Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Comptroller William Thompson Jr. 2006 Inaugural Address

Mayor Bloomberg, Public Advocate Gotbaum, Members of the City Council, colleagues in government, family, friends, and all New Yorkers, good afternoon.

It has been my great privilege to serve as New York City Comptroller for the past four years and I am deeply honored to serve a second term. And I would like to thank the people of New York City for this tremendous opportunity.

Four years ago, we gathered here under very different circumstances. Only a few months after the destruction of the World Trade Center , a deep uncertainty was heavy upon us -- our confidence shaken, our future in doubt.

Not only were we struggling to come to terms with the painful loss of family, friends and colleagues, we were confronting a bleak economic picture that threatened to take us back down the road of financial disaster we had traveled a generation before.

Remarkably, the leaders standing before you then, myself included, were new and untried in elective office. The eyes of the City -- indeed the eyes of the Nation and the World -- were upon us. But we did not shrink from the task. Staring into uncertainty can make some feeble: to New Yorkers, staring down uncertainty is what makes us strong.

This type of strength is what our City was founded upon. Long before Lady Liberty took up residence in our Harbor, New York City was a beacon to all people around the globe seeking to escape persecution and hardship. They showed the strength of their convictions and helped New York City become a symbol of freedom, a symbol of new beginnings, a symbol of rebirth.

The events of 9/11 tried to dim our beacon's light, but as it has so often in the past, our City showed its resilience and we emerged stronger and more secure. Today, our light burns brighter than ever.

I am proud to say that we faced the uncertainty and we prevailed. In fact, after a considerable period of economic decline, we have entered a period of fiscal stability and our economy has begun to rebound.

Yes, we are all proud that the City has bounced back more quickly than anyone anticipated, but in the wake of that recovery, there are still many New Yorkers who continue to struggle…who have not shared in this prosperity.

It is our responsibility as public officials to find ways to sow the seeds of opportunity, to foster hope for a better future for all New Yorkers. The challenges we face are enormous and it is not a time for partisanship. Collaboration was and still is the key ingredient for our future success.

I entered office determined to be an activist Comptroller, by aggressively using the powers of my office to find new, creative ways to save the taxpayers money and to put our resources to work for all New Yorkers.

With the unwavering focus of the dedicated staff of the Comptroller's office, we did this in a variety of ways. To name a few…We identified more than 170 million dollars in savings through our audits of city operations. We made innovative uses of technology, including an initiative to settle claims against the City electronically, and we found new ways to do business.

Taking advantage of New York's untapped fiscal strength, we collaborated with the Mayor, the New York City Finance Commissioner and the New York State Banking Commissioner to use over one hundred million dollars of City deposits as a capital base for expanding the Banking Development District program, spurring the creation of local bank branches in neighborhoods that have traditionally been excluded from access to capital.

Together with my committed colleagues on the New York City Pension Funds, we began to invest in real estate, specifically, New York City commercial real estate. Our pension funds now own part of several New York City landmark buildings. This investment is a true testament to our belief in the long term viability of this great City.

We have also invested our pension funds in the rehabilitation and creation of housing for our City's low-, moderate- and middle- income residents…nearly one billion dollars invested to spur economic growth and opportunity. And we developed innovative programs to include more women, African-American and Latino investment firms in the management of City pension dollars.

The list is expansive, and the focus clear…we have used our Office to help the beacon burn even brighter for all. Every New Yorker deserves their fair share of our economic recovery.

In the coming term, we will continue the work we have begun --- using City resources to benefit the people we serve: creating jobs, expanding access to capital, building affordable housing, and improving government.

We will ensure that the innovative Battery Park City Housing Trust Fund we established with Mayor Bloomberg and housing advocates honors the decades old commitment to create affordable housing units, helping thousands of hardworking New Yorkers and their families to live in our City without having to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table.

We will commit additional dollars to more bank branches in order to reach more neighborhoods. There is no better investment we can make than the investment we make in our communities.

We will continue to aggressively pursue contractors who exploit workers, many of whom are immigrants, insisting that the working men and women of our City are paid a fair day's wage for a day's work on any City public works project.

We will continue to lead the fight against companies that exploit children, discriminate against workers, do business in countries that support terrorism, and poison the environment, carrying on a long tradition of New York City Comptrollers who have helped us earn our reputation as the most aggressive pension funds in the nation.

I was born and raised in New York City . I have had the chance to get to know the many communities across the City in my career, and yet in the last four years, as I have met and worked with individuals and groups in every neighborhood, in every borough, I have seen a City stronger and more unified than ever before.

We are one City and we stand united no matter the challenge.

It is this commitment to each other that helps New York to continually reinvent itself and maintain its position as the greatest City in this Nation. Our City's legacy is and will remain one of opportunity, one of hope.

New Yorkers are survivors, yes—but we are more than that. Those who were born here, those who were raised here, those who come here from all over the world, are here, not just to succeed, but to excel.

There is a spirit in New York that is truly inspiring... a spirit that lifts its leaders to want more for the people they serve.

the years ahead, I will build on my achievements, deriving strength from this spirit. I will continue to fight for fairness and opportunity for all New Yorkers and to use the power of my office to keep our City strong.

Our city is, and must remain…a beacon for those who hope... a compassionate home for the vulnerable…and a place where every single New Yorker has the means to realize their dreams and aspirations.

Thank you.


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