Analysis: Taxi Politics Can Hurt the Public

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s approval rating is sky high. The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows that the view of people about the governor’s performance has reached the highest level since he took office, 67 percent positive and only 17 percent negative.

Yet the picture isn’t perfect.  He still hasn’t weighed in on one important issue: campaign finance reform, and his own record on receiving campaign contributions needs scrutiny.

There’s a bill, pushed by Mayor Bloomberg and passed easily by the Assembly,  that would allow 30,000 livery cab drivers in upper Manhattan and the other four boroughs to pick up street hails. Black and Latino leaders have long complained that their constituents are neglected because yellow cabs don’t frequent their neighborhoods.

Cuomo says that support for this legislation “appears to be dissipating” because of “a number of concerns about the bill.” 

Meanwhile, it turns out that Cuomo received about $30,000 in campaign contributions this summer from the yellow cab industry, which strongly opposes the bill. In the last decade he has received about $100,000 from this source.

Assemblyman Guillermo Linares, a former livery driver, says “deep-pocketed” yellow taxi companies have jeopardized needed service. “We are hopeful the governor will realize how critical this is for a majority of New Yorkers.”

Josh Vlasto, the governor’s spokesman, insists the donations will have no impact on whether Cuomo decides to sign the bill. “The taxi industry has been strong supporters of the governor for many years, as have livery cabs, “ he said.

Dick Dadey of the reform group Citizens Union says this demonstrates “the unseemly side of politics.”

“It’s one more example,” he told me, “of constituents trying to influence public officials. Both livery and  yellow cab drivers and owners are important. There has to be a grand solution that is fair to both.  Not a win-lose situation but one where both sides win. In this case there has to be a third way.”

Clearly, at the heart of this question is campaign financing. Cuomo has spoken out in the past for reform. But here’s a situation that cries out for it.

The people, whether they live in the glitzy precincts of Manhattan or the more humble neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, are entitled to good cab service. This isn’t an issue  for the big shots in the cab industry to decide.

If the governor appears to be kow-towing to campaign contributors, he loses credibility. If he wants to keep his reputation as a reform governor, he should continue to lead the way.

Contact Us