Scott Stringer speaks to the media after a debate against...

Scott Stringer speaks to the media after a debate against his Comptroller rival Eliot Spitzer at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan (Aug. 12, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

New York City Democrats who value good government and solid performance have a great choice in the Sept. 10 primary race for city comptroller.

Scott Stringer, an Upper West Sider, has spent 20 years in office, first as an assemblyman and now as Manhattan borough president. In both positions he has built a strong reputation for thoughtfulness, attention to detail and solid constituent service.

As borough president, for example, he backed Columbia University's proposal to rezone 17 acres north of 125th Street for academic buildings -- after the school agreed to contribute $33 million for affordable housing and other public benefits.

But most important, as he runs for comptroller, Stringer shows a keen grasp of that office's nuances. The same can't be said for his opponent.

There's a troubling disconnect in the pitch Eliot Spitzer makes for the job -- and no, we're not talking about that infamous night in the Mayflower Hotel or the flaming wreckage of his 15-month governorship.

The problem lies with Spitzer's expansive view of the comptroller's job. Sometimes he seems to yearn for a nostalgia tour as state attorney general. Sometimes he seems to be running for mayor. He talks about expanding the city comptroller's reach to more tightly regulate Wall Street, where about $140 billion in city pension money is invested.

But isn't the problem really that his candidacy is more about Spitzer and less about New Yorkers, more about the headlines he'll grab fighting an unpopular financial services industry and less about the pennies he'll save taxpayers and pensioners?

While Spitzer may want to return to his swashbuckling glory days as attorney general -- when he was known to the world as the Sheriff of Wall Street -- that has never been what the comptroller's job is about.

The comptroller is simply supposed to serve as the city's chief financial officer, its fiduciary watchdog, its go-to expert on all matters fiscal. The comptroller monitors investments, decides city credit needs, audits financial transactions and tracks the efficiency of city agencies.

Stringer takes a practical view of the job. He says he would watch the backs of all New Yorkers as the city spends their tax dollars and invests their pension money.

That means doing vigorous audits of city programs -- oversight that could collide head-on with the mayor's agenda, especially when it comes to big-ticket items like education, infrastructure and development programs.

But it also means the comptroller must be able to sit at the table with the mayor and play an effective advisory role as City Hall hashes out the details of contracts with an army of private vendors who do business with the city.

It means the city must hold Wall Street to the highest standards of honesty and service as it invests the pension money of municipal workers. Yet it also means that the comptroller must work well with the financial industry to reduce, for example, the costs of investing.

The job requires a grown-up -- with sound judgment, unquestioned integrity and a talent for working well with others when the public interest demands it. We endorse Scott Stringer for comptroller in the Democratic primary.

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