John Liu Gives His Last Hurrah

John Liu delivering his final State of the City address as comptroller. (Photo: Comptroller's Office_

John Liu delivering his final State of the City address as comptroller. (Photo: Paul Brumlik/Comptroller’s Office)

City Comptroller John Liu gave his final “State of the City” address today, taking a final dig at outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and bidding farewell to a room full of loyal supporters after a failed bid for mayor.

Speaking in front of a row of city flags at the old Emigrant Savings Bank around the corner from City Hall, Mr. Liu–giving his third such speech since the beginning of 2012–offered a heartfelt thank you to a room of faces who surrounded him frequently on the campaign trail.

“This is my final State of the City speech and I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve. Becoming comptroller of this great city and being able to run for was beyond anything that I thought I’d be able to do in my lifetime,” he told the group after touting his accomplishments in the office, including saving the city $5 billion over his tenure through efforts like refinancing the city’s debt and scrutinizing spending on outside consultants, including the ones that perpetrated the infamous CityTime scandal.

He went on to warn of the fiscal challenges looming ahead. While his office projects tax revenues will far exceed the mayor’s office’s projections, he said there are a number of ticking time bombs on the horizon, including expired contracts with all of city labor unions, which are gunning for steep retroactive pay raises that many believe the city can’t afford.

“While my office does forecast some additional revenues, we also point out the mayor’s last financial plan is fraught with risks which, if realized, could blow a hole in this so-called balanced budget,” said Mr. Liu.

Another major fiscal challenge, he argued, is growing income inequality: “Aside from the moral issues, dependence on such a small group of wealthy taxpayers means that New York City is increasingly at the mercy of the volatility of that wealth. And any economist will tell you that this wealth is not a stable source of revenues,” he said.

Mr. Liu’s bid for mayor, which aimed to capture the city’s growing immigrant communities, was foiled by a federal investigation into his campaign’s fund-raising, resulting in guilty verdicts against his former campaign treasurer and a top fund-raiser. The charges also led the city’s campaign finance board to strip him of millions in matching funds–fatally injuring his campaign.

But while Mr. Liu may have placed a distant fourth in the mayor’s race, you’d never know from his public schedule. While the crop of other failed candidates have largely shunned the spotlight, Mr. Liu has kept up his famous Energizer Bunny-like pace, making dozens of campaign-style stops each week, leading to speculation that he intends to run again.

“As I travel New York City everyday–and many have said that nobody puts on more miles on the road than I do–I get asked about what I’m going to do next. I haven’t yet decided, but I will be sure to let you know,” he told the group, leaving the door open to another run.

After the speech, Mr. Liu told Politicker the only decisions he’s made so far involved a family vacation with his wife and son, Joey, which he is eagerly awaiting.

“I feel great. I’ve got two more weeks and then I’m free,” he said with a smile. “We’re out of here for a little bit. We’re going to California, spend some time with my brothers there.”

As for his next steps, he hinted he had several offers on the table–but refused to elaborate. “I haven’t decided which job to take yet, but I think my wife’s going to weigh in heavily on that,’ he said.

He added, “No matter what, I’m going to be very much involved in what’s happening in this great city of ours. You don’t have to be in elective office to provide public service to the community. I did that for many years as a volunteer community activist before I was elected to anything. And now next year, I will not be in elected office, but I’m certainly going to be very much involved.”