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by Michael Hirsch | October 28, 2010 New York Teacher issue
In the statewide race for comptroller, the UFT is making a big push for Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli. “As comptroller,” union President Michael Mulgrew said, “Tom DiNapoli is a strong defender of defined-benefit retirement plans, an opponent of efforts to privatize such plans, and an excellent steward of the state’s finances. He also doesn’t — and won’t — blame public employees and retirees for the state’s insolvency.”
In contrast, his GOP opponent, billionaire financier Harry Wilson, is viewed as a stand-in for Wall Street interests, and someone who advocates slashing state spending, programs and regulations to deal with what is expected to be another multi-billion-dollar budget gap next year. Despite the state’s precarious finances, he is campaigning on a platform of substantially reducing taxes.
DiNapoli calls Wilson “Hedge Fund Harry” because of his association with Goldman Sachs and his partnership at hedge fund Silver Point Capital, where he specialized in acquiring and restructuring distressed companies. The GOP and Conservative Party’s candidate was also the muscle behind auto industry efforts to force the United Auto Workers to make painful concessions on wages, working conditions and benefits. His help to failing U.S. automakers came through forcing retirees to accept diminished health benefits, or as one Crain’s New York Business admirer of Wilson’s called it “reduc(ing) the company’s crippling obligations to union retirees.”
In the run-up to Nov. 2, union volunteers are calling every UFT member urging a vote for DiNapoli, as well as contacting tens of thousands of the state’s 2.5 million AFL-CIO members. UFTers are also distributing literature for DiNapoli and other endorsed candidates at transportation hubs citywide as well as outside schools before and after school hours.
The state comptroller’s two main functions are auditing spending practices of government institutions across the state and serving as guardian of the pension plans of some 1 million state, county and municipal workers and retirees.
“Public employees need a comptroller who uses sound and caring judgment in making fiscal decisions, and not someone whose first instinct is to slash and burn,” Mulgrew said.
The UFT choice is the child of Italian immigrants. Elected at 18 to the Mineola Board of Education and a member of the Communications Workers of America after college, DiNapoli represented his Nassau County district in the Assembly for 22 years before moving up to the state comptroller’s post in 2007.
Other key races
The upcoming elections on Nov. 2 are critical for educators and working people in New York City.
UFTers are all too familiar with the rash of nasty teacher bashing that has taken place over the last month. Election Day is a chance to make sure that UFTers stand behind those candidates who support them.
Besides the McMahon and DiNapoli races highlighted elsewhere on these pages, the UFT is making especially big pushes for two candidates in hotly contested and important races: Tony Avella in his run for State Senate in Queens against incumbent Republican Frank Padavan and Eric Schneiderman in his bid for state attorney general.