- Martin Romjue, LCT editor ; photos by Michael Campos, LCT associate editor
LOS ANGELES — The new director of the California Public Utilities Commission charged with overseeing motor carriers spoke to California operators for the first time last night, bringing a clear agenda and a healthy dose of straight talk.
Brig. Gen. Jack Hagan (U.S.M.C./California State Military Reserve), appointed director of the CPUC Consumer Protection and Safety Division on April 23, told members of the Greater California Livery Association he wants to clear up rules, enforce them fairly and more often, and act to root out bad agency behavior and inefficiencies.
"I can't fix it if I don't know it's broken," said Gen. Hagan, while walking around the banquet room at The Proud Bird in Los Angeles, taking notes and answering questions.
The veteran Marine and military commander — who served in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq, and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia — did not need a microphone.
"No one dies on my watch," said Gen. Hagan, quoting his personal mission statement on the back of his business card. He said mission statements need to be simple and measurable, devoid of the typical corporate fluff that characterizes so many pleasant sounding statements that lack punch.
Three more signs that Gen. Hagan is a direct, no-nonsense public servant: He puts his cell phone number on his business card; told a small GCLA gathering earlier on the day: "Everything I say is on the record"; and drove himself around Los Angeles on Tuesday in a rented Toyota Corolla.
As head of the division that regulates the 7,000 charter-party carriers in California, Gen. Hagan told operators he wants to work together to achieve "win-win" results that respect and benefit the small businesses which provide luxury transportation while bolstering an active agency that protects public safety based on clear, fair rules and fees:
- One of his primary goals is to sort through the many CPUC rules and definitions that apply to charter-party carriers to keep those that apply and eliminate those that don't.
- He aims to make sure that mobile-app based transportation providers, such as Uber, comply with the same state rules and requirements as do chauffeured transportation companies. He vowed to be vigilant against such companies.
- He also plans to set up more enforcement stings against violators and illegal limousine operators. But he urged operators to self-police and report details of suspected violators to the CPUC.
During his talk, Gen. Hagan invited GCLA attendees to "to take their best shots." In response to operator complaints about rude CPUC employees and bad service, Gen. Hagan took down some notes so he could pursue the incidents.
"If someone is rude to you on the phone, let me know," he said. "I am responsible for what my employees do or don't do. I will gain your trust through my actions."
Gen. Hagan oversees a division with 242 employees. He told operators that the reality of government now is that staffs are generally being reduced, but the CPUC was fortunate to at least gain 19 new positions.
To underscore his reform- and listening-based approach, one of Gen. Hagan's first actions was to change the name of his division from "Consumer Protection & Safety" to "Safety & Enforcement."
"We are a customer service organization," Gen. Hagan said. "We'll treat you the way you treat your customers. I'll take care of that."
His presentation ended with a standing ovation from GCLA attendees.