Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
Seven weeks before Bill de Blasio becomes New York City's 109th mayor, pressure builds for him to fill two especially critical jobs: a hands-on budget director and a deputy mayor who will oversee fiscal affairs.
The city's sprawling $70-billion-plus budget runs on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year. Even if only the wonks pay attention, the city charter sets Jan. 16 for the mayor to present his preliminary budget containing revenue and spending estimates for other city officials to review.
For that deadline, "It's likely the City Council would grant an extension of two or three weeks, as they have in the past, but you still have to get things up and running quickly," said Douglas Turetsky, spokesman for the Independent Budget Office, a city entity separate from the mayor's budget office.
Two reasons for a special urgency to get in the fiscal game became clear during the recent campaign. One is a projected $2 billion deficit that would require higher revenue or reduced spending to close it under the law. The other is that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and unions stopped negotiating new labor contracts in his final term, leaving the agreements to his successor to settle.
Add some partisan context to this budget scenario. De Blasio not only must carry out the first City Hall transition in 12 years, he's the first Democratic mayor since 1993. He clearly wants to create his own political stamp, but budget-making has long required a role for relatively apolitical technicians -- a limited universe of municipal financing specialists who speak their own jargon. Some crossed over from the Democratic City Council to Bloomberg's nominally GOP office.
Longtime practitioners of the public budget-making trade know how to turn their bosses' priorities into fiscal plans. In recent years they've included such made-in-New York players as Marc Shaw. Now senior vice chancellor for finance at the City University of New York, Shaw served as Bloomberg's top deputy mayor, as Mayor Rudy Giuliani's budget director, as MTA executive director and, before that, as chief budget negotiator for the City Council under Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., a Democrat. He isn't widely expected to return to City Hall.
De Blasio is expected to consider other longtime city professionals for the top positions, though his office has declined to specify who's being considered.
Names casually circulated in the hallways have included Larian Angelo, former head of the council's finance office; Preston Niblack, who's Speaker Christine Quinn's finance director; or Michael Dardia, now in Bloomberg's budget office. One source suggested de Blasio also could try turning to private-sector and corporate players such as Marvin Markus, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, who once chaired the Rent Guidelines Board.
To get a sense of how specialized the task may be, consider that Mark Page, who's served as Bloomberg's budget director through three terms, first joined the city Office of Management and Budget in 1978.