NEW YORK – To paraphrase Tolstoy, all immigrant families are alike. John Liu, the former NYC Comptroller and current candidate for New York State Senate, has been visiting and working with the Greek-American community and its leaders for a long time.
The language he hears is different from what he heard in Taiwan and after his family immigrated to Queens when he was 5 years old, but the issues, values and dreams are the same.
When he visited TNH’s offices with New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, she said “I can’t count how many community events you have attended.” When she endorsed Liu, she said “I have known John for over 14 years, and during that entire time, he has stood next to me in our fight for issues important to the Greek and Cypriot American communities.”
Liu knows Greeks because they are his neighbors. “People are proud and protective of their community” he said about places like Whitestone and Bayside in Northeast Queens, where he and his wife have owned a house for 21 years. His son started high school this week.
Liu is in a high stakes race with incumbent Tony Avila in the September 9 primary. Avila is one of five democrats led by Jeffrey Klein who broke away and deprived their party of control of the State Senate. “We should have passed a democrat agenda already,” Liu said.
By returning to his local roots after citywide office, Liu says he brings a lot to the table compared with his opponent.
“I bring a wealth of economic and fiscal expertise, knowing the state and city budget and knowing how to look at things so as to maximize the benefits for the people I represent.”
And legislative experience from eight years in the City Council. “I passed a significant number of new laws that improved people’s lives and I have a track record of bringing dollars back to the area I represent.”
He and Avila “were in the city council at the same time and if you look at the dollar numbers, they don’t even compare…its because I realize that as legislators, we have to work with other people,” earning the support of colleagues for matters of importance to constituents.
It’s in vogue for politicians to emphasize their non-political background. “the vast majority of my career has been in the private sector, including being a manager at PriceWaterhouse…I didn’t study government or politics. My degree is in mathematical physics from SUNY Binghamton.”
He has had to answer questions about his campaign associates who were convicted last year for illegal fund-raising, but he told TNH “They have been looking at my campaign finances for many years. They have reviewed a million documents and interrogated thousands of my supporters…They wiretapped my phones for 18 months…I am the most thoroughly investigated candidate in New York without ever being accused of anything.”
Indeed, the NY Times, in its endorsement of Liu, wrote that he “faced rigorous investigations of his campaign’s practices,” and noted “those charges did not touch him.”
Like his Greek-American colleagues, he works continually to convey to citizens the importance of voting in New York’s primaries, which is where the main political battles are fought.
“People in power making the decision are aware of who is voting… When the growing Greek community wants more political influence, there is no better way than to show the numbers by actually voting.”
After acknowledging that matters like zoning changes impact homes and businesses, he declared, “Your vote is your voice. Make sure you use it!”
Among the issues he prioritizes are transportation – he call s for expanding local and express bus service and adding bus rapid transit to move more people more quickly – and seniors citizens’ well-being.
Spotlighting a group with Greek-American roots, he said “I have visited HANAC’s senior centers in my district. We are very proud of their work, not only providing meals but through all sorts of assistive and supporting services…We need to provide more funds for these kinds of organizations.”
His education plan calls for fixing, not eliminating Common Core, “which I believe in the long run makes sense – it raises national standards – but in the short term it’s been terrible.”
“Teachers should have a hand in developing it. It doesn’t make sense to have consultants who never speak with the teachers determining what the Common Core is,” he said.
He also wants to “to fix the business taxes… to help small businesses. Big players must pay their fair share.”
Liu said there are large companies that benefit from anachronistic loopholes. Closing them will generate revenue that will alleviate the tax burden on small business…allowing them to hire more people. “
He also plans to leverage his good relationships with the Queens congressional delegation “to
Make sure that Greeks and Cypriots have the ability to come to America, because when they come, we benefit.”