Joe Mendola is a chief compliance officer and counsel for the formerly named NASD (National Association of Securities Dealers), now known as FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). For the first time in many election cycles, the GOP is running someone in Mendola – a former Democrat – for comptroller.
You should like that he is in this race because it creates a real debate on how the city spends money. Unfortunately, some groups that have been sponsoring debates, like the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, have not let him debate because they feel he has no chance. The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce told Mendola he could participate, and then reversed course saying the debate was for the Democratic Primary only. The primaries are now over, and we need to hear from minority party candidates as well.
Mendola understands how the city pension system works, and feels the management of these pension systems has become too politicized. He says he has no desire to eventually run for anything else should he be elected.
“My goal to make sure that tax payers do not get stuck bailing out these pension funds,” says Mendola. “There are five funds, and they all set bench marks. One of the funds has set for itself a benchmark of 5.4 percent. This means as long as they do not lose more than 5.4 percent, they consider that they have managed the fund successfully. That would never be acceptable in the private sector. That opens the door for this office to placate special interest groups.”
Mendola explains that the comptroller’s office often hires experts to help analyze pension management.
“Why not just elect someone who is an expert in managing these pensions?” asks Mendola. “Who are we hiring? I want to put everything online, so there is complete transparency in who we are hiring and what we are investing in,” says Mendola.
Since the comptroller’s office is an elected office, there lies the possibility that special interest groups can have more sway in how we invest that money. Mendola feels that the best way to invest these pension funds is to rely on bonds for most of it.
“Right now, we still need to invest some of the funds in the market, because we are just too far behind, but we should not be investing in risky private equity funds that are not appropriate for people’s pensions,” he said.
I know from my conversation with current Comptroller Bill Thompson last year that there is a lot of pull-and-tug with investing these funds. When Thompson made efforts to pull city pension investing out of funds that deal with rogue countries, he got a lot of push-back. Thompson was clear that when a comptroller wants to redirect how these funds are invested, there comes a political rip tide that you must stand against.
What we need to focus on this year is how the city manages its pensions and how it audits agencies. While it might be interesting that some candidates have worked on Wall Street, or for politicians, or in sweat shops - none of that is terribly relevant. This kind of debate would be good for the city, and it would be nice if there was more than one party represented at the debates.
Haggerty wins committeeman post
Bart Haggerty won his primary election to become Republican committeeman in the 28 District in Queens. Haggerty has run for this post before and came up short, but this was his year and he bested Jay Golub to lead the party in that district. The 28th, in Forest Hills, has a good Republican base, but not in any way a majority. What will matter here is how the Queens GOP finds a way to unify and promote its candidates. Haggerty knows politics. Republicans in this district have a mayor and a candidate for comptroller running on their party line, so it will be interesting to see what the turnout will be.