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Queens Chronicle

Changing the way we see the comptroller

Candidate Scott Stringer says city needs to think outside the box

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:11 am, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

Scott Stringer knows he may not be well-known in the outer boroughs but says that doesn’t mean he won’t fight for them if he is elected comptroller. In fact, he says he always has.

“If you look at the issues I’ve talked about in my years in office, they have been issues that are city-focused issues,” Manhattan borough president and Democratic comptroller candidate Stringer said. “People want to move to the outer boroughs but the challenge is building up Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Bronx because Manhattan has already been built. It’s already established.”

Promoting the outer boroughs is just a bullet point on the lists of ways he says he plans to improve the city’s economy and change the way the comptroller’s office functions.

“A steady hand is how I would describe my approach,” Stringer said. “We have to analyze the information but also get to our targets and not overplay our hand.”

The “slow and steady wins the race” mentality that Stringer has adopted is a dramatic contrast from his primary competition, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has aggressively spoken out on unnecessary spending and ending corrupt agencies.

“The comptroller does not have the sledgehammer to say ‘I’m the comptroller and this is how we’re going to do it,’” Stringer said. “Only four out of the 58 board trustees represent the comptroller’s office. I have served on the pension fund, so I know a lot of the players, and I learned that you can have strong elected officials who can work with finances and still come up with a solution to our problems — as opposed to working the crowd. Sometimes it’s easier to work the crowd, but I’m going to call it like I see it and if that’s not good enough for the people of New York City, then I won’t be re-elected.”

Stringer, who met with the Chronicle editorial board on Aug. 16, cited his redesign of the Borough President’s Office as proof that he’s the man for the job.

“When I became Manhattan borough president, people said the position was dead on arrival and that the borough president had no real power, and I built that office and brought in the best and the brightest to make it what it is today,” Stringer said.

Part of Stringer’s reforms included revamping the community board member selection process. The native Manhattanite put in a merit-based screening process to help eliminate political and patriarchal influence. He also spearheaded an urban planning fellowship program by partnering up with New York, Columbia and Fordham universities.

“I was able to put young professional planners with stipends into community board offices to work on land use issues to level the playing field,” he said. “I think my reform politics and my ability to bring the best and the brightest into the comptroller’s office as well as my management skills puts me in a position of being very qualified for this job.”

Stringer went on to say that Spitzer’s “go at it alone” mentality will prevent him from accomplishing any of his goals if elected.

“Our funds can’t carry the day at a shareholder’s meeting of a Fortune 500 company so you have to build relationships,” Stringer said. “You can’t go at it alone; you’re not a sheriff, you’re a steward. If you want to change a policy in a corporation that you think is detrimental, the impact you have is not enough so you can’t go in with a shareholder revolution. You have to be strategic and part of my opponent’s problem is that he has no strategy.”

In addition to making the comptroller’s office a more open place, Stringer said he will place emphasis on the middle class.

Though supporting middle-income families has been the center of almost every candidate in almost every race, Stringer said his vision can help those aspiring for more.

“The best way to support the middle class is to work toward that in a serious way,” he said. “We need to work on the issues that allow people to aspire to be in the middle class.”

An example Stringer used was the ever-expanding computer science and information technology field.

“Technology jobs have grown 60 percent in the city,” he said. “This is our industry now but our kids cannot access it. Every parent aspires to the middle class and when they can’t quite get there, the hope is that their children will. A few decades ago, it was all about manufacturing, but now we have yet another opportunity to bring up the middle class and that’s something that needs to be focused on.”

Stringer went on to say that the treatment of small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs, is unacceptable.

“The city has been outrageous to small businesses and that is a middle-class issue,” he said. “We fine and fee our small businesses but we hope they open up, and once they do open and the ribbon is cut, the city starts with the fines, and it’s very shortsighted. A lot of people use their family’s money so it’s a one-shot deal. Most middle-class people can’t keep going to the bank and asking for a $300,000 loan. I’m going to hold every agency accountable for the way we treat small businesses.”

Stringer also wants to bring back the commuter tax that was repealed years ago which, he said, has been detrimental to the city budget.

In the end, Stringer said, he has the guts to change the city into a more positive, profitable place.

“If you have a little moxie and you can think outside of the box, you can take a mundane position like the borough president or a traditionalist position like the comptroller and you can make a difference and change the position for the better.”

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