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Thompson visits NE Queens Multicultural Democratic Club

Bill Thompson (l.) speaks with Sandy Contreras (r.) about education reform as state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (c.) looks on. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

As city Comptroller John Liu’s political future hangs in limbo amid a fund-raising scandal surrounding his 2013 mayoral campaign, Bill Thompson met with the Northeast Queens Multicultural Democratic Club in Flushing Sunday to discuss his campaign for the mayoral election.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), a member of the club who was not acting in any official capacity, said Thompson was supposed to attend the group’s meeting last month, and that his visit had been planned quite some time ago.

Liu, who represented Flushing in the City Council, was viewed as a strong Democratic contender for mayor before questions were raised about some donors to his current campaign. Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) is another potential contender.

“We welcome all candidates for any office,” Meng said.

When it came to politics, Thompson cited his “active and aggressive” approach to the Flushing community during his two successful campaigns for city comptroller and his 2009 campaign for mayor.

“It’s important that candidates reach out to the community,” he told a group of reporters, and said he enjoys visiting Flushing for its restaurants, shops and bubble teas.

When it came to politicians, he avoided pointing the finger at either Liu — “He should have the opportunity to set the record straight” — or members of the Council who may be perceived to be in the mayor’s pocket — “There are a lot of very good, hardworking members of the City Council, and I’m going to leave it at that.”

He did, however, have some harsh words of criticism for the man he hopes to replace.

“It was disgraceful,” he said of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to challenge the law prohibiting a third term, requesting the Council to vote on a term-limits extension rather than putting the vote to a public referendum.

“Let me be blunt about that. I thought it was morally wrong,” Thompson said. “We change presidents in the middle of wars. We definitely change mayors in the middle of this crisis.”

As for the current crisis, the former comptroller said issues such as economic disparity, affordable housing and education needed to be addressed in all five boroughs.

“I firmly believe right now that we’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.

He told the two dozen or so club members in attendance he would make education a top priority. Bringing arts back into the schools and focusing on a more full measure of students would be included in his agenda.

“I used to play the viola while I was in school. I may not have been that great, but it taught me a lot,” he joked.

The success of small businesses was another concern he said he would focus on.

“Flushing is a business of small businesses,” Thompson told reporters. “New York City treats small businesses like they’re there to generate revenue. I want the small business of today to be the mid-size business of tomorrow.”

Despite his penchant for firing off sound bites, Thompson promised the group his campaign would not be reduced to a platitudinous maxim.

“Trust me, by the time we get to the campaign, I’m sure there will be a slogan, but I’m not going to run on a slogan,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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