PHOTO BY JESSICA LYONS
Although an August 13 visit to North Shore Towers marked his first one aa New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli was not only already familiar with the co-op, but had some very personal connections to it.
DiNapoli, a resident of Great Neck, spent about 20 years working in Albany with NST Board member and Political Action Committee Chair Murray Lewinter, with the two taking the train together at times. On top of that, DiNapoli was an eighth grade student at Mineola Middle School when Towers Board President Bob Ricken was the school’s principal. Later DiNapoli was Ricken’s boss when Ricken was elected superintendent and DiNapoli was the president of the school board.
“It’s an honor for me to help Murray with this introduction because not only was he my former student, he was my former boss, my life-long friend and as a politician I think he made politics his calling,” Ricken said. “This is a guy as pure as they come and I hope one day to introduce him as the Governor of New York State.”
As DiNapoli began to talk about the function of the state comptroller’s office, he said that the state is “being affected very dramatically by the economic downturn.” He said that his office comments on the state’s finances, fiscal practices and state budget.
DiNapoli explained that another problem facing the state is that its spending has been more than the amount of money it has been taking in. He said that at the beginning of 2008 the budget gap was $5 billion, adding that within three years it could exceed $26 billion. Meetings are now being held to determine how to close that budget gap.
“It’s a serious challenge but I’m an optimist,” DiNapoli said. “We’re going to get through this time.”
Another effort being made by DiNapoli’s office is to promote financial literacy in New York and give information on how people can deal with their own budgets during tough economic times.
Other functions that DiNapoli detailed are running the state retirement system, conducting audits of state agencies, and acting as the custodian for abandoned property in the state. He said there is currently $9 billion of unclaimed funds that they want to get back to New Yorkers.
DiNapoli also took questions from residents. The lack of Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) legislation to provide needed funding was raised. DiNapoli said that although such funding can assist worthy projects, there has also been debate on how it can be reformed and improved. He said that his office did a support that suggested more accountability. Although he said there will be direct discussion, DiNapoli said that he didn’t “know what it’s going to take to force a compromise.”
Presidential candidate Barack Obama was also brought up when a resident raised concerns that people still believe he is Muslim with Muslim ties and what will happen with New York State’s electoral votes. Although he is a supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton, DiNapoli said that as he looks at Obama’s record be becomes “more comfortable with him and his positions.
“I’m very comfortable in supporting Senator Obama and more importantly I really think this country needs a significant change,” DiNapoli said.
Other issues that were discussed included the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and problems with credit cards.
State Comptroller Speaks At North Shore Towers
PHOTO BY JESSICA LYONS