City Comptroller John Liu is wasting no time in his campaign to become the next mayor of New York, as he stopped by the Parliament Democratic club's monthly meeting in Fort Greene on March 27 to discuss his platform and answer questions.
Over the course of the evening, Liu touched upon the overarching points of his campaign, and there were many, including tax reform, education reform and actual economic development by way of Atlantic Yards.
Tax reform and pay increases for city employees
"I've put together a plan based on a huge amount of research and data my office has, a plan to change our income tax system so that that we get rid of this flat tax system," he said. "My plan would give the other 99 percent of us … a tax break, a reduction in the amount of taxes we pay to the City of New York."
Members of the club had many questions, including when and if city employees will ever see a raise.
"Come Jan. 1, there's going to be a real heart-to-heart discussion with all the unions, and the union leaders will have a heart-to-heart discussion with the members," Liu said. "And at the end of the day I have no doubt, based on my own track record, that we're going to come up with a good solution that will be good for our tax payers, and also fair to the city employees."
He said city employees will likely see retroactive pay increases. "I don't think it's going to be no," Liu said.
"I'm starting to figure out where the money is going to come from," he continued, noting that his office has discovered two city contractors, Hewlett Packard and Marriott Corporation, owe the city $163 million and $344 million respectively.
Education reform and supporting mayoral control
Liu also had much to say about education, specifically the benefits of a school system under mayoral control when there is actual accountability, something he said the current administration is lacking.
"It's not so much the mayoral control system, it's the way the mayor exercises it," he said. "If I had the control, you can rest assured I'd exercise it totally differently. Under my vision and my mayoral control, we would restore learning to every one of the schools. We would trust teachers to teach. We would trust principals to lead their schools. It's not about the bottom line; There's no bottom line in a school. And yet this administration treats every school as if they've got to improve their bottom line, meaning their test scores. You can only emphasize test scores so much before you start bastardizing the whole process and taking away the educational component from our schools. And that's exactly whats been done, and it's gotta change."
He also said he supports charter schools that come from a community-grown background, in that they have been developed by organizations that are engrained in the community they will serve.
"I think those community-grown charter schools have a place in our public school system," he said. "Then there are the corporate charter schools that are hell-bent on empire-building. They want to expand all over the city. What do we need all those for? They're just trying to create a new system, possibly privatize education, and you know the next step is? These consulting firms coming in and running charter schools and making a profit. Those charter schools, we don't need. We should get rid of every single one of them."
Though he didn't specify how to get rid of such charter schools, the club applauded his response.
But what might have garnered the strongest agreement from attendees was Liu's stance on the Atlantic Yards development.
"I've had serious issues with the whole Atlantic Yards development over the past 10 years," he said. "It was supposed to be about jobs and affordable housing, and 10 years later all we've got is a stadium and some popcorn vendors. That is not the economic development people were looking for. [Officials connected to the development] kept calling and I refused to take part in the ground-breaking; they kept calling and I never participated in the ribbon cutting; they keep calling and I'm not going to any games."
Though he hasn't looked favorably at the development thus far, Liu said he wants to see affordable housing come to the development, and he wants to see jobs tied to the development be given to Brooklyn residents. "Real jobs, not selling popcorn. No offense to people selling popcorn, I love popcorn. But that is not the economic development that was promised."