NYC comptroller Stringer, challenger Faulkner mix it up in debate
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer defended his progressive advocacy and pension fund management over four years during Tuesday night's debate with challenger Michel Faulkner, who accused him of not pushing back on Mayor Bill de Blasio's spending.
"I'm very proud of the job we have done," said Stringer, a Democrat.
Calling pension-fund management the most important part of the job, Stringer cited the 7.4% gains in the five city pension funds over four years, the creation of a common investment board and advocating board diversity among fund managers. The funds were valued at $186 billion as of July.
He also pointed to $2.7 billion of debt saved through bond refinancings and $1 billion saved by weeding out fraud and waste.
The comptroller is the city's chief fiscal officer, and conducts audits while overseeing the $85 billion operating budget.
"The comptroller needs to push back against runaway spending and Scott Stringer has not been tough enough," said Republican Faulkner, founder and minister of the New Horizon Church in Harlem and a former New York Jets football player.
"We need a comptroller who will do more, not just do the reports," said Faulkner. "The problem is that Scott has not been the active fiscal watchdog we thought he was going to be. I will do more than 'gotcha' and see that these agencies will be managed properly.
The debate, at the City University of New York Graduate Center, was before a quiet, subdued audience, in sharp contrast to the Jerry Springer-style hollering in last week's mayoral debate among de Blasio and challengers Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl.
Stringer is a heavy favorite for re-election in the Nov. 7 election. According to the Oct. 5 Quinnipiac University poll, 59% of likely voters approved of his performance while 14% disapproved and 27% didn't know or had no opinion.
Stringer and de Blasio, sometimes at odds over the past four years, have endorsed each other's re-election bids. Stringer praised de Blasio's budget management and progressive initiatives including affordable housing and pre-kindergarten, but added: "When I get pushback from City Hall, that means I'm doing my job. Sometimes I have to hold friends accountable."
Faulkner favors tax cuts as a means of reducing a "balance of payment" deficit, saying the city is paying a lot more to Washington than it is taking in. He also favors some form of privatization of New York City Housing Authority facilities, adding that tenants who have lived there many years have built "sweat equity."
Stringer accused President Trump of eliminating the safety net for NYCHA residents through federal cuts, while Faulkner said NYCHA's $17 billion backlog on capital projects predates Trump's 2016 election.
The two disagreed on de Blasio's $10 billion, 10-year plan to close Rikers Island prison in the Bronx and established community-based facilities.
"I oppose the plan," said Faulkner. "Ten years in my opinion is too long, We need to improve this now."
Stringer favors immediate steps to close Rikers. "First of all, shut this place down, Let's do it in three years," he said. "This place is inhumane."
Faulkner opposes de Blasio's proposal for a north-south streetcar line connecting Brooklyn and Queens. Said Stringer: We have a long way to go on this project."
In 2013, Stringer, then Manhattan borough president and before that, a state assemblyman from the Upper West Side, won the general election going away with 81.6% of the vote. Republican John Burnett won 14.4%.