What Bill Thompson Plans for the City’s Budget
by Anthony Stasi
Dec 26, 2012 | 17913 views | 1 1 comments | 496 496 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We do not know what the economic climate is going to look like in the next few years for the city. It’s a safe bet, however, that New York will fare better than most places in the country.

How to manage the city’s budget and plan for the future will become a big issue leading up to November. In a conversation with former Comptroller Bill Thompson, the idea of “one shots” came up.

Thompson does not like the quick, stop-gap measures to budgeting that he feels the current mayor utilizes too often. One shots are the small measures, like water bill increases and fees, that Thompson feels are backdoor taxes. “Those are not sustainable solutions,” says Thompson. “I would like to see an honest accounting.”

No candidate has sworn off raising taxes. Some have embraced the idea, like Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who wants to hike taxes on the wealthy to fund preschools. Thompson says taxes are a last resort, and stressed that he wants to tackle the budget with his team to first rectify any waste in the city.

Another issue for the next mayor is how he or she deals with Governor Andrew Cuomo. The city needs cooperation from Albany. This is not to say that Cuomo is not up for helping the city, but it would help if the new mayor has a working relationship with the governor.

Thompson has been one of three chairs to Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign and he is chair of Cuomo’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Team. There are no guarantees when it comes to budgeting, and all mayors go head-to-head with the state at some point.

Of the announced candidates in the race on both sides, Thompson, George McDonald, and Tom Allon are likely to be the most private-sector savvy. Nobody could deny businessman John Catsimatidis his accomplishments if he jumps into this race, but right now these three have the most private sector experience.

Understanding the private sector and how markets work will be essential to running the city in the next ten years. Machine politicians cannot manage the city any longer. The solutions to budgeting, education, and other city problems need some innovation from outside government, as well as inside.

The (New?) Primary Season

The possibility of moving the 2013 election primary is going to affect the mayoral race in November. Moving the primary will have some effect on all races, but the mayoral race is almost certain to be affected.

If the primaries are held in June, instead of the usual September, it would give candidates less time to raise money, meaning it could benefit already well-financed candidates. At this point, none of the candidates has spoken out against the potential move, probably because nobody wants to look as though they are worried.

The arguments for moving the primaries are not great. Bronx Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco says that having the primaries in the middle of a school year is a distraction for students and voters alike. That may be true, but wouldn’t the general election in November be a distraction to them anyway?

Enough politicians have expressed interest in moving the date to suggest that the idea has some merit. Maybe it would save the city money. The problem is that primaries are already so invisible that only the extreme voters make sure to get to the polls.

By moving the primary, we risk losing some voters due to simple confusion. Let us also take into account the fact that some people leave the city in the summer.

Another factor in moving the primary is that there are things happening in June, such as the city budget negotiations. When the budget is in play, politicians are vulnerable. By having the primary in September, there is less of a risk of arm-twisting.

In the end, if the city moves the primary to June, it moves for everyone. It eliminates the possibility of a candidate working hard all summer to garner votes. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn gets the biggest advantage to the primary being moved, since the budget process is in June. As for the other candidates, it is far better for the primary to happen in September.

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J.C. Polanco
January 15, 2013
Anthony, I hope all is well. The General Election in November is a day off for students keeping strangers away from our kids in the school day. This is not the case for September primaries.