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City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) says she is the no-nonsense candidate for city comptroller, and when asked what separates her from the other candidates in the four-way Democratic primary, that attitude comes through.
“This is not a position where press conferences and rallies are going to cut it to be effective,” Katz said in an interview with TimesLedger Newspapers in her home community of Forest Hills. “This is an economic climate that’s going to require someone with the right financial background and a real plan on how to move this city forward.”
Katz is one of four Democratic candidates — the others being Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing), David Weprin (D-Hollis) and David Yassky (D-Brooklyn) — running to succeed Comptroller Bill Thompson.
Katz said that being the city’s top financial officer not only requires the steady hand of someone with a firm financial background, but the gusto to push for and effectuate positive change in city policy — both qualities she says she has.
A former mergers and acquisitions attorney, Katz has been an elected official in Queens since she was 28. She was elected to the state Assembly in 1994, where she served until she was elected to the Council in 2001.
Since then, Katz has served as the Council Land Use Committee chairwoman, a position she said has allowed her to familiarize herself with issues affecting city residents in all five boroughs.
“For me, the other boroughs are home,” she said.
She said as comptroller, work would begin on day one with an expansive asset management study that would assess the efficiency of all of the city’s agencies. Katz said she would use the results of the study to order audits of agencies she felt were under-serving the people of New York for too high a price.
“What you have to understand is when you have the power of the audit, you also have the power to set policy,” she said. “That’s not something you can take lightly.”
Katz also suggested the other candidates in the comptroller race look at the task of investing the city’s multibillion-dollar pension fund in a manner that is cut-and-dry. She said she would not only look to invest in companies that could provide solid returns, but also those that could create job opportunities within the city’s borders.
“Of course you need to figure out how you can get a better return, but you also have to look at what other value you can squeeze out of your investment,” she said. “There are different types of value than just what shows up on the balance sheet.”
Katz also said she will advocate for transparency in how the City Council doles out member items, but stopped short of saying competitive bidding among community groups for the controversial funding is the answer — as some of her opponents have suggested.
“There should be a very clear way of doing things and a very clear way of finding out what’s happening with taxpayer money, and right now there isn’t,” she said. “But my parents founded the Queens Symphony. There’s no way that they would be able to compete with a group like the New York Philharmonic for funding.”
For more information on Katz’s comptroller platform, visit melindakatzforny.com.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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