); 3) percentage of profits set aside for emergencies; 4) percentage of profits set aside for profit sharing with lease drivers.
  4. At least four days prior to board meetings, to allow time for transparent, broad discussion beforehand, proposed policies to be considered by the board will be emailed to drivers and posted on the bulletin board opposite the dispatch window.
  5. To allow time for a more thoughtful and deliberate process, whenever feasible, initial board decisions will not be final until they are adopted at a second meeting.
  6. The board secretary will maintain an updated set of board policies and will have on hand at board meetings those policies (including the bylaws), in case the board needs to refer to them.
  7. The co-op will convene quarterly meetings open to all drivers to discuss: 1) how to improve service; 2) get input from drivers about how the co-op can improve service, and; 3) the financial performance of the company.
  8. The co-op will set performance standards for individual drivers and compile monthly reports on how well each driver meets those standards.
  9. Perhaps with a lottery, the co-op will distribute a certain percentage of its profits to drivers who exceed a certain threshold that defines good service.
  10. The co-op will terminate leases with drivers and end contracts with medallion holders who fail to meet minimum performance standards.
  11. The co-op will post composite monthly reports on how well the company as a whole is meeting its performance goals.
  12. No more than 20 percent of the board will be employees.
  13. At least three board members will be non-shareholders who can contribute expertise.
  14. The board will meet only once a month for 2-3 hours, which will facilitate participation by non-shareholders with expertise but limited time.
  15. Each board member will also participate in at least one committee.
  16. The board will encourage members to avoid personal attacks that impugn the character, integrity, personality, or intelligence of other board members.
  17. At board meetings, members will speak only when recognized by the President, who will give preference to people who’ve spoken less than others and will encourage everyone to participate fully.
  18. The board will pledge to donate one half of one percent of the co-op’s profits to a broad-based coalition dedicated to improving and promoting the taxi industry — if and when companies that have contracts with at least half of the city’s medallions pledge to do the same. That coalition would be open to the Taxi Workers Alliance, the Medallion Holders Association, other companies, passengers, and supportive community organizations (stakeholders). It could finance a PR campaign to promote the taxi industry as a whole, convene educational public forums on taxi-related matters, solicit suggestions on how to improve service, and organize unified advocacy activities.
  19. The board will direct the GM to establish an online discussion forum that will enable all drivers to communicate directly and horizontally with one another.
  20. The board will pledge to co-sponsor, with other members of the taxi industry, a Passenger Appreciation Day that will enable participants to consider how to improve and promote taxi service.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

“You Are My Hero”

The responses to “Reflections on 2015” were heartwarming. With personal content deleted, they included:

Thanks for sharing these wise, heartfelt reflections.  Now that the holidays are over, I'm off fancy desserts, but I appreciate the rich food for thought.


Just to let you know...I found your New Year analysis simply terrific--in its point of view, the observations made, and the lucidity and grace of the writing. I too believe that the capacity for compassion is the key to a better society and world, that an enlightened cultural mindset is the key to positive social and political change, and that both personal and social psychological dynamics can undermine both strains of potential progress. For that latter problem, your call for "intimate direct action" through home-based support groups continues to hold promise. Thanks for sharing this insightful assessment. It comes closer to capturing both the truth about where we stand as a nation, and the reasons why, than any recent editorial piece I've come across from a big-name progressive commentator. Best of luck to you in 2016!


Indeed, this is wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to write it and send it. Born in 1941 on October 4, I have experienced the times about which you are writing.

I retired from teaching in February 2009, eager to be part of the reform of democracy that I expected with President Obama. I was unprepared for the anger and hate that would be revealed, though we were able to elect him.

I feel we are going through an upheaval that is stirring the pot to keep the contents from burning. Little by little, as those of us who have lost our financial security continue to adjust and overcome, we are able to bring with us those for whom the recession was even worse. I feel I was working so hard to help the ESL children in my classroom, as well as those with identified disabilities, that unions were busted & Congress went awry under my nose without my awareness. I am grateful to see the social progress but saddened to realize the extent to which education has gone down the drain, particularly since education has been my focus all my life.

Currently, I'm for Bernie Sanders. I'm not eager to see Bill Clinton in the White House. I think Hillary will do her best, but she is too hawkish for me.

I am not at all surprised at Trump's popularity. While I enjoy neither TV nor movies (I prefer non-fiction), I see others binge on all sorts of things I would not waste my time watching. 'Reality' TV is unreal to my way of life, but entertaining to those who want to escape. Nature is my true salvation, and I'm glad to be in California where I can enjoy her 24/7.

I am looking forward to 2016. A dear friend, my children's god-mother, is receiving hospice. We have known each other since 1969; it is so strange not to be able to call her at will. Still, we don't live forever, and my memories of Shirley Girlie will continue to be exquisite!
I think Obama has done his best and will continue in that vein for the upcoming year. I have grown up the past seven years, realizing that I can't always get what I want, though I may feel what I want for the world is RIGHT. I'm looking forward to 'My Brother's Keeper,' one project Obama will continue.

I now have two great granddaughters. The older is 6, the younger 5 months. I bought Obama's book to his daughters for my two girls.
This year I will take time for myself. ... My health is good. So is that of my three dogs. I am grateful.

Very Happy New Year to you Wade. I have enjoyed your work over the years, and I will take time to read and participate once again.


Good thoughts, Wade, thanks.  Best wishes for a happy 2016.


My mother never told me that I'd be a great man.  I always told myself that.  But good to hear other's response to this conundrum.


It's sure to be a Happy New Year for you, from what was contained in this reflection.  Was very solid and clear; very personal and "political..."  

...Have several people - from the 60s to whom I'll forward this  - knowing that they will appreciate both your expanding understanding of OUR dilemma in this country (and in this life) and your own strength in pursuing your "own  truth."  They each will know exactly how that process feels as do the rest of us in your wide "circle" of friends and colleagues.

...Your pioneering inside the Taxi industry is almost like you are helping a "union of sorts" to form and I don't think I ever realized how much you must enjoy the thousands of conversations you can have with those of every walk of life.  A true hidden GIFT in the process of earning money.

Thanks for keeping me on your mailing list and although our contact stays as a "loose connection" we are linked nevertheless in the larger The Beloved Community by virtue of our life focus.  Thank you for this first contact of 2016!


Thanks for sharing your impressions of the world today - most of which I fully agree with. The main point is that I share your sense of optimism -- yes, we have challenges, but things will get better.


I read most of your year in review and as always and am impressed with your conviction and dedication.  I'm very hopeful that your great work with TaxiTalk will bear fruit this year.

I very much appreciate those comments. They help me persevere, as I continue to encounter problems in the taxi industry that are similar to those I’ve found elsewhere. My proposed solutions are similar as well, with an emphasis on greater compassion, collaboration, and transparency.

But what has touched me most deeply recently were some comments by one of my passengers at the end of our ride. She appeared to be in her late 20s. She has a Master’s in Public Health and just finished a two-year stint in Haiti helping improve their health care. After we discussed that some, she commented that I seemed well-informed and asked me a few questions about my background.

Knowing that we had about four minutes until we reached our destination, I summarized my life-long commitment to integrate the personal and the political, and gave her a brief chronological history of my organizing efforts. She replied, “Wow. That’s fantastic. I worked with people who are into Liberation Theology in Haiti. You really have stuck with it.” Then, with great passion, she said, “You are my hero.”

We arrived and exchanged warm good-byes, and she got out of my taxi to go to her restaurant. I drove one block to a quiet, isolated stretch, pulled over, and cried, reassured that I am not as alone as I often feel.

Maybe I should distill my much-too-long autobiography into a much shorter memoir focused on community organizing. That might be of interest and value to young people. Perhaps it could help some of them avoid some of the mistakes I made, or maybe encourage them to persist in their own social-change efforts.

But first I have my hands full with the San Francisco taxi industry!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Reflections on 2015

New Year’s Day, 2016

What is the purpose of your life?

When I came home at early this morning, I uploaded to Facebook a photo of the poster that was distributed to patrons as we left the New Year’s Eve concert, and added this comment: “At 69. Patti Smith is fighting for love more than ever. Her fire is even stronger than it was 50 years ago. Welcoming in the New Year with her at the Fillmore was inspiring. I will cherish this poster.” Then, with “Compassion” as the Subject line, I posted to the Yellow Cab shareholders’ forum and the Announce list, “May the New Year bring in a world that is ever more rooted in compassion.”

Increasingly, it seems to me that lack of compassion is at the heart of our social problems. The results include harsh judgments of others, assumptions of superiority, chronic self-centeredness, greed, intellectualized scheming, and manipulation -- all of which serve to divide and isolate people.

Patti’s repeated exhortations to speak one’s truth fearlessly resonated deeply. And her call for unity echoed my “Build Power by Improving Service,” which I recently posted to, in which I argue:

With a tiny percentage of its profits, the San Francisco taxi industry could finance a “taxi-community coalition” that would speak with one voice on points of agreement. That unity could enable the industry to overcome its debilitating fragmentation and isolation. By uniting, the industry could beat Uber by providing better service and countering its money with people power.

I don’t expect the San Francisco taxi industry to unite any time soon. It’s like dealing with the Hatfields and McCoys. But Patti’s concert encourages me to try to contribute to that goal as best I can.

The opening act New Year's Eve performed several classics from the 1967 “Summer of Love” San Francisco music scene  -- after warning us that on the occasion of that summer’s 50th anniversary such songs will be “shoved down your throat.” I loved their selections.

What’s so wrong about “peace, love, and happiness” after all? Not a half-bad starting place, it seems to me. Patti, however, adds a valuable hard edge. When she came on stage for her set, she ironically said, “Now that we’ve got rid of those hippies….” From my location close to the stage, I yelled, “Welcome New York.”

As covered by “Best of Enemies” and ”The Day the ‘60s Died,” two haunting documentaries I recently streamed on Netflix, that 1967 outburst soon devolved into the tragedies of 1968, followed by the mass madness of 1971 (which was experienced by me on a very personal level), and onto the polarization we are experiencing today.

Those films are ominously still relevant, for they reveal problems that persistently undermine people power. When Bernie Sanders, for example, was asked in a recent debate if he had any hope of gaining any support from the “billionaire class,” he dismissed the notion. I wish he had spoken instead of FDR’s focus on “enlightened self-interest,” Henry Ford’s comment about needing his workers to earn enough to buy his cars, Van Jones’ formulation “The 99% for the 100%,” or Robert Reich’s appeals to the wealthy elite to adopt a longer-term perspective.

Alas, with our arrogant self-righteousness, most of us who were immersed in the ‘60s “counter culture” contributed to a debilitating polarization. In 1971, we were thrilled that we finally had a majority of the American people against the Vietnam War. But they were against the anti-war movement even more -- which led to the election of Richard Nixon in a landslide, and later, Ronald Reagan. We run a similar risk today.

At the same time, however, as Pat Buchanan acknowledges toward the end of “The Day the ‘60s Died,” we “won the cultural war” -- the campaigns against racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism, destruction of the environment, and other issues now have much more support than they did prior to the 1960s.

But translating that cultural progress into political power is another matter. “The system” breeds division as ruling elites “push buttons” that “divide and conquer.” They manipulate “pawns in the game” by stoking fear and directing anger at scapegoats.

Reports on the violence of anti-war and anti-racist demonstrators in the late ‘60s rarely mention that those demonstrations were largely nonviolent until police forces started to engage in police riots and, in black communities, persisted in routine violence, all of which provoked violent responses.

With his Stanford Prison Experiment, Philip Zimbardo demonstrated that absent strong policies to discourage violence that are vigorously enforced by supervisors, guards who are given power over inmates are prone to abuse. The same applies to the police and the military. Strong restraints are necessary to protect the innocent.

Time and time again, domestically as well as internationally, we see people in power provoke activists into over-reacting, which undermines the potential for those activists to build support.

Am I being paranoid to suspect that those provocations are often intentional, consciously or semi-consciously -- that they are done to reinforce the existing concentration of wealth and power? Undercover agent provocateurs are motivated by more than wanting to establish their credentials. They also want to “radicalize” the protestors in order to weaken them. The same applies to efforts to overthrow unfriendly, democratically elected foreign governments. Civil wars in those countries often lead to the incumbents becoming more repressive, which undermines their support.

Unfortunately, the anger that helps to motivate people to push for compassionate change can easily escalate into crystallized hate. When protesters lack sufficient self-discipline, they bite the bait, decline to negotiate, and seek to impose their will.

Babies are naturally curious, kind, and awestruck -- precursors of “the pursuit of truth, justice, and beauty” that Emerson called the “Holy Trinity,” the essence of what it means to be human, as I see it. Unfortunately, as we mature, those instincts are socialized out of us as we become increasingly fearful, insecure, and self-centered.

Whether it’s me, my family, my business, my organization, or my nation, ever more the driving force in the modern Western world is “what’s in it for me,” a phrase that has garnered its own Internet acronym: WIIFM. The result is more fragmentation, isolation, and counter-productive blowback.

One of my passengers said the socialization begins when babies begin to interact with other children and discover danger: they might be hit, even if accidentally. Many children also learn that adults hit them, intentionally. And adults punish, admonish, and withhold approval.

Students learn that only a few “win.” Adults learn that only a few will get rich. Almost everyone, even those who deny it to themselves, learns that they are “inferior” in some way that really matters. Insecurity and a lack of self-worth are rampant. The need to prove oneself to oneself and to others is widespread and chronic. Rankism prevails. We learn that we have to either dominate or submit, and take great care that others do not hurt or embarrass us. We become guarded, closed, uptight. It becomes a rare treat to relate to others as equals, open, spontaneous, curious, kind, and awestruck, really listening and learning, engaging in authentic, I-Thou encounters of the sort discussed by Martin Buber.

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time addresses those issues eloquently. Re-reading that book last year blew me away once again, as it did fifty years ago. His focus is on the spiritual damage inflicted by racism. But as he acknowledges, racism is merely one of the more obvious manifestations of the spiritual crime that is perpetrated throughout modern societies.

In his later memoir, Nobody Knows My Name, Baldwin reports that when he returned to France when that country was being forced to leave Vietnam, the police were much more brutal toward Arab immigrants. He concluded that losing Vietnam challenged the French identity, and that insecurity prompted the police to take it out on the easiest target.

Baldwin’s report echoes in this country today, as Americans are having trouble identifying themselves as members of a white, Christian country that is “exceptional” and worthy of “leading” the world. As in France, American police are incredibly violent, in this case toward blacks, and get away with it.

Baldwin also tells the story of an encounter with the father of a childhood friend during the Vietnam War. Flabbergasted, Baldwin asked him, “Why do you support the war? Is it for the sake of your job?” The father replied, “Yes.”

So the personal and the political are interconnected.

In the U.S., more than half of those aged 18 to 29 believe that some day they will get rich, which most Americans define as having enough money that you don't need to work, a net worth of $1 million or more, or a six-figure annual income. So long as that kind of materialism is so powerful, we’ll continue to be in serious trouble.

If Western governments, trying to benefit Western corporate interests, actively continue to encourage “regime change” in other countries, they will foment resentment, especially if those efforts involve spreading Western materialism.

Hillary Clinton charges that radical jihadists “reject modernity,” but she has not articulated an understanding of what’s wrong with modernity: the glorification of WIIFM. Rather, she just hurled the phrase as a judgment.

She would do better to recall the need to “win hearts and minds” and support Islamic forces that rely on the ancient Quran and its affirmation, “There is no compulsion in religion.” That precept preceded the medieval Shariah law, as Mustafa Akyol discussed in “A Medieval Antidote to ISIS.”

Instead Clinton relies heavily on the use of military force, which creates more terrorists than it kills. Fundamentally, the battle is a cultural conflict within Islam. By being so militaristic, the West is making it more difficult for tolerant Islamic forces to prevail.

And the West often favors separatists who want to split their nation. Smaller, weaker nations are less able to establish trade barriers that limit the free flow of Wall Street money and foreign investment. Is that a major reason the West tends to support separatists, whether in Africa, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Syria, or wherever? I suspect so.

Virtually every American politician proclaims, “America must lead,” while relying on the old definition of leadership: a leader is one who is able to mobilize followers. America would do better to rely more on the power of example and transform this nation into a tolerant, compassionate community. Instead. we’re becoming ever more angry and polarized.

Nevertheless, I still have hope. Seeds are being planted. Profound, comprehensive social transformation is possible. The sudden, successful emergence in Spain of a highly participatory, progressive political party that relies heavily on “direct democracy” is encouraging, as is the commitment to openness and transparency among so many young Americans.

I still believe, however, that a strong commitment to self-improvement and mutual support will enhance our prospects. “Intimate direct action” could contribute to the cause. Small, home-based “support groups” during which like-minded activists would openly, confidentially report on their self-improvement efforts could help hold  accountable those who make that commitment. The concept seems clear and convincing to me, and the Movement Strategy Center is doing great work to promote “transformative practice” of the sort I have in mind,

So I recently reviewed Bob Anschuetz’s valuable feedback and rewrote my manifesto: “Reform the System with Love and Power: A Call for Action.”

One collaborator I won’t have from now on, however, is Leonard Roy Frank. As I said in my eulogy:

Leonard was my Rock of Gibraltar. We were intimately interwoven. Sherri Hirsch once said, “Leonard is the Old Testament. Wade is the New Testament.” When I wrote about that and he read it, he approved. He was a very good listener and very astute about the character of others. He believed in me more than I believed in myself and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. When I expressed doubts about my abilities, he praised them. When I wavered, he urged me to press on.

His death, the earlier deaths of Richard Koogle, Steve Sears, and Gil Lopez, and my sister, Mary, moving to Tucson leave me without any very close friends in San Francisco. Though I am open to authentic, mutual encounters, they rarely happen. So I continue to learn how to be alone, drawing on support when I need it.

Fortunately, I enjoy cab driving, have some good conversations in my taxi, and, despite Uber, still make enough to make ends meet, take vacations, and indulge in an occasional massage. So long as I stay healthy at least until I sell my medallion, which will probably take several more years, I should have enough money to live until I’m 95.

And my psychotherapy with Rebecca Crabb helped a great deal. As I discussed in A Dialog on Greatness, I’ve struggled with mixed feelings about my mother inculcating in me “you will be a great man.” That message, though well intended, was a double-edged sword, because the implication was: “You are not yet a great person.” And she also inculcated in me profound guilt, often telling me, “How can you do that to me?”

My work with Rebecca led me to the conclusion, “I Am Good Enough to Be Better.”  Somehow that phrase rang a bell for me. Ever since, I’ve felt less need to prove myself to anyone, including myself. I’ll just speak my truth and let the chips fall where they may.

I know the purpose of my life is to pursue truth, justice, and beauty. I still feel morally obligated to do what I can to “save the world” by nurturing compassionate community dedicated to the common good of the entire Earth Community, including pushing for political changes in national public policy. And I hope that my example will encourage others to do the same. But how “great” anyone is, relative to others, I cannot judge, for I can’t read minds. I can only be true to myself. Otherwise, as Bob says, “What good am I?”

So, compared to the end of 2014, I feel stronger, healthier, happier, and wiser. I wish I could say the same about the world.