2009-09-25 / Community

Liu Sees Comptroller Slot As Perfect Fit

Visits Wave, Addresses Rockaway Issues
By Howard Schwach

John Liu at The Wave office. John Liu at The Wave office. City Councilman John Liu thinks that he would make a perfect Comptroller for the City of New York.

"I've done a lot of financial work outside of government, outside of politics," Liu said during a wide-ranging interview at The Wave office just before the primary election. "I went after the spending policies of the Department of Education (DOE) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). I know how to do the job."

Liu garnered 38 percent of the vote in the primary, two points short of an outright win. He will have to face David Yassky (30 percent) in a September 29 runoff election.

He likes his chances.

"I'm proud to run on my own merits, my own record," he said.

Liu says that the city has given him and his family a lot, and he wants to give something back.

Liu's family came to New York City when he was a youngster and worked in what he calls "the rag trade," making clothing.

He says that he worked in a factory he calls a "sweat shop" when he was seven years old, but his parents deny that it was really bad enough to call a "sweat shop."

Working at a young age provided him with a work ethic that then spilled over into his schoolwork.

He did well in school and was accepted to the prestigious Hunter College High School, where he went for two years before transferring to the Bronx High School of Science.

After that, he attended the State University at Binghamton, where he received degrees in mathematics and physics.

He became an actuary and then went to work in the financial industry, where he remained until he was elected to the City Council when term limits kicked in eight years ago.

Now, he says, he wants to serve the public as Comptroller, a slot for which he believes he has the temperament and expertise.

He says that one of the things that angers him is the lack of public input into the development process.

"There is no real input when the city wants to build a high rise in your neighborhood, or when they want to put miles upon miles of bicycle lanes," he said. "The bike lanes were particularly galling for many people, and there should have been a public process in each community before they were put in place."

"Of course," he added with a laugh, "if that is your worst problem, then you are in good shape."

As the chair of the Council's Transportation Committee, Liu is conversant with all of Rockaway's commut- ing problems, from the A Train to the paucity of express bus service. He lays those problems at the foot of the mayor and his appointees on the MTA.

The city set Rockaway up for failure," he said. "It put in a toll that stifled the local economy and purposefully set up the private bus companies for a fall by hiding resources and ensuring they could not do the job."

Liu said that he has a number of priorities that he will put into effect when he wins the September 29 runoff election.

"The first, of course is to reform the budget process," he says. "It is now a political process rather than a financial process and that has to change."

His second priority, he says, will be to reform the contract procurement process so that many more people will have the ability to vie for city contracts.

The third is to expand opportunities for women and minorities through the contracting process.

"I'm committed to serving the city," he concluded, adding that he did not vie for his council seat once again because he is opposed to changing term limits without going back to the voters.

"I was an activist, and I ran for the council because I did not like the way the voters were being treated by the city," he said. "It's time for that to change."

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