NYC Mayoral Debates Fall 2017
Dietl Effervesces, Malliotakis Attacks & de Blasio Defends
I attended the Mayoral Debate at Symphony Space on Tuesday, October 10th, where former NYC Detective [1970 - 1985] and security firm businessman Bo Dietl [Independent], New York State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis [Republican Staten Island] and Mayor Bill de Blasio [Democrat] squared off for one of two general election debates. The debates are sponsored by the New York Campaign Finance Board and are a requirement for those candidates who receive matching funds.
NYC Mayoral Debates - Opening Statements
Each candidate came out and made opening statements. Bo Dietl talked about his time working the streets as a policeman in the 1970's and 1980's and how since then he has run a successful security firm that also employs minorities. He described his two opponents as Column A and Column B candidates.
Nicole Malliotakis told us how she is the first member of her family to obtain a college degree and a Masters of Business Administration and that she is the 'American Dream'. She went on to say she would fix our schools, transit system and homelessness.
Bill de Blasio said that his two opponents were both right wing Republicans and that he was the only one that would stand up to Trump. He went on to say that crime is down, test scores at NYC public schools are up, but that there's more to do and he needs New Yorkers' help to continue making progress.
There was a small, but very boisterous minority of rude and disruptive people in the audience, who began their noisy tirades with the opening statements. It wasn't until near the end of the program - that one of [several of] the loudest shouters and screamers was finally escorted out.
Click here for a fairly full recount of the NYC Mayoral Debates with Malliotakis, Dietl & de Blasio.
NYC Mayoral Debates Fall 2017
Dietl Effervesces, Malliotakis Attacks & de Blasio Defends
The first question was to query the candidates about what they would do to solve the ongoing homeless situation in NYC.
How to Address Homelessness in NYC
Dietl started by saying that 30% of the people who live in homeless shelters are also holding down jobs. He saidhe would approach problems by fixing up what's broken, not necessarily investing in new facilities or new approaches.
Malliotakis accused the Mayor of turning homelessness into a business. She noted that in some cases NYC is paying up to $4,000 per month for homeless shelter rooms that don't have kitchens. She said she would create jobs by offering vocational training and accused the Mayor of not addressing mental health issues.
De Blasio noted that his wife, Chirlaine McCray, has been leading efforts to address the mental health issues in the city and that his administration has been focused on mental health issues since he first took office [Ed Note: The de Blasio Administration started a new program called Thrive NYC to address mental health issues in NYC last year]. He noted that 60,000 people have been moved out of homeless shelters, and that his Administration also prevented countless thousands from being evicted from their homes by mandating a rent freeze on rent stabilized apartments for two consecutive years. De Blasio went on to say that the city now offers legal help to help prevent low and middle income people from being evicted from their homes. And, as for the homeless, de Blasio noted that he has initiated active outreach to help bring the homeless in off the streets.
Mayor de Blasio's Proposal to Build Homeless Shelters Around the City
The next question was regarding the proposal to build 93 new homeless shelters around the city to replace the cluster apartments that currently house the homeless. The Mayor defended the cost of this initiative by noting that what's currently happening is that homeless people are being moved into homeless shelters that are out of their boroughs. The impact of this on them is that the homeless are being moved into institutional housing away from their friends, their families, their churches and employers - all of the people most likely to want to help them get back on their feet.
The Mayor defended his plan by noting that it's an investment that may cost more upfront, but that would pay back dividends over time [Ed Note: Reminded me of the old adage - Give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish he eats for life.].
Malliotakis interjected that people don't want homeless shelters in their neighborhoods. De Blasio said that he thought New Yorkers were bigger than that and that they are good people who willing to help people in need.
As for mental health, de Blasio noted that one in five people are affected by mental health issues, ranging from fairly widespread mental health issues like depression, to very complex issues. He noted that as Mayor he instituted mental health training for NYC Departmental employees so that they can spot mental health issues early on. Part of this involves addressing social issues in schools.
Dietl mocked the Mayor saying that he has ten year plans. Dietl said he's a doer.
How to Address the 'Tale of Two Cities'
The candidates were asked about how they would address the 'tale of two cities' - the theme that Mayor de Blasio had successfully run on four years ago which included promising Universal Pre-K and instituting a higher minimum wage.
Malliotakis accused the Mayor of doing nothing to close the gap on inequality. She noted that of the 75,000 affordable housing units created, only 11% of them were affordable to people earning less than $25,000 per year.
De Blasio said he had successfully fought for a higher minimum wage [Ed Note: When de Blasio entered office the minimum wage was $8 and it is now $9.70]. But he noted that there is more to do in that area, including helping people develop skills that warrant higher incomes.
De Blasio said he also helped address the 'Tale of Two Cities' by adding 2,000 new NYPD police officers so that he could keep New York City safe, while lowering the number of Stop N' Frisks by 93% [Ed Note: Stop N' Frisks were done mostly on people of color]. De Blasio said that he added after-school programs for all children and instituted the Universal Pre-K citywide.
There was something about 281,000 [more?] people living below poverty four years ago, but I'm not sure of this.
And the Mayor took a shot at Malliotakis, noting that Malliotakis had voted against raising the minimum wage in Albany.
Dietl made a colorful comment, something about how people who have had their heads in the potato field the past four years would vote for de Blasio by listening to him today.
Malliotakis went back on the offensive noting that 60% of kids graduating from NYC public high schools need some sort of remedial writing / reading / math help. She accused de Blasio of turning over an apartment complex to a contributor who bundled campaign donations [Ed Note: In March 2017 a Grand Jury cleared de Blasio of all of the allegations of campaign finance wrongdoing - NY Post readers & Fox News [Channels 5 & 9] viewers might not know that.].
De Blasio replied that Malliotakis should stick to commenting on things that really happened. He responded to her comment about affordable housing noting that paying one third of income on rent is considered affordable, and that there's a scale of affordability based on how much income one earns.
Management of NYC's $85 Billion Budget
The next question was about managing New York City's $85 million municipal budget. The questioner noted that under Mayor de Blasio the NYC budget has grown from $70 billion to $85 billion [Ed Note: As a point of reference Bloomberg's budget the last six years in office (2007 - 2013) grew from $36 billion to $70 billion].
De Blasio noted that while the budget has grown, he has retained the highest level of reserves in order to respond to unanticipated issues like the stock market taking a hit or possibly something negative impact coming out of policies implemented in Washington, D.C..
He also noted that under his administration the NYPD has grown, as he added 2,000 new police officers while they reduce the Bloomberg Administration policy of Stop N Frisk. He also said that his Administration invested in offering Universal Pre-K to all kids in the city. Other investments included adding Sanitation workers to keep the city clean [Ed Note: Over 60 million visitors come to NYC each year]. And that when de Blasio took office the city didn't have contracts with any of its unionized workers, while today nearly all [99%] of city workers are working under contract.
If I heard things correctly there was something about Bo Dietl's qualifications to manage the NYC budget, given he had some unpaid / back taxes issues.
Malliotakis said that she knew something about budgets having been in the Assembly while Sheldon Silver was there. She noted that she had bus service restored to her district and that she helped with funding to respond to Hurricane Sandy. She went on the offensive, attacking the Mayor for adding staff to the Mayor's Office, growing it from 100 to 300 Special Assistants. Then she went on to attack the Mayor saying the roads needed repairing, the homeless needed shelter and the subways didn't run.
She went on to say that the NYC Department of Design and Construction had done something wasteful in a school project. And something about [her] ending the hiring of contractors and consultants.
400,000 New Jobs Created in NYC Since de Blasio Took Office
The Mayor responded noting the things said previously, and adding that what he'd doing is working. NYC Public School graduation rates are up and New York City has added 400,000 new jobs since he took office.
What to do About & How to pay for NYC Transportation Infrastructure
Dietl said something about fixing the transportation infrastructure we have.
Malliotakis said she was for Congestion Traffic Pricing [Ed Note: The plan adds tolls to all East River bridges (and the Bronx next?) while reducing some of the fares on the further out of center bridges like the Washington Bridge, Goethals, Whitestone etc. Click this link to view an in-depth look into NYC Congestion Traffic Pricing.]. Malliotakis queried the Mayor as to why he hasn't done more to improve the subways, like not adding $456 million to the MTA capital budget? She noted that NYC has four members on the MTA board.
De Blasio responded noting that the MTA is run by the NYS Governor Cuomo. The Mayor stated that the Governor controls the board with the majority of board appointments and controls the budget. De Blasio went on to note that previously his Administration had added to the MTA capital budget, but this year he decided not to because that money was diverted away from the MTA by the State.
De Blasio said he was not for the Congestion Traffic Pricing tolls as a means to pay for MTA infrastructure improvements [Ed Note: We took a look into NYC Congestion Traffic Pricing and found that in London, where it was implemented, less than half the money raised went toward improvements and the rest went toward building and running the toll system so it appears to be a very inefficient way to tax and it didn't appear to reduce overall traffic - just time shifted it. In doing the report we also found a lot of what appeared to be misleading / propaganda information sources, that may have been sponsored by those who benefit from this type of infrastructure investments.]. De Blasio said he preferred to levy a millionaires' tax to obtain added funding for the MTA [Ed Note: the Millionaires and Billionaires benefit the most from the rest of us getting to work in a timely fashion].
De Blasio went on to say that NYS should give back the MTA the $456 million they took out of the budget. He went on to call attention to the fact that Malliotakis voted along with the other Republicans in the NYS Senate, to take the $456 million of additional NYC contributed money - out of MTA budget.
How to Address Crime in NYC - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx & Staten Island
What to do about crime in NYC. It was noted that the spike-in-crime scare tactics used by de Blasio's challenger four years ago never materialized.
The photo at right shows what appears to be one of multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch's NY Post efforts to scare people into continuing what was essentially a racist policy of Stop N' Frisk, wherein people of color were stopped and frisked at a much higher rate than others [Editor's Note: Rupert Murdoch controls about 30% - 40% of New York 'mainstream media' as he also controls the Wall Street Journal, Channel Fox 5 TV, WWOR Channel 9, Fox News and the NY Post. So when you hear distorted accounts multiple times - make an effort to be sure they are not all coming from mouthpieces paid by the same multi-billionaire propagandist. Murdoch's news outlets appear not to favor Mayor de Blasio or his policies, perhaps because de Blasio favors raising taxes on people who [reportedly] own $57 million Park Avenue homes like Rupert Murdoch, to help fund improvements of our subways.
Dietl said he worked in the NYPD [ending 1985] and that he thought 9 of 10 officers would leave NYC for another job. He said he didn't go to college like both of his two opponents as he grew up as an inner city kid.
Prison Reform: What about closing the Rikers Island prison?
Dietl said he would fix what we have. Rikers Island is home to twelve jails holding 600 people in each of the jails.
Separately, Dietl went on to say that he changed his opinion about prison reform because kids shouldn't be in that kind of institution as juveniles. He noted that he'd changed, as previously he was not for prison reform.
Malliotakis said that the buildings should be retrofitted and that body scanners should be added. She noted she was against spending $10 billion for building jails in all five boroughs. She said she was for giving people a right to a speedy trial [Ed Note: many people in Rikers are detained for long periods of time awaiting arraignment - meaning they are officially charged - the New Yorker noted in a 2014 story that a young African American man was held for three years without being officially charged for anything]. She said she liked Rikers because when people escape they can't go anywhere. And she added that she was for helping the mentally ill through the justice system.
De Blasio said that we need four new jails to replace Rikers. De Blasio noted that the justice system needs to be reformed, and that those arrested need more than a speedy trial. He said the Department of Corrections should be about redemption, helping people get turned around [Ed Note: According to World Prison Brief, which the Washington Post called the go-to-source for prison statistics, the U.S. imprisons more people than any other nation in the world, including China (#2). The U.S. has 5% of the world population and 22% of its prisoners, while China has about 16% of the world's population and 16% of its prisoners. So the U.S. imprisons people at a rate 4 times what the rest of the world does and the increase has been over the past few decades due to government policy changes.]. De Blasio also noted that mental health services need to be included as a part of the solution and that no juvenile should be subjected to solitary confinement.
Malliotakis noted that some prisoners wait six months to six years for a trial. She also said something about 90 homeless shelters around the city.
Dietl said NYC has to make tough choices to make sure kids that end up in jail get turned around. And that the city has to make sure they don't end up back in jail. He then asked the Mayor why he built a $2 million wall around Gracie Mansion?
I didn't hear the Mayor's response, because of one of the rude noisemakers, who was finally asked to leave and then escorted out of the auditorium.
In this part of the debate, candidates were allowed to direct a question at one or both of their opponents.
Malliotakis went back on the offensive. She said that last summer an NYPD officer was killed and she asked the Mayor why he left the city to go to Germany to protest.
De Blasio responded that he went to the hospital shortly after the NYPD officer was shot. When it was learned that the NYPD officer had been killed, de Blasio went down to the precinct to meet with the family and clergy, at the time they were informed of their loss.
At some point in all of this, Dietl began muttering into his microphone. The moderator turned it off, so Dietl couldn't drown out what the Mayor was saying.
De Blasio asked Malliotakis and Dietl how they could vote for Donald Trump after Trump said Mexicans were rapists, called a woman a pig, and said he was going to repeal Obamacare / Affordable Care health insurance which affects 1.6 million New Yorkers.
Malliotakis said while she voted for Trump, she would stand up to him when she disagreed with him.
Dietl said that he voted for Trump, and that he is not afraid to stand up to Trump.
Addressing Inequality in NYC Public Schools
The candidates were asked how they would address segregation in New York City schools.
De Blasio said that addressing segregation in NYC schools is challenging and complicated because where you live affects where most people go to school. That said he noted that there's a test project going on in the Upper West Side. Historically people have been evaluated for admission to out-of-neighborhood schools based solely on the results of one standardized test score. He said that they were trying to change that - to include other measures for a more balanced evaluation. He also said that raising the level of the performance of all schools is another way to address the inequality.
Dietl said that 70% of Spanish kids and 80% of African American kids in the elementary grades are failing [Ed Note: I couldn't find information to verify Dietl's statement, but according to a 2014 report about only 60% of African Americans and 50% of Latinos graduate from NYC public high schools. Overall graduation rates have been rising under the de Blasio Administration and topped 70% for the first time this past year.] Dietl went on to say that one of the things he would do to address this would be to ban cell phones in school. Dietl also accused de Blasio of accepting money from the teachers union.
Malliotakis accused the Mayor of spending millions on contributors to address the school problem. She went on to say that some teachers have to buy their own supplies. She said that she supports charter schools, and that schools should be kept safe.
De Blasio said that they have installed metal detectors at [some / all?] schools. He noted that his Administration has been working closely with the NYPD and that they have brought down crime in schools by 35% over the past few years.
How to Control Real Estate Developers & Developments?
The next issue was regarding how to manage / reign in avaricious NYC real estate developers and landlords.
Dietl asked the Mayor what was happening with the hospital [Long Island Hospital in Brooklyn] that he succeeded in keeping open during the last campaign. Dietl also queried the Mayor as to the tax breaks that had been given to landlords to build luxury apartments in Astoria / LIC in Queens. He said those tax breaks should only be reserved for people building affordable housing units. He said something about building housing public / private, and that $2,000 month rent apartments are not affordable to half of New Yorkers. He cited the increase in rents in the Bronx, where some have risen from $700 to $1100 / month.
Malliotakis said she would take the pay to play out of City Hall. That she would ban lobbyists from bundling donations.
De Blasio responded to Dietl's question about the Brooklyn Hospital, noting that the developer was investing money to fix the now defunct hospital and that some of the money coming out of the deal would also be used to address other facilities / issues.
De Blasio responded to Dietl's comment about tax breaks being given to developers for luxury apartments like in LIC, but noting that the tax break [it was called the 421A] was allowed to expire and a new program called Affordable New York has been instituted to replace it. Affordable New York mandates that affordable housing be included in any new tax break developments.
De Blasio also said that his Administration supported zero percent rent increases for rent stabilized apartments for two years running and that his Administration won a suit brought by a Landlord lobbying group which took him to court over it.
Manage Relations with the Federal Government in the Era of Trump
One of the final questions of the debate was something about Trump and the NFL kneeling issue.
Malliotakis exploded and went ballistic on the panelist who asked the question, asserting that it was a loaded question. After a bit of fanfare, Malliotakis said she did vote for Trump and support Trump on taking issue with the players on kneeling during the National Anthem.
De Blasio went on the offensive noting that Malliotakis supports the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. At this point a small, but vocal minority in the crowd became boisterous again.
Dietl recounted incidents where he said something about Muslims, a Jewish lawyer and an African American. Absent additional context - some of which I found online - I still didn't understand the full meaning.
De Blasio finished by noting that Malliotakis had supported a lawsuit against New York City to force it to share [DACA] immigrant background information with the federal government.
And then the debate ended, and the crowd had grown quite boisterous again.
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