Democrat Brad Lander Wins New York City Comptroller Race in Landslide
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Council member Brad Lander, who won the endorsements of progressive Democrats and made the city’s post-pandemic recovery and climate change a focus of his campaign, easily won the race for city comptroller over his Republican opponent.
Lander, backed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic primary, won with 69.4% of the vote with 60.6% of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press, beating Daby Carreras, a financial adviser. He will become New York’s next financial watchdog, chief auditor and overseer of its $270 billion pension funds for 700,000 current and former employees and retirees.
Lander, who represents the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, will potentially serve as a progressive check on Eric Adams, the borough’s president who was elected mayor. Lander, 52, has said he has a “warm, personal relationship” with Adams and would be able to speak candidly with him. He said the two often agreed on issues like affordable housing, traffic problems and overhauling city contracting, but have differed on areas like public safety and criminal justice.
In an acceptance speech on Tuesday night, Lander promised to ensure that the city was “built for crisis.”
New York City’s most urgent challenge is ensuring that more than $15 billion in Covid recovery funds from the federal government help all neighborhoods, according to Lander. He has pledged to set up a tracking system within his first 100 days to identify what’s been spent and metrics to measure whether the spending is meeting its goals.
The city’s economic recovery from the pandemic has been much slower than the U.S. overall. New York has only recovered less than half of the 900,000 private sector jobs lost at the start of the pandemic with hotel, restaurant and retail employees hit the hardest.
“We’re still we’re still short 500,000 jobs, which is the most profound economic impact on New York City of any time since the 1930s,” said James Parrott, director of economic and fiscal policies at the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. “It’s really important for the comptroller to ensure that the mayor and city agencies effectively understand what the economic challenges are and appropriately budgeting to deal with that.”
New York City faces a $4.1 billion budget gap for the fiscal year beginning July 1, but that could grow to $5.4 billion, according to state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The biggest budget risk: Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t identified $1 billion in labor savings that will fund wage increases in the first two years of the next round of collective bargaining.
Labor contracts for three of the largest unions representing police officers, firefighters and civilians have expired, and the teachers’ contract expires next year. The outcome of the next round of bargaining will have a big impact on city finances.
Lander has vowed to focus on auditing the New York Police Department’s $5.4 billion budget to end wasteful spending and has said his first audit will be centered on the Department of Corrections, which has come under fire for its mismanagement of the prisons on Rikers Island.
Like his predecessor Scott Stringer, Lander said he will use the power of the city’s pension funds to exert influence over the environmental, social and governance practices of money managers and companies in which the city invests.
This month, three of the city’s five pensions -- New York City Employees’ Retirement System, New York City Teachers’ Retirement System and New York City Board of Education Retirement System -- pledged to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across its investment portfolios by 2040. The plans call for doubling investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other climate-related solutions to more than $8 billion by 2025. Pension funds for the city’s police officers and firefighters didn’t join the pledge.
The pensions for the city’s civil servants, teachers and principals have also voted to divest their fossil fuel assets. Under Lander, the funds will work with BlackRock Inc. on a plan to divest both stocks and bonds as well as private equity investments.
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