Late last week, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano announced the makeup of the county’s Transit Advisory Committee (TAC), the body tasked with overseeing the newly-privatized Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) bus system. Many of the appointed committee members have the skill sets necessary (e.g. financial consulting and labor) to oversee one of the nation’s largest suburban bus systems, but it’s unclear whether any of the committee members takes the bus regularly. And one Mangano appointee, in fact, is affiliated with an industry that stands to benefit directly from the TAC’s decisions: taxis.
Lawrence Blessinger, Jr. serves as the Vice President of All Island Transportation, Nassau County’s largest taxi service. Because the TAC has the authority to “approve, disapprove, propose modifications to or negotiate changes to…budgets, fare structures, fees and service adjustments,” Blessinger’s business activities could represent a conflict of interest. If the TAC decides to cut routes or raise fares, his company would presumably fill the gap and stand to benefit from increased business.
The broader taxi industry seems to have taken note of this as well.
According to campaign finance reports, since County Executive Mangano began considering privatizing Nassau County’s buses in July, 2010, the taxi industry has donated $9,250 to the County Executive’s campaign coffers. Mr. Blessinger himself has donated $2,000.
It is imperative that TAC members are committed to serving the interests of Nassau’s 32 million annual bus riders, particularly because a public process for TAC meetings has yet to be determined. Given Mr. Blessinger’s business interests, that commitment remains suspect.