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Cordial Comptroller Candidates
September 2nd, 2009

It probably reflects the nature of the jobs they are running for but, while the candidate for public advocate seem to like to mix it up with one another, encounters between the four Democrats vying for city comptroller are unfailingly polite. Tonight’s debate, sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission and the Baruch College School of Public Affairs, remained unfailingly cordial and largely high minded as Melinda Katz, John Liu, David Weprin and David Yassky discussed how they would deal with the city’s budget deficit, invest employee pension funds and run the comptroller’s office. Even when the candidates challenged one another — as when Weprin asked Yassky to defend his vote to extend term limits or Liu asked Weprin about his outside income — the tone was measured, voices calm.

The debate did reveal some differences between the candidates, which, while significant, probably do not concern the kind of things likely to send New Yorkers to the barricades.

A few examples after the jump.

–When asked about assessing government services, Yassky said, “You really should be meaning productivity, output per dollar.”

His opponents disagreed. “Not everything can be boiled down to unit cost,” said Liu, adding that in education in particular, “we have to bring back some humanity.”

–The candidates also parted from Yassky on his plan to invest 5 percent of the city’s pension fund monies in green technologies, saying that while they supported environmentally friendly enterprises, they did not want to commit to a set figure for investments in them.

–Neither Yassky or Katz would change the current property tax system that puts a greater burden on renters, business owners and residents of co-ops and condos than it does on those with single, two or three family homes. Weprin would try to provide relief to co-op and condo owners without increasing taxes on other homeowners, while Liu said he would put together a plan to “rebalance” the burden that could be phased in “over a period of time.”

–Weprin continued to push his plan to set up comptroller’s offices in upper Manhattan and the other boroughs. None of his opponents agreed. “The comptroller’s office is not the public advocate’s office, ” Katz said.

Mostly the candidates differed in emphasis. Liu, Katz and Weprin all criticized the running of the school system, particularly the reliance on standardized tests. Yassky did not, although he did not defend it either.

Yassky seemed most open to –although he did not come out and support — reducing pension benefits for new employees, a so-called tier five. The other candidates said they would work out agreements with union on cutting pension costs.

All the candidates said the comptroller could make socially conscious investments — not putting money in companies that do business in Sudan, for example — while still adhering to his or her fiduciary responsibilities. And they would all increase transparency, and encourage the city to use more women and minority owned businesses.

They do, of course, disagree on who should be comptroller.

By on September 2, 2009, 9:10 pm
In category: Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off

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