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April 30th, 2008

SOHO JOURNAL POLITICAL PROFILES: WILLIAM C. THOMPSON JR. & ERIC GIOIA

by D. Clark MacPherson

William C. Thompson Jr.

The rumors about Bill Thompson‘s interest in running for Mayor in 2009 were certainly not denied, but when we spoke he was more interested in talking about his current job. And what he is particularly proud of is his role in helping the City’s disadvantaged through improvement of health care and education. Through the powers of his office, he has conducted audits of several City agencies (including the Department of Education and the Human Resource Administration) in order to uncover waste, mismanagement and fraud. He has also helped to save programs such as Meals-on-Wheels for the elderly and protected the City’s recycling program through the efforts of the Comptroller’s Office.

Among the issues that he has championed in disadvantaged communities are health care, housing and banking. He has also addressed the problems facing non-English speaking New Yorkers who have had difficulty utilizing the health care system. As a result of his Community Action Center, Bill Thompson has also assisted nearly 50,000 people in New York City who have had problems with pensions, City services, housing and health care.

With the power of $100 billion in City Pension funds, Thompson’s office has also been a major force in investments affecting affordable housing.

Bill Thompson is the son of a teacher and a judge; as a life-long resident of Brooklyn, he is committed to New York City.

He was elected in 2001 and reelected in 2005 and continues to serve as the City Comptroller.

Those who appreciate Thompson’s warm, friendly manner are also cognizant of his firm, focused professionalism. While he will extend his hand in friendship readily, he is clear about the fact that he does not hesitate to use the enormous powers of his office. He investigates and prosecutes those who would waste money and deprive the less fortunate citizens of the services they deserve.

Eric Gioia

The meeting with Councilmember Eric Gioia did not really go as expected. As the Chair of the City Council Committee on Investigations, we expected him to be a variation on Eliot Ness. Instead of a tough guy, Eric is a personable family man who clearly is concerned with issues in the City Council and those of his constituents in Queens.

His work at the White House under Clinton and the law firm of Milbank and Tweed has prepared him for both negotiations as well as hard-nosed activism. One of his successes in protecting poor families, in fact, was not because of an investigation but came as a result of his personal efforts on behalf of a food stamps program. The press reported on his hunger strike and the program was restored.

While he clearly has the power to change things through his committee, he has consistently demonstrated his own energy and creativity in approaching difficult problems facing our city.

Among those diverse groups he has focused on helping are the homeless with AIDS, victims of sexual assault, public school children, the New York City Police (who were victims of defective bulletproof vests) and especially victims of hunger in our City. He has earned results through persistent and innovative personal approaches that sometimes step outside of the box. He’s a thinking politician.

Gioia has not announced his plan to run for Public Advocate next year but the rumors persist and they have not been denied. Up to this point in time, few Public Advocates have effectively accomplished very much.While it is an office which ranks second only to the Mayor, it is an office of virtual unknowns. Once elected, it seems, few ever hear from the Public Advocate again.

Eric plans on changing that if he is elected.

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