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Liu says he wants public’s help in identifying wasteful spending

City Comptroller John Liu delivers his State of the City address from City College in Manhattan. Photo by Marisol Diaz
TimesLedger Newspapers

City Comptroller John Liu unveiled a four-point plan to cut government waste and laid out proposals to get the city’s unemployed working again during his State of the City address last Thursday at City College.

Liu announced the creation of a hotline — 1-212-NO-WASTE — for the public to use to suggest wasteful spending.

He also said Checkbook 2.0, the newest version of a city website, will give the public a chance to see the budget for every city agency, along with their revenues, contracts and expenses.

The comptroller also said a system he called an “information technology dashboard” will help city agencies track information technology projects according to schedule, which he said would prevent the CityTime fiasco that cost the city millions of dollars.

Liu said his office would implement a new system that tracks government subcontracting based on a federal model.

“This will help the city enforce prompt payment policies,” the comptroller said, as well as monitor hiring goals for minority- and women-owned businesses.

On the economy, Liu said the city is forecast to have slow but steady growth, but warned “we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“As we go from recession to recovery, we need to make sure that people don’t get left behind,” Liu said.

He said there is a need for policies that fix unemployment disparity: In the last quarter of 2011, unemployment among Hispanics was running at 10 percent and 13.6 percent for blacks, but only 9 percent for the city overall.

Liu said the struggles of the financial industry led to lost economic momentum and pointed out that 5,000 jobs in the industry disappeared last year.

Federal government policies are also hurting the city’s financial condition, Liu said.

“There is risk to our economy from Washington’s actions, or lack thereof,” he said, referring to $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts that are set to kick in this year, “because some in Congress refuse to make the tough choices needed for deficit reduction.”

Uncertainty in Europe has depressed the stock market and has led to volatility, and Liu warned a meltdown of the Eurozone could lead to a worldwide recession.

There would also be consequences for the city, Liu said, pointing out that European banks have more than $1 trillion in assets in the city and employ 45,000 local residents.

“Their effects would ripple throughout New York City’s economy,” the comptroller said.

Liu said more needs to be done to lessen the economic divide.

He said 80 percent of the city’s income growth went to the wealthiest 5 percent of city residents.

“There’s no real prosperity when wealth is only shared by a tiny portion of the city’s residents,” Liu said.

On the city budget, Liu said the city accumulated an unused surplus to pay for spending plans during down financial times, which created a final cushion for the economic downturn.

But he said using the surpluses of prior years “has masked the budget’s structural imbalance” because the city is spending more than it takes in.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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