Comptroller candidates court Barack backers

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One year after organizing hundreds of phone banking and fundraising events to elect Barack Obama President of the United States, Brooklyn For Barack members have turned their attention to raising awareness about citywide races such as the Democratic primary for Comptroller.

On August 20, over 60 Brooklyn for Barack enthusiasts gathered for a comptroller candidates’ forum at Union Temple (17 Eastern Parkway in Park Slope), to learn more about the candidates for the city’s number two office.

Candidates David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights), John Liu (D-Flushing), and David Weprin (D-Douglaston), all councilmembers, attended the forum, answering a range of questions from dedicated Brooklyn Obama supporters about the city’s financial health and future, education, and the MTA.Queens Councilmember and Comptroller candidate Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) did not attend.

“I’m not running for Public Advocate or Mayor, I’m running for Comptroller. That is the place where, as a banking regulator, investment banker and Council finance chair, I have the most experience to bring to the office. I will be an independent fiscal watchdog,” said Weprin.

During the forum, Yassky appealed to the crowd’s reform-minded spirits, while Weprin emphasized his experience and banking knowledge, and Liu tackled specific policies raised in the questions he was given.

“New York City is in a tight spot right now but I’ve very optimistic about our future,” said Liu.“I want to make sure we are completely focused on creating more jobs in our city.That is the real long-tern focus for getting our city back on track.”

The performance of the city’s pension funds was another significant issue that hovered over the debate.Candidates reacted to a recent New York Times article that compared the city’s funds with its peers while the number of money managers the city has used as tripled.

Liu was suspicious of the article’s timing, just as new polls showed current City Comptroller William Thompson gaining on Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the race for mayor.

“We need to move away from the risky, aggressive and esoteric investments that a larger percentage of investment funds have been directed that have not yielded advanced rates of return,” said Liu.“I would reduce the number of fund managers that need to be employed and move toward a more traditional portfolio with a lower expense ratio.”

Weprin remarked that it was unfair to blame Thompson for the performance of the pension funds, since Mayor Bloomberg appoints the members who sit on the city’s pension boards.

“The problem is it’s not easy to move from asset allocation,” said Weprin.“I was shocked to find out the fund is only re-evaluated every three years.I would think it should be re-evaluated every three months.”

Though the room at times was filled with John Liu supporters, wearing sky-blue “Liu for Comptroller” t-shirts, many Brooklyn for Barack members were split in their support among the candidates who attended.

“David Yassky was impassioned and excited to be at a Brooklyn for Barack event and John Liu was his standard, impressive self,” said Brooklyn resident Lincoln Restler, who was choosing between the two candidates.

Geoff Davis, a former Council candidate and Brooklyn resident, said he was supporting Weprin because of his experience in the banking industry.

“This is a very important position.It isn’t just a position where you run for Congress and run for Comptroller,” said Davis. “It’s important to have someone with experience in finance.We’re dealing with pension funds and banking.”

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