Liu aspires to ‘most financially transparent government’ in the nation

Comptroller John Liu delivers his "State of the City" address. Photo: Alexander Hotz

Today Comptroller John Liu delivered a “State of the City” address, the first by a sitting comptroller in recent memory. Traditionally only the mayor and city council speaker give state of the city speeches but Liu, who is considered a contender in the upcoming 2013 election, seized a chance to pitch his platform.

At a packed auditorium at City College the Comptroller outlined an agenda focused on cutting unnecessary spending. Liu said his office would launch a series of initiatives to counter waste, including a hotline to report misspent funds practices, an updated version of the Checkbook NYC online spending database and a platform for the public to track large city IT contracts.

“Our goal is to make New York City the most financially transparent government in the United States,” said Liu. “When the public can easily track government spending, government will be that much more judicious with the public’s money.”

Since Liu is in an actuarial position and doesn’t have legislative power, his initiatives may seem unsexy compared to the ambitious programs proposed by Speaker Christine Quinn in her recent address. Still, he did hint at the possible stances of candidate Liu. Not for the first time the Comptroller slammed the mayor for his continued poaching from the public employees’ retiree health fund, a short term solution he said that “masks the budget’s structural imbalance.” Liu also made it clear that he would be on the side of the unions in tackling the city’s ballooning pension liabilities, saying that the “scapegoating of public employees seems to be relentless.”

Council members Letitia James and Leroy Comrie, among the elected officials in attendance, praised the Comptroller for his speech. “I liked how he focused on the growing income inequality,” said James. “Especially as it related to minorities and women.”

Liu’s personal narrative, a classic immigrant’s son story of working hard and playing by the rules, was also on full display. As a nod to his heritage a traditional Chinese Lion Dance opened the event. And in his speech the Comptroller drew a few not so subtle comparisons between himself and Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. “As an Asian-American he is managing against all odds to take his career to the next level,” said Liu. “And, at the same time he’s getting great headlines in the New York Post! I gotta talk to him about that.”

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