A late entry into the contest to be New York City’s next comptroller, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday night his main priority, if elected comptroller, would be to account for the billions of stimulus dollars being given to the city by the federal government and monitoring how the city is spending it through the creation a “COVID relief tracker.”
"One of the most important things that the next comptroller needs to do is account for the stimulus money that's coming in,” Johnson told political anchor Errol Louis on Inside City Hall. “We’re getting $5.9 billion in direct, unrestricted aid. We’re getting billions of dollars of more money for education, public health, FEMA reimbursement, higher ed. And I propose creating a COVID relief tracker, tracking how all that money’s being spent, just like we should have done after Hurricane Sandy.”
He added that, if Congress were to pass an infrastructure bill over the summer, he would install a similar system to track how the city spent that money as well.
Johnson also said he would move to audit four city agencies every year, rather than auditing them every four years, as the comptroller is currently required to do.
“There are four very large agencies that I would want to audit on an annual basis,” Johnson said. “I would audit the Department of Education, the Department of Homeless Services, the NYPD and the Department for Housing Preservation and Development annually,” Johnson said.
The Council speaker said grappling with the city’s homelessness crisis is particularly important.
“We are failing, as it relates to homelessness in New York City, and we need to look at the outside contracts,” Johnson said. “We need to look at who these providers are, are they providing services as they should be.”
As to why he decided not to run for mayor and instead jump into the comptroller race, Johnson spoke candidly, acknowledging his personal struggles last year.
“No question what I said last fall was true. I was struggling last year. I got the help that I needed, and it wasn’t the right choice for me to run for mayor,” he said. “But I feel confident that this is what I can do to be of service to the city. I got into public service because I wanted to help people and make a difference in people’s lives. And I believe that at this pivotal movement in New York City right now, recovering, coming out of this pandemic, that the comptroller’s office is probably the most important job that no one’s really paying attention to right now.”
Johnson added that the parts he enjoys most about being City Council speaker are “the budget, municipal finance part, and the oversight part, and that is a big part of being comptroller.”