In the Democratic primary for mayor of New York, The Jewish Press endorses William C. Thompson. He seems the most promising candidate in terms of being able to tackle the fundamental problem facing our city in the coming four years – how to do more with considerably fewer resources.
Among his competitors there are some who talk as if there is no looming financial crisis and who focus not on how to cut the city’s budget, which is already way too large, but on locating new sources of revenue to pay for even greater expenditures designed to spread government largesse more widely.
Some tout their prowess in navigating the political shoals of the very complex social and political entity that is New York City. But every mayor hires the best staff he or she can find to meet that challenge. To be sure, a successful chief executive must provide vision, but competent advisers and aides are needed to implement that vision.
Indeed, having a chief executive who is taken with his or her own ability to micromanage day-to-day tasks better left to experts is a prescription for failure.
Not that Bill Thompson has to take a back seat to any of his opponents in the experience department. He has successfully served as Brooklyn deputy borough president, as president of the old New York City Board of Education, and as New York City comptroller. He is at least as knowledgeable as any of his opponents concerning the ins and outs of big-city governance.
The popular image of the successful mayor of a large modern city is that of an authoritarian figure giving orders that subordinates had better follow. But the truly successful mayors have been those who combined no-nonsense leadership and vision with the ability to persuade, encourage and motivate. And it is this regard that Bill Thompson stands head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates.
He has spoken persuasively of the direction in which he would like to take the city. But we are equally impressed with his calm demeanor, deliberative style and self-deprecating humor – all of which make him particularly well suited for taking on, among other pressing issues, contract negotiations with municipal unions that Mayor Bloomberg has deferred for years. If the next mayor cannot persuade the unions to make substantial concessions, economic chaos will follow.
Frankly, Mr. Thompson has disappointed us on the matter of the NYPD’s stop and frisk program. At the start of the current campaign he was the first to talk about retaining stop and frisk while tweaking it to address the concerns of some that it was unnecessarily intrusive and arbitrary. But he seems to have been carried along by some of his opponents and is now supporting more substantial changes in the policy.
All in all, though, Bill Thompson appears to us to be the Democratic candidate most likely to successfully lead New York in the coming years.
The Jewish Press endorses Scott Stringer for comptroller. When one considers the responsibilities the job entails, it becomes readily apparent that the case for Mr. Stringer over his opponent, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, is compelling.
One of the comptroller’s major responsibilities is the overall management of five municipal-worker union pension funds with combined assets of approximately $141 billion. Each of the funds is ostensibly run independently by its own board of trustees, who determine investment strategies. The comptroller, however, coordinates the work of the five boards and has substantial input into their decision-making. And as Manhattan borough president Mr. Stringer has served as a trustee for the largest of those funds, thereby gaining important experience and insight.
Clearly, being able to work collegially with the trustees is key. Mr. Stringer’s background makes him ideally suited for the task. As a six-term state assemblyman and eight-year Manhattan borough president, he earned a reputation for effective and savvy management and for fostering cooperation with his colleagues in government.
Another major responsibility of the comptroller’s office is the auditing, vetting and investigating of virtually anything involving government spending. Here again, a cooperative spirit among the comptroller, the mayor, and other public officials is essential, with clear understanding as to where the jurisdictional red lines lie. Otherwise, the potential for gridlock looms large. And Mr. Stringer’s credentials readily commend themselves.