Without a doubt, Comptroller John Liu knows how to bring pomp and circumstance to his speeches.
Mr. Liu, a likely mayoral candidate next year, appeared to do everything he could to best the pageantry of his last “State of the City” speech–which he gave just ten months ago–where traditional Chinese lion dancers and gospel singers performed before he discussed the city’s financial outlook. This time, Mr. Liu’s pre-speech entertainment included a phalanx of elementary school children singing and dancing to tracks from American Idol season 11 winner Phillip Phillips and High School Musical. But the party didn’t stop there.
After the children left the stage, an unexplained troop of interpretive dancers entertained the crowd, followed by a trio of virtuoso violinists, a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and high praise from Reverend Miller of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
“This morning, I have the honor of introducing our city’s comptroller, who, since he was elected 3 years ago, has provided consistent examples of what true and authentic leadership is all about,” Mr. Miller extolled. “Americas’s 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy…said that if a free society cannot help the many who are poor. It cannot save the few who are rich. As comptroller, John Liu has asked the right questions, holding City Hall and city government accountable to New York City taxpayers. But in addition to making every single effort to drive New York City to more sound fiscal policy, John Liu has done what authentic leadership is all about and what authentic leadership requires.”
For his part, Mr. Liu’s address emphasized this help-the-poor message, prominently referring to the “working poor” as he called them when discussing his proposals for a minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $11.50, the elimination of the city’s subsidies for larger corporations in favor of small businesses and free City University of New York tuition for high-performing public school students.
Mr. Liu also made room for a couple zingers amid the substance of the speech.
“You guys are awesome,” he began. “Thank you Reverend Miller for that generous introduction. I guess it was appropriate you quoted JFK. My dad named me after JFK, John, you know. If you don’t believe me, ask my brothers, Robert and Edward.”
Mr. Liu also gave shout-outs to likely his mayoral rivals, including props to Council Speaker Christine Quinn for her attention to the public school system and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for his push to lower small business fines. Although the fourth Democratic candidate in the race, former Comptroller Bill Thompson, went unmentioned, Mr. Liu did address a Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s reported attempt to lure Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into the race.
“I’m a big fan of Hillary’s,” he quipped. “It would be so exciting if she ran for mayor of New York City!”
When he finished, Mr. Liu exited the stage to the same song that heralded his arrival, Alicia Keyes’ “Empire State of Mind.”