The comptroller of the city of New York got a warm welcome from Brooklyn Democrats, when he spoke before a local political organization.
William C. Thompson, Jr. clearly pleased the standing-room-only crowd at the 41st Assembly District Democratic Club, both with the positions he took and with his intention to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who cleared the way for himself to run for a third term in office by pushing through an extension of term limits last year.
No one could say that Thompson was coy about his intentions. “I’m running to be the next mayor,” he told the group. “I’m not thinking about it. I’m not debating it. I’m running.”
Addressing the group gathered at the club’s headquarters at Avenue R and Haring Street, Thompson went over his achievements during his tenure as comptroller, and made it clear that he disagreed with the mayor’s approach on many issues.
Among these is the proposal to put tolls on the East River bridges to help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bridge its budget gap. “The mayor and the governor said it was a good idea,” Thompson noted. “It’s a bad idea because the people who are penalized are the people to have to take the bridges to get to work.”
How then would Thompson eliminate the MTA’s budget deficit? He has proposed an increase in vehicle registration fees, based on the weight of the vehicle, to be imposed “not just on those of us in New York City,” but on residents of “the 12 counties covered by the MTA, so we all share in the pain.”
Thompson also said he had opposed Bloomberg’s efforts to withhold the $400 property tax rebate checks. “People needed those rebate checks,” he stressed. “They may not mean a lot to some, but for those who have to worry how to pay for the holiday or for fuel or the increase in property taxes, the rebate was important.”
In addition, Thompson applauded the fact that Bloomberg had dropped the idea of consolidating senior centers and Meals on Wheels programs, to homogenize them, after a firestorm of protest erupted. However, he warned, should Bloomberg win a third term, “They are going to bring it back right after the election. Frozen meals delivered twice a week, that’s what they’re going to.”
In the arena of education, too, Thompson differentiated himself from Bloomberg. While agreeing with the mayor about keeping mayoral control over the school system, Thompson said he would like to see the Department of Education move in a different direction. “We need to go back where teachers can teach. Teachers are so regimented in what they teach. They are teaching to the test, these days. I still support mayoral control, but this is mayoral control at its worst.” While students show improvements on New York State tests, he added, those tests have been “dumbed down. Our students can’t compete on a global basis. I think the gain has been minimal, and it should not be that way under mayoral control.”
Thompson also asked his listeners not to write him off just because, should he get the Democratic nomination, he would likely be going against the incumbent mayor, a billionaire who had lavishly self-financed his last two campaigns. “Many people were surprised by Barack Obama becoming president,” Thompson pointed out. “I believe I can surprise people by becoming mayor in November.”
Should he win the mayoralty, Thompson added, it would represent a shift in New York City’s priorities. “For the last seven years as comptroller, I’ve had the best time standing up everyday, fighting for the people of the city, understanding it isn’t about the rich, it’s about all of us,” Thompson stressed. “I believe I’ll bring the same focus to the position of mayor, the same understanding that New York City isn’t about a few billionaires working out side deals, it’s about the rest of us.”
Thompson, a Brooklynite, has had several distinguished posts prior to becoming city comptroller. He was deputy borough president for 10 years, under former Borough President Howard Golden. He was also a member of the now-defunct Board of Education for seven years, serving as its president for five years.
©2009 Community News Group
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