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Queens Chronicle

Politics As Usual: Council to comptroller?

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Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2008 12:00 am

We’re still a year away from the primary races that will ultimately decide the fate of many city offices, but that hasn’t stopped several candidates from the outer boroughs from actively campaigning for the highest financial office in the city.

Melinda Katz, David Weprin and David Yassky, among others, have been actively campaigning for the New York City Office of the Comptroller, and Yassky sat down on Tuesday to talk to the Queens Chronicle about why Queens residents should give the councilman from Brooklyn their votes.

“I’ve got a record that says I’m really going to deliver on these promises of accountability, innovation, results,” Yassky said. “That’s what I’ve done in the council.”

He is a current council member from Brooklyn’s 33rd District, and has spent time in city government under the administration of Mayor Ed Koch, and worked as well with New York’s senior senator, Charles Schumer.

Yassky said his two terms in the City Council have been guided by a firm policy of transparency and accountability in government, not rare words, but certainly rare deeds in a local legislative body which has had trouble recently on that score. Many in the city, including Yassky himself, proclaimed that discretionary spending has been a poorly managed policy by the city, and one that doesn’t have to continue on its current track.

“I think there is a role for true community amenities — little league, free movies in the park — and that local officials do have a better sense than the bureaucracy in downtown Manhattan what each neighborhood wants the most, I have no problem with a small amount of money for those kind of activities,” Yassky said. “But I do think that the earmarks process has gotten out of control and should be scaled back.”

As comptroller, he would favor a bidding process, by which groups could lobby the council for funds, and that every application and reward could be listed in an online database for the city as a whole to examine.

“Overall, people should be outraged and disgusted by the abuse of discretionary funds. I am.”

Yassky also talked about his intentions to use the office as a strong fiscal watchdog in tough economic times for the city. He said despite the fact that the city is facing budget gaps in the near future, the office was definitely where he wanted to be.

“If you’re a player you want the ball, in tough times you really want the ball,” he said. “We’ve got to get spending and the city’s debt under control, and there’s no better place to do it than from the comptroller’s office.”

Yassky said the best way to steer the city back onto a stable financial track was to closely monitor spending by every agency, and to insist on increased efficiency everywhere from the Sanitation Department to the City Council itself.

“Comptroller is a hugely important position in city government, and should be the place for accountability, innovation, results. It’s not just about accounting and producing clear financial statements … but you can use that as a tool to force agencies to get more bang for the buck.”

The Big Races

Tuesday’s primary races in Queens held at least one surprise, as Grace Meng, of Flushing, the daughter of former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, toppled incumbent Ellen Young in Flushing, by a nearly 20 percent margin.

In Flushing’s state Senate district, Toby Stavisky managed to hold off Democratic challenger Robert Schwartz — a bit of a mystery man who had done very little campaigning through local papers — by a wider margin, 66 percent to 34 percent.

Further south, state Sen. Shirley Huntley managed to keep a firm grip on her favored candidate status in South Jamaica, handily defeating challenger Allan Jennings.

Jennings was familiar to residents in the area because of a tumultuous period of time he spent as a city councilman there. His decision to run came pretty late in the game, which made Huntley a prohibitive favorite.

After his opponent for Serphin Maltese’s state Senate seat dropped out, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. was running virtually unopposed, though his former opponent still managed to garner more than 20 percent of the vote in the district.

A few other primaries were contested only with write-in campaigns, notably a handful in southeast Queens where Donovan Richards and Ruben Wills were going up against Michelle Titus and Gregory Meeks for state Assembly and U.S. Congress, respectively.

After fighting for months for the right to stay on the ballot, Richards and Wills have started talk of a special election in the area because they feel they weren’t given a fair shake by the Queens County Democratic Party.

In the race for District Leader in the 32nd Assembly District, part B, Thomas White Jr. defeated challenger Lynn Nunes by roughly 500 votes.

Welcome to the discussion.