The veteran official also plots a cautious path on fossil-fuel divestment and says he’s opposed to reducing NYPD headcount.
For more than a decade he has held the same Assembly seat his father—once the Speaker of that body—and brother had occupied for a combined 38 years. He went to Albany after two terms in the New York City Council, where his brother briefly represented* the same district. He ran unsuccessfully for city comptroller in 2009. As he mounts a second attempt at the city’s No. 3 post, David Weprin cannot exactly claim to be riding the winds of change.
In fact, he’s owning the opposite.
“I’m the right man for the right time at this point,” Weprin told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday. “Because we’re all going to be in a real fiscal crisis for a number of years. [W]e are anticipating a $4 billion budget deficit in the city and sometimes for a position like that, in a tough time, experience matters, and boring may not be sexy, but it’s certainly relevant, for being comptroller, during a very tough fiscal time, probably the worst fiscal time in the history of the City of New York.”
Weprin is certainly not the only familiar face in the comptroller race. Kevin Parker has been in the state Senate since 2003. Brad Lander is in his 12th year on the City Council. Only Brian Benjamin, first elected to the state Senate in 2016, can claim to be a relative newcomer. Still, only Weprin can talk about what it was like to be overseeing public budgets through both the post-September 11 recession and the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The job of comptroller offers a mix of low-profile, high impact power, and candidates emphasize different aspects of the job—some focus on proposing policy, others on the investment duties. Weprin is placing his focus on the comptroller’s role in reviewing city contracts and auditing agencies
“The city of New York has 6,407, contracts. … The total contracting budget about $17 billion. I think through the audit function, those contracts should be audited on a regular basis,” he said. “Under the city charter, you only have to audit every city agency once every four years. I don’t think that’s enough. I think we should be looking at auditing every year if possible, but certainly every other year.”
“Certainly we should try to maximize a workforce and not contracting out if we can do it internally, but clearly, you know, I think there could be a lot of savings in the budget, by looking carefully at those contracts,” Weprin said. “You know, over the years, many scandals have come out of the contracting budget.”
With Weprin’s experience comes a more centrist ideology than any of the other major candidates in the race. He’s still seems skeptical of congestion pricing, which he opposed when he was on the Council and Mayor Bloomberg pitched it. He says he wouldn’t try to sell trustees at the pension funds that haven’t embraced fossil-fuel divestment on embracing it: “I figure it’s up to the trustees. I would obviously, you know, discuss it with them but, it’s ultimately their members’ money and I think they should be a part of that decision-making.” And he’s not a “defund the police” guy:
I’m against, significantly, reducing police headcount because I think we’ve already seen a spike in gun violence, particularly in many minority neighborhoods, throughout the five boroughs. And, you know, I think by reducing the police headcount, that has contributed to some of the increase in crime. And, that also has a financial effect on the economy, on the real estate market, on businesses.
So, I don’t think reducing the police headcount is the answer, but there’s no question that we should have more emphasis on, police sensitivity training and dealing with mentally ill people. A lot of these shootings that have taken place over the years have involved, you know, individuals with mental illness and there’s gotta be a better way to handle that. But, I don’t think significantly reducing police headcount is the answer and I think that could lead to an issue with public safety.
Hear the conversation with Weprin below, or listen to the full show, which includes an interview with Benjamin:
Assemblyman David Weprin, Democrat for City Comptroller
Max & Murphy Full Show of January 27, 2021
- Correction: The initial version of this story erroneously indicated that David’s brother, Mark Weprin, was still on the Council. He left office in 2015.