WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
Meet The Candidates: John Liu for Comptroller
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
New York, NY —
The crowded field for City Comptroller includes 42-year-old John Liu, who came to New York City when he was five from Taiwan where he was born. He was the first Asian-American elected to the City Council. The Bronx High School of Science graduate has his college degree in mathematical physics. He says his job before being elected to the council as a manager at the global accounting giant Price WaterhouseCoopers was great experience to be City Comptroller.
Democratic voters have two months to decide who they want to succeed outgoing City Comptroller Bill Thompson, and the four leading candidates are working hard to get attention. WNYC's Bob Hennelly has this campaign snapshot of how Councilman Liu is trying to stand out from the pack.
REPORTER: It is another marathon campaign day for the 42-year-old city council member. He.suggests a reporter take a rush hour ride from lower Manhattan to Queens so Liu can make his case.
LIU: We are going to the Flushing town hall where there is a celebration with Comptroller Thompson of southeast Asian American customs and traditions.
REPORTER: The ride is a little tense as Liu's top aides rush to make the event in time. Liu offers them some traffic tips and then shifts gears to make his case for his campaign. As the first Asian American to be elected to the City Council, Liu thinks his personal story is a selling point.
LIU: Believe it or not I would be the first Asian American to hold a citywide office in any major city east of California.
REPORTER: Liu has used his position as chair of the council's Transportation Committee to raise his profile. At heated hearings with the MTA over transit fares and service cuts he has made a point of being thorough and on top of the numbers.
LIU: Before I was elected to the City Council I was a manager at a major financial firm where my professional background was in finance.
REPORTER: And he sees that the economic uncertainty makes the job of city comptroller that much more important. It's the comptroller's job to manage city pension fund investments and audit government agencies.
LIU: The anxiety levels are totally understandable. The New York City pension funds are down from close to a hundred twenty billion dollars at the high point to now about to eighty to eighty five billion dollars.
REPORTER: Liu has won the endorsement of the Working Families Party and District 37, the City's largest public employee union. He says his opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's and Council Speaker Christine Quinn's repeal of term limits has resonated with voters..
LIU: People continue to raise that as an issue that they are absolutely disgusted with what happened with the term limits extension and demand to know where I stood on the issue.
REPORTER: But his critics contend the clarity Liu displayed in fighting the term limits repeal was absent in his approach to controversial transit issues like congestion pricing and bridge tolls. Liu says his perspective on those issues had to evolve as the facts on the ground changed. (nat sound of Queens)
There is a collective sigh of relief as his staffer pulls into the parking lot at the South Asian cultural event. Liu darts out the car and bounds up the stairs in hopes of making an appearance WITH the incumbent Comptroller at his side. But it's not to be.
LIU:..Is it over?...
SOUTHEAST ASIAN ATENDEE: Yes
LIU: Is it finished? How are you?
SECOND SOUTHEAST ASIAN ATTENDEE: Good to see you.
LIU: Is it finished. Are they done upstairs?
SECOND SOUTHEAST ASIAN ATTENDEE: It is finished. We missed you.
LIU: Oh my goodness.
REPORTER: And with that, Liu and his staff dash off to the next event.
For WNYC, I am Bob Hennelly.