Gotham Gazette Tue, 17 Jul 2018 11:38:04 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) 2017 New York City General Election Results voting elections New York City

(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

Mayor Bill de Blasio won reelection on Tuesday, earning about two-thirds of the vote in another low-turnout election -- about 1,070,000 voters cast ballots in the mayoral race. De Blasio's fellow incumbent citywide Democrats, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James, also won reelection, each with about three-quarters of the vote.

Among the most notable other votes cast in New York this Election Day, the constitutional convention ballot question -- proposal one on the back of the ballot -- was resoundly defeated, with more than 83% voting "no" statewide. Proposition two, which would allow the stripping of pensions from elected officials convicted of corruption, passed, and proposition three, allowing some opening up of preserved upstate land for important infrastructure projects, also passed. All three were statewide referendums, as voters went to the polls across New York, including in some interesting mayoral and county executive contests.

In New York City, though, de Blasio defeated six other candidates on the ballot, receiving about 66% of the vote, with Republican Nicole Malliotakis coming in second, earning about 28% of the vote. The other candidates -- Sal Albanese (Reform), Akeem Browder (Green), Mike Tolkin (Smart Cities), Bo Dietl (Dump the Mayor), and Aaron Commey (Libertarian) -- all finished at 2% or lower. Dietl, who raised and spent over $1 million and was included in both televised debates, got just 1% of the vote.

Stringer's Republican opponent, Michel Faulkner, came in second in the comptroller race with nearly 20% of the vote. Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand and Libertarian Alex Merced came in distant third and fourth, respectively.

James' Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, came in second in the public advocate race with about 16% of the vote. Michael O'Reilly, the Conservative Party nominee, got about 8%; Green Party nominee James Lane about 2%; and Libertarian Devin Balkind under 1%.

Democrats Eric Gonzalez and Cyrus Vance won their Brooklyn and Manhattan District Attorney races overwhelmingly.

All five borough presidents were easily reelected with at least 75% of the vote: Gale Brewer in Manhattan; Ruben Diaz, Jr. in the Bronx; Eric Adams in Brooklyn; Melinda Katz in Queens -- all Democrats -- and James Oddo, a Republican, on Staten Island.

Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh won a special election to the state Senate, taking the Brooklyn and Manhattan seat vacated by Daniel Squadron earlier this year.

The following City Council results came in on Election Day -- it is worth noting that Council District 30, in Queens, appears headed to a recount after, in a bit of a surprise, incumbent Democrat City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley appers on the verge of losing to Robert Holden, who had lost the Democratic primary to Crowley but ran in the general on several ballot lines, including Republican.

Council District 1: Margaret Chin, a Democrat, will win with about 50% of the vote, with Christopher Marte coming in second with about 37%. This, after Marte lost the Democratic primary to Chin by just over 200 votes.

CD2: Carlina Rivera, Democrat, elected

CD3: Corey Johnson, Democrat, reelected

CD4: Keith Powers, Democrat, elected with 57% of the vote; Republican Rebecca Harary received about 31%; Liberal Party nominee Rachel Honig got 12%.

CD5: Ben Kallos, Democrat, reelected

CD6: Helen Rosenthal, Democrat, reelected

CD7: Mark Levine, Democrat, reelected

CD8: Diana Ayala, Democrat, elected

CD9: Bill Perkins, Democrat, reelected

CD10: Ydanis Rodriguez, Democrat, reelected

CD11: Andrew Cohen, Democrat, reelected

CD12: Andy King, Democrat, reelected

CD13: Mark Gjonaj, Democrat, elected with 49% of the vote; Republican John Cerini received 36%; and Working Families Party nominee Marjorie Velazquez, who did not campaign in the general, received 13%

CD14: Fernando Cabrera, Democrat, reelected

CD15: Ritchie Torres, Democrat, reelected

CD16: Vanessa Gibson, Democrat, reelected

CD17: Rafael Salamanca, Democrat, reelected

CD18: Ruben Diaz, Sr., Democrat, elected

CD19: Paul Vallone, Democrat, reelected with 56% of the vote; Republican Konstantinos Poulidis received 25%; and Reform Party nominee Paul Graziano received 18%

CD20: Peter Koo, Democrat, reelected

CD21: Francisco Moya, Democrat, elected

CD22: Costa Constantinides, Democrat, reelected

CD23: Barry Grodenchik, Democrat, reelected

CD24: Rory Lancman, Democrat, reelected

CD25: Danny Dromm, Democrat, reelected

CD26: Jimmy Van Bramer, Democrat, reelected

CD27: I. Daneek Miller, Democrat, reelected

CD28: Adrienne Adams, Democrat, elected

CD29: Karen Koslowitz, Democrat, reelected

CD30: TBD, either incumbent Elizabeth Crowley (Democrat) or challenger Robert Holden (Republican)

CD31: Donovan Richards, Democrat, reelected

CD32: Eric Ulrich, Republican, reelected with 66% of the vote; Democrat Mike Scala received about 34%

CD33: Stephen Levin, Democrat, reelected

CD34: Antonio Reynoso, Democrat, reelected

CD35: Laurie Cumbo, Democrat, reelected with 68% of the vote; Green Party nominee Jabari Brisport received about 29%

CD36: Robert Cornegy, Jr., Democrat, reelected, reelected

CD37: Rafael Espinal, Democrat, reelected

CD38: Carlos Menchaca, Democrat, reelected

CD39: Brad Lander, Democrat, reelected

CD40: Mathieu Eugene, Democrat, reelected with 60% of the vote; Reform Party nominee Brian Cunningham received about 36%

CD41: Alicka Ampry-Samuel, Democrat, elected

CD42: Inez Barron, Democrat, reelected

CD43: Justin Brannan, Democrat, elected with about 51% of the vote; Republican John Quaglione received about 47%

CD44: Kalman Yeger, Democrat, elected, with 67% of the vote; Yoni Hikind, running on the Our Community line, received about 29%

CD45: Jumaane Williams, Democrat, reelected

CD46: Alan Maisel, Democrat, reelected

CD47: Mark Treyger, Democrat, reelected

CD48: Chaim Deutsch, Democrat, reelected

CD49: Debroah Rose, Democrat, reelected

CD50: Steve Matteo, Republican, reelected

CD51: Joseph Borelli, Republican, reelected

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

2017 New York City General Election Results Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:00:00 +0000
Mayoral Candidates Make Closing Arguments in Frenetic Final Debate debate Dietl de Blasio Malliotakis mayor

Dietl, de Blasio & Malliotakis on CBS

The second and final mayoral debate of the general election, held Wednesday night, was largely a contest between Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat running for a second term, and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee, as the third candidate on stage, independent Bo Dietl, often struggled to get a word in edgewise.

As the incumbent, de Blasio was put on the spot several times during the hour-long debate -- on public safety, on the city’s homelessness crisis, on his ethics record, on his relationship with the press -- and he drew upon tried-and-tested responses that he has given on the campaign trail and throughout much of his time in office. Malliotakis consistently tried to challenge the progressive Democrat, waiting impatiently to criticize his policies as he defended them.

And Dietl, who initially seemed more subdued than past public appearances, returned to form with nonlinear responses to questions and a more frantic pace as the debate grew increasingly frenetic and the three candidates fought to be heard. All three wound up speaking loudly and quickly, on several occasions talking over one another and arguing with the moderator, Maurice DuBois of CBS-2 New York, about opportunities to rebut claims made by others.

The debate, coming just six days before Election Day, November 7, covered some new ground but often saw the three candidates using lines of attack or defense those closely following the lackluster campaign have heard many times. De Blasio, who is heavily favored to win reelection and has large leads in the polls, did not appear to do anything to jeopardize his standing, while any hope Malliotakis had for further consolidating the anti-de Blasio vote was severely undercut by Dietl’s presence on stage. CBS exercised its discretion to include Dietl, who has not polled well, but declined to explain its decision when Gotham Gazette inquired.

Hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan, the debate began with a particular focus on the NYPD and anti-terrorism, just one day after a terror attack in lower Manhattan in which a man alleged to have been inspired by ISIS killed eight people and injured numerous others by driving a truck in a bike lane.

De Blasio immediately found himself defending his decision to close down an NYPD surveillance program that targeted Muslim communities and had led to a lawsuit over the racial profiling of Muslims. He insisted that intelligence gathering and improved police-community relationships were the solutions to preventing terrorism, and he touted his creation of a new terror response unit at the NYPD and the hiring of 1,300 more officers to the force. “We change constantly with the times,” he told DuBois, who asked why the mayor had not been proactive in preventing the type of attack seen Tuesday by installing more bollards, cement posts that disallow car travel, along the West Side bike route.

Malliotakis and Dietl have both have criticized de Blasio for what they see as his lack of support for the police department. The Assembly member said she would provide more resources to the NYPD to combat terror and said it was it important to not limit the police in their jobs, although she said she does not favor targeting specific groups or religions. She also supported installing traffic bollards where necessary to prevent vehicular terror attacks. “My administration will be proactive, not reactive,” she said. De Blasio insisted that he defers to NYPD experts about all matters of security, including anti-terrorism, and touted his two choices of police commissioner.

Dietl, asked if surveillance of Muslims was necessary, categorically said “yes.” “Just look at this terrorist. What did he look like? This is something we have to get past. Political correctness cannot be there all the time,” he said, adding that the man who committed the truck attack looked like the dictionary picture of a terrorist, referencing the man’s long beard in particular. Dietl’s insensitive stereotyping appeared in stark contrast to his two opponents, who took much more measured paths.

Asked to explain his qualifications for the daunting job of Mayor of New York City, Dietl recounted his entrepreneurial success as a private detective with a multi-million dollar security business and referenced his time as a member of the NYPD.

Malliotakis said she was proud of her record in the Assembly as a “fighter for taxpayers” who has seen the city’s quality of life deteriorate. She threw her typical punches at de Blasio, calling him inept at managing the city and in the pockets of his campaign donors.

The debate was not as instructive in terms of where the candidates would take the city as mayor as it was in relitigating de Blasio’s standing after nearly four years at the helm of a city largely doing well, but facing a number of significant challenges.

Numerous times the candidates quibbled, with each other and with DuBois. Malliotakis was asked about her oft-repeated claim that felony sex crimes have increased 25 percent in the city under de Blasio, with DuBois saying the number was only 4 percent and citing the NYPD. She did not concede the point, insisting that her statement was based on NYPD statistics. De Blasio was dubious of Malliotakis’ response, and pointed out that major crime has fallen consistently over the last four years, reaching historic lows. “The NYPD takes crime against women very, very seriously, constantly moving resources to address this problem” he responded.

Malliotakis appears to be correct in her assertion on broader sex crimes, while de Blasio is also right about the overall direction of major crimes, such as murder. Rape, the most serious of sex crime, is up slightly over de Blasio’s tenure, possibly the statistic DuBois was referring to. The mayor, NYPD officials, and other analysts agree that sex crimes are likely higher because of increased awareness, and encouragement and willingness to report.

The question that put the mayor in the most awkward position, one he has answered several times in the last few days, was about his relationship with Jona Rechnitz, a wealthy campaign donor who is currently a cooperating witness in a federal corruption trial against the former boss of the correction officers union. Rechnitz, who pleaded guilty to fraud himself, has testified that he had regular access to the mayor, which has yet again led to criticism from de Blasio’s opponents of a pay-to-pay culture at City Hall.

De Blasio, who again refused to release his phone records to refute Rechnitz’s allegations of how regularly they spoke in late 2013 and beyond, repeated the defense he has offered before, insisting that he did not have a close relationship with Rechnitz and that his ties to donors were thoroughly investigated with no charges filed by federal or state prosecutors. “He is a liar, he is a felon. Don’t believe anything he says,” de Blasio said.

“I think the question is for the public,” Malliotakis retorted, “if they want a mayor who looks for that little loophole, the way to skirt the law to get an intended outcome for himself and his friends.”

The candidates also argued over gentrification, traffic congestion, property taxes, and homelessness.

Malliotakis said gentrification is beneficial when it raises property values and brings economic activity to neighborhoods, but she decried the displacement of existing residents. She struggled to answer more specific questions about gentrification, but attacked de Blasio for not taking on property tax reform. De Blasio, who promised to tackle the issue if reelected, took to defending his affordable housing policy, the rent freezes his administration pushed two years in a row for rent-regulated tenants, and the implementation of free legal services in housing court for low-income New Yorkers.

On homelessness, de Blasio conceded that his administration failed to adequately address street homelessness as it focused on stemming the increase in the shelter population. He insisted that his administration is moving to end the use of commercial hotels to house homeless individuals and families, a practice that has become widespread and very costly.

Malliotakis said the crisis was a “mismanagement issue,” critiquing de Blasio for massively increasing spending on homelessness with little to show for it. She emphasized that she would work with the state to partner on building supportive housing and critiqued the administration’s use of hotels as temporary shelters. The mayor noted, in response, that the city is already committed to building thousands of new supportive housing units and slowly ending the use of hotel shelters.

Congestion pricing was one proposal that none of the candidates seemed to support, though de Blasio was the only one to directly say so. He yet again called it a “regressive tax,” though that claim has largely been debunked, and pushed his proposal to tax the highest-income New Yorkers to fund MTA subways and buses (on this he name-dropped Senator Bernie Sanders, who endorsed the mayor and the “fair fix” proposal earlier this week). De Blasio did seem to leave space to change his stance after the election, saying that he hadn’t seen a plan that he could support. Many New Yorkers are awaiting the expected congestion pricing plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo has empaneled a task force to come up with by January.

Malliotakis said unlike de Blasio, she would work with Cuomo, a Democrat, to fund fixes to mass transit, but did not provide a specific plan that she would implement.

In a brief lightning round near the end, the candidates seemed to find more common ground than could be expected. All three said they are opposed to holding a state constitutional convention, an option that will be presented in a ballot question to voters on Election Day. And none of them were willing to agree to daily press briefings as mayor. De Blasio, who has a famously antagonistic relationship with the press, said, “I’m not gonna have a blanket policy,” preferring to communicate with New Yorkers at town halls and through radio and television appearances. Malliotakis did not give a straight answer, pointing to the mayor and saying, “I’m gonna have to spend most of my time cleaning up his mess.” Dietl promised to post a deputy mayor in each borough that would hear and relay resident concerns.

In closing, de Blasio reiterated his call to voters that he would build on the successes of his first term, noting early childhood education, neighborhood policing, and affordable housing. “I ask for your help to keep this a city for everyone, to keep this a city that’s making progressive change, a city that you know belongs to you,” he said.

Malliotakis vowed to stand up for everyday New Yorkers. “I’m fighting for you because you need a lobbyist,” Malliotakis said, “you need a voice, you need someone who’s gonna put your interests in front of the powerful.”

Dietl, who closed out the debate, said the city was “at a crossroads” and that the only choice was between him and the mayor. Looking and pointing directly at de Blasio, he said, “As a detective, I know a criminal when I see one. Mr. Mayor, you’re a criminal with your corruption and your pay-for-play.”

The election is Tuesday. Along with de Blasio, Malliotakis, and Dietl, the mayoral choices include four other candidates: Sal Albanese, Mike Tolkin, Akeem Browder, and Aaron Commey.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Mayoral Candidates Make Closing Arguments in Frenetic Final Debate Wed, 01 Nov 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Who will be at the second mayoral debate? nyc votes errol and audience

Debate #1 (photo: @NYCVotes)

By most accounts, the first general election mayoral debate was at best minimally helpful in providing voters a substantive exchange of ideas among the three candidates on stage, each competing to lead the city of 8.5 million people and an $85 billion budget for the next four years.

Outbursts and interruptions by audience members and candidate Bo Dietl made for a raucous and rowdy atmosphere where the policy positions of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat seeking reelection, and Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee, were often drowned out, overshadowed, or truncated.

“It was a bit of a circus,” said debate panelist and WNYC radio host Brian Lehrer, “the crowd was rowdy, the mayor’s opponents aggressive.”

Still, there was some intelligence gleaned from the debate, both in terms of the personalities of the candidates and their policy positions. A good deal of substance was present if you were able to listen closely enough or catch the debate a second time, perhaps desensitized to the lack of decorum shown by Dietl and the crowd, where most of those interfering with the discussion on stage were anti-de Blasio -- either Dietl or Malliotakis supporters or there simply to jeer the mayor.

The three candidates -- seven names will be on the November mayoral ballot, but just these three qualified for the first of two official, televised debates -- did have opportunities to discuss issues like affordable housing, criminal justice, homelessness, the city budget, mass transit funding, street congestion, school segregation, and more.

In the aftermath of a debate that left many, including, apparently, moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis, exasperated and frustrated, one important question is who will be on stage for the second official debate, scheduled for Wednesday, November 1 at 7 p.m., televised on CBS.

In order to qualify for that contest, known by campaign finance law as the “leading contenders” debate, one of two sets of criteria will be at play. One is simply a fundraising and spending threshold of $1 million each. The other has a much lower financial threshold ($174,225) and includes candidates attaining at least 15% in a public opinion poll that includes all of the candidates on the ballot (there are a few other minor details to it, but those are the broad strokes).

In all likelihood, the first criteria will be used to determine eligibility, which will almost-certainly again limit the field to de Blasio, Malliotakis, and Dietl. However, because Dietl is not a participant in the Campaign Finance Board public matching program, rules state that the lead sponsor, in this case CBS, has discretion whether to invite him or not. Dietl’s inclusion, or lack thereof, would have significant impact on the debate, if not the outcome of the vote on November 7.

Neither Dietl nor Malliotakis has hit the $1 million raise and spend thresholds yet, though both are fairly close, and they have until October 27 to do so. Dietl told Gotham Gazette it will not be a problem, in part because he has deep personal resources to help his campaign if needed. Reached for comment about whether CBS plans to invite Dietl, a spokesperson said the station would not weigh in on a hypothetical.

"I think they're going to invite me,” Dietl told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday. “I don't think there's too much of a debate without me. There's no entertainment value, I bring out the real facts. CBS knows that, they'll invite me."

Asked if he felt OK with how he had handled himself at the first debate -- during which he spoke almost exclusively in a yell, grunted into his microphone repeatedly, interrupted, and had his mic cut off by Louis -- Dietl indicated no regrets.

“My passion showed,” he said on Wednesday. “I feel great. I thought last night went well. A little out of control…You had to get in to say what you want to say.”

"It’s important for people to see human beings,” Dietl said, “rather than robot politicians. I got a lot of my points out. A lot of people saw Bo could be mayor of New York City against a couple of politicians."

Dietl’s presence at the first debate -- and his potential presence at the second -- hurts Malliotakis’ chances of consolidating the anti-de Blasio vote and narrowing the 40-plus-point gap in the polls. While Dietl argues he has the better chance of the two to defeat de Blasio, Malliotakis appears a more cogent candidate and has her own lead on Dietl in polling.

Asked about the debate and Dietl’s presence at a Wednesday press conference in the Bronx, Malliotakis said, “Certainly I would prefer a one-on-one debate with the mayor. I believe that I am the clear alternative to Bill de Blasio being offered in November. I would love the opportunity to debate him one-on-one, and we’ll see, maybe November 1 -- I intend to make the threshold to qualify for the CBS debate, and we’ll see what happens there.”

She said one-on-one with de Blasio would let her better make her case and allow the candidates to drill down on the issues more. “I’m very pleased with the way the debate went,” she added, saying she thought she made many of her key points and held the mayor accountable.

Along with Dietl’s presence, or that of other mayoral candidates who are suing to get on stage, the other key question about the second debate is the live audience. The crowd at Symphony Space acted more like it was an NFL game than a political debate, leading to at least one ejection and several admonishments from Louis, the moderator.

The venue for the second debate is the smaller CUNY Graduate Center auditorium, and it is not yet clear how CBS and its co-sponsors will handle ticket dissemination. They may filter tickets through sponsor organizations, as well as CUNY faculty and students, and not through the candidate campaigns.

“[W]e are reviewing what happened last night and will do what we can to keep the focus of the Nov. 1 debate on the candidates,” the CBS New York spokesperson, Rachel Ferguson, told Gotham Gazette on Wednesday.

When asked for comment on the debate, the Campaign Finance Board gave credit to Louis and his fellow questioners and pointed to crowd behavior.

“A lot of interested voters showed up at last night’s debate determined to make their voices heard,” said Amy Loprest, Executive Director of the NYC Campaign Finance Board, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “While it is regrettable that the crowd reduced the amount of time available for questions, the debate moderator and panelists did their very best to ensure the candidates addressed a wide range of issues that directly affect New Yorkers. The [Campaign Finance] Act requires these debates so that all voters can hear directly from the candidates about the issues that matter to them. As a result, the New Yorkers who tuned in to last night’s debate are better equipped to cast an informed ballot for the city they want on November 7th.”

Asked about the debate at an unrelated Thursday press conference, de Blasio expressed his own dismay, but did not offer any specific prescriptions. “It was not what the people of New York City deserved,” de Blasio said. “It was a lost opportunity.”

While the mayor’s supporters often cheered his answers and chanted “four more years” to drown out boos or jeers from others in the crowd, they appeared to take the approach more reactively, responding to the tone set early on by de Blasio detractors who interrupted the mayor’s opening statement and repeatedly heckled during his answers to questions.

Asked about whether Dietl should be invited to the second debate, a spokesperson for the mayor’s campaign, Dan Levitan, said in a statement, "Under Mayor de Blasio crime is at record lows, jobs are at record highs, and New York City is building affordable housing at a record pace. We are happy for any opportunity to talk about the Mayor’s record and we look forward to debating whoever the CFB and debate sponsors decide to include.”

Another candidate, Michael Tolkin, has repeatedly met financial thresholds by giving his own campaign money and has not been invited to debate, either in the Democratic primary, where he came in a distant third to de Blasio and Sal Albanese, or in the general, where he is running on his self-created Smart Cities ballot line.

Albanese, too, is running again in the general, on the Reform Party line. He came in a distant second to de Blasio in the primary, but showed fairly well, at about 15%, given the substantial disadvantages he faced. Despite limited financial resources (Albanese barely qualified for the two primary debates where he faced de Blasio one-on-one), Albanese did poll better than Dietl in one recent general election survey, leading to cries of injustice from Albanese about his exclusion from the debate.

Both Albanese and Tolkin are suing to be included in the debate. Therefore, there’s a chance that the second debate, on CBS, could include up to five candidates.

The other two candidates who will be on the November ballot are Akeem Browder of the Green Party and Libertarian candidate Aaron Commey.

As for Dietl, he said he thinks the debate gave new life to his campaign, citing his performance, the overall response, and media interest the day after. Calling the debate “a real turning point,” Dietl said, "let's wait and see what the next poll says. I think you'll be surprised."

For her part, Malliotakis also said Wednesday that she believes the race is closer than the polls from Marist College and Quinnipiac University show, citing her campaign’s internal polling and the response she gets all over the city. “This is a race,” she said.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Who will be at the second mayoral debate? Thu, 12 Oct 2017 20:43:24 +0000
Debate Showcases Sharp Differences Among Mayoral Candidates on Transit, Congestion de Blasio subway

De Blasio on the subway (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

The first general election mayoral debate, held Tuesday, was often devoid of substance amid repeated interruptions of a restive audience and candidates who seemed more interested in scoring political points than talking policy. Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly retreated to stump speech talking points as his opponents, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and retired NYPD detective Bo Dietl, attacked him over and over again. Malliotakis offered up a few policy proposals while Dietl largely blustered and ranted through his time, at times overshadowing any policy ideas he was putting forth.

On the issues of mass transit and street congestion, however, none of the candidates, including de Blasio, seemed to have immediate solutions for the city’s problems with its deteriorating subways and clogged roadways.

Earlier this year, de Blasio faced ample criticism for a seemingly lax attitude over problems in the subway system, which cascaded into a full-blown crisis this summer with repeated train breakdowns, derailments, and unrelenting delays. He was dragged by transit activists and political opponents to ride the subways more and to use his bully pulpit to advocate for increased funding and immediate action by the state, which controls the MTA and bears most responsibility for the subways.

After MTA Chair Joe Lhota put forth an emergency subway action plan and asked the city and state to split the $836 million price tag, Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed and de Blasio balked, saying the city should not be on the hook for any more funds and insisting that the state repay money it had raided from the MTA -- ironically, the same $456 million figure now being asked of the city.

De Blasio pitched a millionaire’s tax proposal to fund MTA repairs as well as subsidized fares for low-income New Yorkers, addressing another area of significant criticism, his unwillingness to fund the “Fair Fares” campaign. His proposal was immediately panned as having little hope for passage in Albany and as lacking immediacy. The mayor pointed back to the state, and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

At Tuesday’s debate, both Malliotakis and Dietl agreed that the city bears significant responsibility for the MTA, where the mayor has four of 14 board appointees, and should contribute its fair share.

“If my kids are riding on a school bus and the school bus needs brakes and I have the money to fix that, I’m gonna fix it,” responded Dietl, to a question from debate panellist Gloria Pazmino, a Politico New York reporter, about whether the candidates would fund half the MTA emergency action plan and support a potential congestion pricing proposal. “This mayor over here says it’s not his responsibility. He’s the mayor of New York, it is his responsibility,” Dietl added, shouting. Dietl veered into incomprehension before seeming to say that regarding congestion, the de Blasio administration’s issuance of thousands of parking placards to “flunkies” is a major factor in the problem.

“I absolutely do believe that the city has a responsibility, the mayor has a responsibility to make sure that his constituents can get to and from work,” said a more measured Malliotakis. She emphasized the role the mayor’s appointees to the MTA board could play, in seeking more capital investment from the state for necessary infrastructure upgrades. And she vowed to work with the governor to solve the crisis, before snarkily turning to de Blasio and challenging him, “Are you afraid of Governor Cuomo?”

Although, Malliotakis did not directly answer either part of the question -- whether she would agree to fund half of the MTA emergency plan and whether she favors a congestion pricing scheme -- she has publicly said before that the city could use funds set aside in reserves for the MTA emergency action plan. "On congestion pricing she has said she likes the Sam Schwartz plan but, remains open minded regarding other plans,” campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan clarified in an email on Wednesday. Schwartz is a renowned traffic engineer and the proposal Ryan referenced is Move New York, which involves reducing tolls at bridges with less traffic and increasing them in higher traffic areas, variable pricing for peak and off-peak hours, and adding tolls to the East River bridges, among other ideas. It is a popular plan aimed at both fighting congestion and raising revenue to create a city with improved mass transit and better flowing roads. 

Malliotakis has also supported converting all traffic signals into Smart Lights that use sensors and artificial intelligence to control the flow of traffic and reduce congestion, while also preventing accidents and cutting down on vehicle emissions. The assemblymember's plan would prioritize communities with high vehicle ownership in Queens and Staten Island, and envisions a total cost of about $1 billion to replace every traffic light in the city.   

De Blasio does not support the Move New York plan, and has called congestion pricing a “regressive tax,” instead proposing his own tax on wealthy New Yorkers. “The solution is a millionaires tax...Millionaires and billionaires can pay a little more in this city so the rest of us can get around,” he said at the debate.

The mayor did not acknowledge the existence of the Move New York plan, instead appearing to again reference the fact that Cuomo -- who has said it is time to reconsider congestion pricing and is expected to unveil his own proposal in January -- has not yet outlined his own proposal.

De Blasio repeated his assertion that the state should bear the costs of MTA fixes, pointing out as he has done before that the state diverted about $456 million in city money away from the transit authority. “That was earmarked money for the MTA that the governor and the Legislature diverted away from the MTA that would be right now available,” he said. “It is right now available in state surplus to address the problems of the MTA. By the way, the Assembly member voted to divert those funds away.”

What de Blasio did not fully acknowledge, even when pushed by Pazmino, was the timeline for his proposed millionaire’s tax. The tax must be approved by the state Legislature, which will not meet until next year, and there is already opposition to it, particularly from Republicans who control the state Senate. “The millionaires tax is very, very popular,” de Blasio insisted, pointing to support in a recent public poll. “If Governor Cuomo would support it and put the energy you’ve seen put into some other things, it could be achieved in Albany. We don’t have an alternative plan right now.”

De Blasio offered no plans or ideas for reducing street congestion.

Malliotakis rebutted the mayor, insisting that she had supported lockbox legislation to preserve the MTA’s budget, and she was quick to pounce on the mayor’s omission of a plan to address current needs. The millionaire’s tax is a “cockamamie plan,” she said.

“It’s an emergency plan,” she said of the MTA’s current strategy. “It needs to be done now.”

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated.

Debate Showcases Sharp Differences Among Mayoral Candidates on Transit, Congestion Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette

October 11, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate

debate stage277The morning after the first mayoral debate of the general election -- featuring candidates Bill de Blasio, Nicole Malliotakis, and Bo Dietl -- Max & Murphy discuss how each candidate performed, the issues discussed, answers, non-answers, strategy, and more.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy. You can hear the episode through the embedded audio below or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:23 +0000
De Blasio, Malliotakis & Dietl Engage in Raucous Mayoral Debate general election debate

the first general election mayoral debate (photo: @NYCVotes)

The first mayoral debate of the general election verged on the brink of chaos for the better part of 90 minutes as Mayor Bill de Blasio faced challengers Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl in front of a raucous, disruptive audience at the Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Tuesday.

While attacks flew throughout the night, largely from Malliotakis and Dietl toward de Blasio, on more substantive matters, the debate was largely a two-person contest, between de Blasio and Malliotakis, a sitting Republican state Assembly member. Dietl, a former NYPD detective running on his own party line, largely shouted during his opportunities to speak, while also grunting into his microphone and regularly interrupting others. Within minutes of the start of the debate, the audience -- which appeared to include groups of supporters of each of the three candidates -- howled and heckled, drowning out the candidates and drawing sharp rebukes from debate moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis.

Throughout much of the debate, substantive policy discussion took a back seat to yelling and interrupting, whether by Dietl and Malliotakis or their supporters in the crowd. With varying degrees of success, the challengers took turns lambasting de Blasio, the progressive Democratic incumbent, who defended his policies and his first-term record while criticizing both his opponents as “right-wing Republicans” who voted for President Donald Trump.

Malliotakis fared far better in both critiquing and responding to de Blasio, offering certain policy alternatives and pointed criticisms of his administration. On the other hand, Dietl struggled to articulate cogent responses to specific policy questions and veered off into tangential arguments and ad hominem attacks. At one point he had his microphone cut-off by the debate moderator for repeatedly interrupting.

As she has been on the campaign trail for months, Malliotakis offered sharp attacks on de Blasio over his leadership, budgeting, stewardship of the school system, and more. “We have so many issues that are plaguing our city,” she said at one point, arguing that with record-high spending, de Blasio is not showing enough results.

De Blasio stuck to his regular campaign arguments about his accomplishments, including universal pre-kindergarten, falling crime, efforts to prevent evictions, rising graduation rates, and more.

The candidates faced questions on the city’s homelessness crisis, income inequality, budgeting and fiscal responsibility, the MTA, Rikers Island, public safety, school segregation, and dealing with real estate developers to grow affordable housing.

As expected, Dietl’s and Malliotakis’ positions hewed close to each other, with de Blasio playing the foil. Both challengers critiqued the decriminalization of low-level “quality-of-life” offenses such as public urination; they were both in favor of modernizing Rikers Island jails rather than shutting them down; they both called for more fiscal restraint in city budgeting; and they both supported dedicating more city funds to fix mass transit problems. Neither of them offered a viable affordable housing plan or a strategy for desegregating city schools. And both distanced themselves from Donald Trump, while embracing certain aspects of the Trump aesthetic.

When asked what they would do differently on tackling homelessness, both Malliotakis and Dietl attacked de Blasio for what is possibly his most prominent failing. Malliotakis insisted the city needs to invest more in vocational training and in supportive housing, and also critiqued the mayor for inadequate services for mentally ill New Yorkers, especially those with the most severe illnesses. De Blasio has “turned homelessness into a business,” she said, noting the city’s use of emergency hotel shelters and the plan to open 90 new homeless shelters. “This mayor’s done nothing for the homeless and I wanna do something,” said Dietl, briefly floating the idea of creating “homeless centers” on Ward’s Island and Randall’s Island without elaborating what those would entail.

De Blasio pointed out that his administration is aiming to reduce the shelter footprint by stopping the use of hotels and cluster sites as new shelters are built. He pointed to the city’s targeted outreach efforts to aid homeless people, the comprehensive ThriveNYC mental health program, and the investment in legal aid for tenants in housing court to help them avoid evictions. “These are the kinds of things that are necessary to ultimately fight and win the battle over homelessness,” he said, conceding that it will be a long, tough battle again a problem growing over decades.

On de Blasio’s core campaign agenda of tackling income inequality, both Malliotakis and Dietl said he has failed. She said the real “tale of two cities,” coopting de Blasio’s 2013 campaign line, was that the mayor’s friends and donors have benefited in the last four years while the city has suffered. Dietl echoed the argument.

De Blasio, in response, touted universal pre-kindergarten among the successful measures that will have helped 281,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by the end of the year. He also mentioned 3-K for all, his plan to extend preschool to three-year-olds over the next several years.

The mayor also faced criticism for the large increase in the city’s budget under his watch, though he defended himself by pointing out that the city has settled 99 percent of municipal labor contracts, all of which were expired when he took office, and put away a historic amount of funding in reserves. Major investments, such as hiring 2,000 new police officers and thousands of pre-K teachers, had added to the budget but were necessary for improving the city, he said. Malliotakis, a conservative, vowed to bring spending under control and said she would, among other things, cut from the hundreds of special assistants that de Blasio has hired at City Hall. She has not offered other areas of the $85 billion budget she would cut, however.

Dietl, meanwhile, found himself defending his own financial acuity, having had a history of unpaid taxes that made headlines earlier this year. In responding, Dietl said he has addressed the back taxes and is moving along with a payment plan. He explained he has been successful in private business and said he made $1.8 million last year.

All three were asked whether they would support closing Rikers jails or keeping it open. The mayor has supported a somewhat vague plan to shut down the problem-ridden jail complex in ten years, a solution contingent on continually reducing crime in the city and creating four borough-based jail facilities, although he has yet to lay out further details.

“Rikers Island, a jail on an island, that makes sense,” said Dietl, adding that “we’ve gotta fix what we’ve got.” Dietl favors reforming Rikers and investing heavily in rehabilitating inmates. Malliotakis, similarly, insists the city needs to retrofit the buildings and make them more humane and safer for both inmates and corrections officers. The mayor’s plan for borough-based jails, she said, would be “heavily rejected” by neighborhoods.

“I actually think that people of this city are much more willing to take on these tough choices,” de Blasio retorted, citing the fact that several Queens City Council members recently expressed support for reopening a detention facility near the courthouse in that borough.

De Blasio was asked a particularly pointed question about school segregation, particularly why he hasn’t moved more aggressively to integrate schools over arguing that his programs improve opportunities for all students whatever school they may attend. The mayor insisted on Tuesday that it’s a problem rooted in larger societal inequality and long history, and pitched an all-round “rising tide” approach through his Equity and Excellence program. He also said there is progress being made as individual school districts approach rezonings to desegregate schools.

Malliotakis, who earlier criticized the high percentage of high school graduates who require remedial courses for college readiness, said the Department of Education needs a complete overhaul. She was particularly critical of the DOE’s contracting processes and costly construction projects. Dietl said he would ban cell phones from classes and use a CompStat-like approach -- based on the NYPD’s crime statistics tracking system -- to target underperforming schools.

Since Malliotakis jumped into the mayoral race, de Blasio has sought to tie her to President Trump, while Dietl’s connections and resemblance to the offensive and irreverent President are all too obvious. On Tuesday, however, Dietl insisted that he is no right-wing Republican. “I’m a registered Democrat and I do not like Donald Trump and I do not like what he’s done…so I take exception to that,” he said of de Blasio’s remarks, but added that he did indeed vote for Trump last November.

Malliotakis, who also voted for Trump and has opposed certain policies of the president while supporting others, had a sharp retort about her stance toward the president. She told de Blasio her approach to the president was the same as the mayor’s to Governor Andrew Cuomo, his fellow Democrat. “When I disagree with President Trump, I’m going to say so,” she said, admitting that there are other times that she agrees with him.

Due to candidates talking over one another and the rowdy crowd -- at one point Louis had an audience member removed by security -- the debate was ended without closing statements.

Four other mayoral candidate who will be on the November ballot were not at the debate: Sal Albanese, of the Reform Party; Mike Tolkin, running on his Smart Cities ballot line; Green Party nominee Akeem Browder; and Libertarian nominee Aaron Commey.

The second “leading contenders” debate is scheduled for November 1 and it remains to be seen if Dietl -- who is not automatically included in the debate since he is not a participant in the CFB’s public matching funds program -- will be invited by the debate sponsors. For Malliotakis, there might be an opportunity to go head-to-head with de Blasio less than one week before voters go to the polls on November 7.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

De Blasio, Malliotakis & Dietl Engage in Raucous Mayoral Debate Tue, 10 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
5 Things to Watch at The First General Election Mayoral Debate de blasio stage

(Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

Get the popcorn. There’s a general election debate in the race for Mayor of New York City on Tuesday night. It promises to be a spirited affair with competing ideas, styles, and personalities among the three candidates participating.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and two of his six challengers -- Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl -- will debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday, the first of two such televised contests between now and Election Day, November 7. The debate will be aired on NY1 television and WNYC radio.

Recent polling shows that Malliotakis and Dietl face an especially uphill battle and need to make a splash. It’s likely that they are competing for much of the same base of support, and each seems to be keeping the other from narrowing the wide gap with de Blasio. Tuesday night will offer an opportunity for Malliotakis and Dietl to introduce themselves to more voters, critique the sitting mayor, and showcase their message for why they should replace de Blasio atop city government. As each indicated in an interview with Gotham Gazette, a goal for the debate is to give the sense that it is really a race between him- or her-self and de Blasio.

It promises to be a lively debate among three candidates who do not shy away from an argument and who have different ideas for the direction the city should go.

While Malliotakis and Dietl have both been far more active on the candidate forum circuit than de Blasio has, the mayor did have two televised primary election debates against Sal Albanese to help prepare for the general election events. In the debates against Albanese, de Blasio handled himself fairly well, on the way to winning nearly 75% of the vote, though he often sparred with his challenger, rarely allowing an attack to go by that he did not feel the need to respond to.

Albanese is among those who will be on the general election ballot but not able to debate Tuesday, having fallen short of the requirements, including a fundraising and spending threshold of $500,000 in both directions. Albanese has sued to get on the debate stage, but the outcome of the litigation is not yet clear. He actually registered better than Dietl in one of two recent polls of the mayoral race.

Another of de Blasio’s Democratic primary opponents who is also on the general election ballot, Michael Tolkin, met the financial requirements, but because he is not a participant in the Campaign Finance Board matching program, his debate participation was left up to the sponsors, and lead sponsor NY1 declined to invite him.

The other two candidates who will be on the November ballot are Green Party nominee Akeem Browder and Libertarian nominee Aaron Commey. Neither has raised much money or had a significant campaign presence.

Tuesday will mark exactly four weeks until Election Day and the first debate will give voters plenty to think about. Here are five things to watch:

1. Is Nicole Malliotakis ready for prime time?
On the biggest stage of her career, can Nicole Malliotakis deliver? Will she be able to sharply articulate both her critiques of de Blasio and her vision for leading the city? Can she describe problems with the city that resonate with the voters who matter most to her chances at building a winning coalition, especially moderate Democrats and those unaffiliated with a party? Can she spark a new media narrative and several days of positive coverage about her performance?

“A lot of people will be meeting me for the first time when they turn on that television,” Malliotakis told Gotham Gazette on Monday morning. “I’ve been all over the five boroughs, and getting a great reception, but polls show a lot of people don’t know me. It’s an opportunity for me to introduce myself to those individuals for the first time.”

“We’ve spent quite a few hours doing debate prep,” Malliotakis said, though she provided few specifics beyond saying that she has been “studying issues” and de Blasio’s primary debates versus Albanese. She’s done mock debating, she said, but wouldn’t get into details in terms of who was playing the mayor or Dietl. “We’ve been spending time discussing various topics that may come up,” she said, “and solidifying answers - basic debate prep.”

“The other goal is to make it clear this is a race between Bill de Blasio and I,” Malliotakis added, in apparent reference to Dietl, of whom, when asked, she said, “He’s just there. I don’t believe that Bo has offered anything. I don’t even know why Bo is in the debate. He’s there to promote his upcoming movie, where he plays being mayor. People are going to realize this is an election between Bill de Blasio and me as the clear alternative. We are the serious contenders in this election and there’s a stark contrast between us.”

It’s essential for Malliotakis to rise above Dietl, said William O’Reilly, a Republican strategist. “Nicole’s mission is fairly simple: make it a two-way race. That’s ultimately the goal of this debate, is to completely shut out Bo Dietl, show him as a publicity stunt and no more,” he said. O’Reilly added that while “she has to put a crack into the mayor” and “there’s gotta be some excitement coming out of the debate,” it can’t be that Dietl was the most interesting aspect of the debate.

Malliotakis’ goal, O’Reilly said, must be the “takeaway is that there’s a real race between Nicole Malliotakis and Bill de Blasio.” He suggested she even use body language in ignoring Dietl, “almost to the point of rudeness.”

“It’s gotta be interesting to the press,” O’Reilly said of the debate overall, agreeing that if there are debate moments that lead to multiple days of stories and questions for the mayor, that Malliotakis will have been successful.

While Malliotakis has been honing her attacks on de Blasio in dozens of media appearances, public events, and press conferences, the face-to-face nature of the debate offers a new and special opportunity for her. O’Reilly said she must continue to hammer de Blasio on the key points she’s been making about his work ethic, focus, budgeting, and ineffectiveness on certain issues, like homelessness, and argue convincingly that the city is heading in the wrong direction. She must also present herself as a viable alternative, and show that she has ideas and command of the issues. It's a popular opinion among those watching closely that she would do well to unveil at least one or two signature policy proposals that capture her campaign -- either at the debate or soon thereafter. Regardless, de Blasio will remain in her crosshairs, and should.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, you need to snatch the office from underneath them. You have to remain critical,” O’Reilly said.

Republican City Council Member Eric Ulrich of Queens, who has been behind Dietl for months, told this weekend that he likes Malliotakis and thinks “she does a great job as an Assemblywoman on Staten Island,” but that she wasn’t the best choice as the GOP mayoral candidate. Citing “lackluster” fundraising and minimal name recognition, Ulrich said, “I don’t think Nicole’s campaign has been able to gain any traction or catch fire...I don’t think she was ready for prime time.”

Tuesday night, in prime time, is an opportunity for Malliotakis to catch fire.

2. Which Bo Dietl shows up?
Dietl is something of a performer -- and he is actually a TV and film actor -- and it is not exactly clear which version, or versions, of the former NYPD detective will participate in Tuesday’s debate.

When Gotham Gazette spoke with Dietl on Friday afternoon, he said he was just “going over statistics...misstatements from the current mayor.” Dietl mentioned key issues of education, subways, affordable housing, and homelessness.

Asked what he’s doing to prepare for the debate, Dietl said he was “reverifying some of the lies [de Blasio’s] telling.” “I’m the only non-politician,” he added, “I’m not doing this mock sh-t -- I’m mocking him,” Dietl said, in apparent reference to the mock debates that campaigns sometimes hold in preparation.

Dietl said he had watched the de Blasio-Albanese primary debates. “I didn’t like the way he treated Sal. I’m not gonna take it,” Dietl said. “I’m not going to be nice to him because I don’t have any respect for him.”

“I want people to see a clear-cut choice,” Dietl said of his goal for the debate. “It’s a chance for people to say ‘wow, that Bo is refreshing.’”

“I don’t believe in polls, first of all, but the way they are, I want people to see, this is a guy I believe in,” Dietl added.

“I want to show people they do have another choice,” Dietl said, “certainly not the Republican candidate, her voting record stands for itself.” He mentioned Malliotakis’ opposition to marriage equality (which she has said she regrets) and to minimum wage increases. “She’s out of the equation,” Dietl said, “I’m only debating one person, and that’s de Blasio. Unless she comes after me, I’m going to act like she’s not even there, she’s not my competition.”

Dietl said de Blasio has transparency problems and that the schools aren’t being run properly. He said “there’s a fear factor back in New York,” and that, as a former NYPD detective, he’s the right person to put in charge. The city “needs a mayor it can cheer,” Dietl added.

“He’s a very unliked person,” Dietl said of de Blasio, citing the incumbent’s “condescending attitude, like he’s the king or something -- he doesn’t realize, he’s an elected official.”

“Bo Dietl being in the debate is a gift for de Blasio,” said Dr. Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University. “He’ll be a distraction, and he’ll get to talk up to a third of the time, maybe more.” Dietl may also help de Blasio by attacking Malliotakis, Greer noted. “I’m sure Dietl will supply the gaffes,” she said, “he’s going to look erratic.”

“There’s going to be a big surprise on Tuesday,” Dietl told Gotham Gazette. “I said ‘no ‘wild man Bo,’’ we don’t know about that.”

3. What’s de Blasio’s approach?
The mayor positioned himself as fact-checker-in-chief during his two primary debates with Albanese, regularly saying that Albanese was getting his facts wrong and at one point accusing him of being in a “fact-free zone.”

De Blasio will surely be attacked a great deal by Malliotakis and Dietl -- how will the mayor respond?

Odds are de Blasio insists on correcting the record, or defending himself, whatever the case may be, and that he is a willing sparring partner with his opponents. One thing de Blasio does fairly well, though, is pivot into his talking points once he has engaged in some defensiveness. The mayor is practiced in the stagecraft, regularly speaking directly to camera so that he has the appearance of talking with viewers, not addressing his opponent or even the moderator.

“He has to watch the condescending tone,” said Greer, with particular regard to how he talks to and about Malliotakis. “Watch the mansplaining, starting sentences with ‘well, actually,’” Greer added. It helped the mayor that he had to debate Albanese, Greer said, given that “otherwise he’s been in the government phase.”

“Hopefully he’s looked at the tapes” of the primary debates, Greer said, and “hopefully he’s smart enough to have polished up some things.”

“I expect him to be his usual arrogant self,” Malliotakis said when asked what she expects from de Blasio Tuesday night. “He’ll be saying how wonderful and great everything is, which is not what the average New Yorker feels or thinks. I think the mayor wants New Yorkers to believe everything is wonderful because he says it is.”

As the incumbent seeking reelection, it reasons that much of the debate will be about de Blasio’s record, including some of the areas he’s most vulnerable, like ethics and transparency, and homelessness. Questions around the speed of progress in the city’s schools and in building affordable housing may also be raised, by the journalists asking the questions, the candidates, or both.

It will be interesting to see whether de Blasio has any new lines or new policy proposals. There’s a chance he has a practiced zinger or two for one or both of his opponents; he may also have some opposition ammunition regarding Malliotakis’ record in the Assembly or Dietl’s career as a private investigator. It’s more likely the mayor goes after Malliotakis than Dietl, but he has to be careful in terms of coming across as a mud-slinger or patriarchal toward his female opponent.

“It’s clear we’ve been mismanaged for the last few years,” Malliotakis said of de Blasio’s mayoralty. The debate will be a chance to explain how and to showcase her record, she said. “The time I’ve spent in the Legislature putting forward ideas for making New York City better has prepared me to make the case.” On the other hand, the mayor may be able to use Malliotakis’ resume against her, given the conservative nature of her legislative record and limits to what one rank-and-file Assembly member can accomplish, especially when in the minority conference.

The mayor and his team have been defensive about the extent to which de Blasio has put forth a second term agenda, with a number of press stories noting that he’s mostly made either vague, far-off promises, like closing Rikers Island jails in ten years, or pledged continuations of his current policies -- pre-K for all is supposed to become 3-K for all if the mayor is given another term, for example.

Expect de Blasio to attempt to articulate more sharply his second term agenda, but an interesting question will be whether he’s ready with a new proposal or two that hasn’t been announced before. Debates aren’t necessarily a typical venue for such an announcement, but de Blasio could potentially steal a lot of the spotlight if he were to put something new and exciting on the table.

"We are looking forward to discussing the Mayor's record of achievement, his vision for making New York City more affordable, creating 100,000 jobs and continuing to improve our schools, and how important it is for New Yorkers to turn out to vote for a Mayor who will stand up to Donald Trump,” said Dan Levitan, a spokesperson for de Blasio’s campaign, in a statement.

The incumbent has plenty to boast about -- he's followed through on a number of his promises and the city is doing well in many respects -- and de Blasio must be able to present his accomplishments while also recognizing that many New Yorkers are struggling on a daily basis.

Greer pointed to a slightly different balancing act de Blasio must peform, related to getting his supporters out to vote. “The mayor has to present that this campaign is important for you to turn out to vote, but without being alarmist,” she said, ‘Things are going well, the ship is steady, but I still need you to come out and vote.’”

4. The fourth politician on stage
Sal Albanese, the Reform Party nominee who came in second to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, is suing to be on the debate stage, but his case won’t be decided until after Tuesday. Mike Tolkin, running on his own Smart Cities ballot line and the third place finisher in the Democratic primary, qualified for the debate financially, through his own gifts to his campaign, but was not invited by NY1, and went on a hunger strike to demand inclusion.

But more so than Albanese or Tolkin, the fourth politician likely to be on stage Tuesday night is President Donald Trump, whom de Blasio will attempt to tie Malliotakis to, as he has done throughout the campaign. While Malliotakis voted for Trump last November, she had been a supporter of Senator Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primary and has voiced several areas of disagreement with Trump. Dietl also has his own ties to Trump, though he too has attempted to distance himself from the president.

How much de Blasio is able to make Trump a presence at the debate may factor into how well he comes across to New York City voters overall. Malliotakis often has a hard time finding the balance of being a conservative who voted for Trump and a Republican who often disagrees with the president and is open to being a bipartisan mayor.

“She’s had some fluidity on the campaign trail,” said Greer, of Fordham University, about Malliotakis’ attempts to discuss the president. “Trump is going to come up, and I don’t think it’s unfair that he does, actually. A lot of New Yorkers want to know. We’re at a moment of needing protection from the federal government, not just needing to work with the federal government.”

Malliotakis’ “biggest vulnerability is getting stuck in-between on the Trump conversation,” said O’Reilly, the Republican strategist, who runs The November Team. She must “stay true to her convictions but appeal to Democrats at the same time,” he added, which is not an easy task. Malliotakis has been peppered with Trump questions throughout the campaign and has showed some frustration with it. She insists this isn’t a race about Trump, however much de Blasio might like it to be, and that she is “not trying to fight an ideological war.”

Asked about how she’ll approach the mayor’s attempts to tie her to Trump, Malliotakis said Monday that she’s “going to be prepared,” but didn’t want to divulge specifics.

“Throughout the whole campaign the mayor has spoken more about Trump than he has about homelessness or transit or our public schools,” she said. “He’s trying to deflect from his failures as mayor. I anticipate he’ll do it again. It’s all he’s got.”

Malliotakis needs to get beyond the Trump conversation to broaden her appeal, O’Reilly said. “She has to break through with Democrats,” he said, noting the massive Democratic advantage in New York City. Malliotakis needs a Giuliani- or Bloomberg-type coalition to win, which includes a good number of moderate Democrats and party-unaffiliated voters, as well as many of the city’s half-million registered Republicans. There are well over 3 million registered Democrats in the city.

5. Who has momentum?
Many in the city see the election as a foregone conclusion, that de Blasio, with his major fundraising, name recognition, and voter enrollment advantages, is virtually unbeatable. Are the debates a formality? Can Malliotakis or Dietl make enough headway that she or he is taken more seriously and has the city buzzing for a few days?

With the second debate on November 1, just six days before the election, the first debate is a can’t-miss opportunity for the two challengers, who both need a new influx of campaign cash, along with increased media buzz and a sense of momentum.

In a weekend interview with, Dietl said he believes “there’s going to be a lot of people coming on board after Tuesday night,” indicating he expects an influx of support and funds after his debate performance.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

5 Things to Watch at The First General Election Mayoral Debate Mon, 09 Oct 2017 19:18:00 +0000
Good News and Bad News for Malliotakis' Mayoral Campaign malliotakis senior handshake via facebook

Nicole Malliotakis (via Facebook)

It’s been a bittersweet week for Republican mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis, a sitting Assemblymember from Staten Island, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio.

While Malliotakis will have a major infusion of funds to get her message out and build her low name recognition across the five boroughs, she will also have to compete, at least for one important night, with the louder voice of a third mayoral candidate who threatens to debilitate Malliotakis’ chances of pulling off the long-shot upset of de Blasio, an incumbent with significant advantages in the race.

On Wednesday, independent mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, a brash former NYPD detective running on his own “Dump the Mayor” ballot line, announced that he had been invited to the first of two official mayoral debates ahead of the November 7 general election. Not only will Dietl pose a challenge to Malliotakis’ debate prospects in terms of positioning her opposition to de Blasio, but his inclusion immediately means more media attention and legitimacy for Dietl’s campaign.

The debate, scheduled for Tuesday, October 10 is organized by the New York City Campaign Finance Board and was mandatory for those participating in the CFB’s public matching funds program, which matches qualifying small-dollar contributions up to $175 at a 6-to-1 ratio. Malliotakis and de Blasio are participants in the program and Dietl is not, but he met the $500,000 debate threshold for campaign fundraising and spending and was also included in recent polling by NBC 4 New York/Marist.  

“While Dietl is not enrolled in the campaign finance program, we have decided to invite him based on his showing in a recent poll and his regular presence on the campaign trail,” said a spokesperson for Charter Communications, a debate sponsor and parent company of NY1, which will air the debate, also hosted by WNYC radio and other partners.

Dietl’s presence derails Malliotakis’ chances of a one-on-one, substantive debate with de Blasio -- he is a pugnacious, unpredictable character in the vein of Donald Trump -- but also threatens to further cut into votes that Malliotakis hopes to win. The two candidates share similar views and likely voters on a variety of issues, and their criticisms of the mayor are largely indistinguishable on many fronts. Both are significantly more conservative than de Blasio on most issues.

As it stands, in a city with six registered Democratic voters for each registered Republican, a conservative candidate has a limited constituency from which they can draw support and Dietl and Malliotakis have all along both been endangered by the likelihood of splitting anti-de Blasio votes. There is a significant number of party-unaffiliated voters to woo as well as moderate Democrats and Republicans, but most of the votes in play for Dietl or Malliotakis are largely out of the de Blasio target area to begin with.

Recently, Dietl has gone after Malliotakis, accusing her of filing fraudulent ballot petition signatures and insulting her at debates. Either purposely or not, he regularly mispronounce her name or refers to her in dismissive terms. Dietl argues that he is the only viable candidate who can defeat de Blasio and has called on Malliotakis to drop out of the race, which is is very unlikely to do.

“We’re surprised that the Bo Dietl traveling circus is included in the first debate,” said Rob Ryan, a Malliotakis campaign spokesperson, in a statement. “Nevertheless, Assemblywoman Malliotakis will hold Bill de Blasio accountable for his failure to solve the homeless crisis, fix our broken subway system and educate and keep our kids safe in our schools. She’s ready to take on Bill de Blasio and demand answers, it will be a great debate.”

While Dietl will continue to be a headache for Malliotakis and a distraction from her mission, the GOP standard bearer did receive some much more positive news this week.

On Thursday, the CFB approved a $1.52 million in public funds to be paid to Malliotakis’ campaign, bolstering her campaign coffers which held only $162,950, giving her a much-needed boost ahead of the debate and the final six weeks of the general election.

The added funds and the first debate may both help Malliotakis build much needed name recognition, including by spending more on advertising, and can also lead to the ability to bring in more money as the campaign continues -- a necessity if she is to run a viable campaign and make a stronger showing than Republican Joe Lhota made in 2013 against de Blasio, when Lhota received 24 percent of the vote to de Blasio’s 73 percent. In fact, on Friday Malliotakis' campaign announced her second video advertisement, attacking de Blasio on the issue of the subways, which the mayor does not control.

Malliotakis jumped into the mayoral race relatively late, in April, at a time when a well-funded candidate, millionaire real estate executive Paul Massey, was considered the frontrunner. After Massey dropped out, and other candidates failed to make an impression, Malliotakis quickly emerged at the front of the pack. But the three-term Assemblymember has struggled to raise her profile outside of her home borough of Staten Island and, somewhat relatedly, has not been able to raise especially significant funds for her campaign. Overall, she has raised $734,412 and spent $571,462.

Dietl, on the other hand, has relied on a network of wealthy allies to raise about $1 million, and has spent about $800,000.

Neither of them have come close to de Blasio, who has raised more than $5.25 million for his reelection and has received nearly $3 million in public funds. He has spent $5.78 million so far.

De Blasio’s campaign spokesperson, Dan Levitan, did not appear worked up by the news of Dietl’s inclusion in the first debate. “We are looking forward to discussing the Mayor's record of achievement, his vision for making New York City more affordable, creating 100,000 jobs and continuing to improve our schools, and how important it is for New Yorkers to turn out to vote for a Mayor who will stand up to Donald Trump,” Levitan said in a statement.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Good News and Bad News for Malliotakis' Mayoral Campaign Fri, 29 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
23 Things Bo Dietl Promises To Do As Mayor dietl big bird crop

Bo Dietl with a Big Bird he hired to perform outside a mayoral debate (@BoDeitl)

Mayoral candidate Bo Dietl, a former NYPD detective now a private investigator, was invited Wednesday to participate in the first official, televised mayoral debate of the general election. On October 10, Dietl will take the stage with incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and Republican Nicole Malliotakis, for the debate, which will be aired on NY1.

After a mistake with his paperwork as he tried to change parties to run in the Democratic primary, Dietl will be on the November ballot on his self-created “Dump de Blasio” line.

Dietl, who describes himself as a "conservative, moderate Democrat," was at one time a regular Fox News contributor and national spokesperson for Arby’s restaurants. He has raised close to  $1 million for his campaign, though he is not part of the Campaign Finance Board public matching program, so he is ineligible for a large sum of public funds that both de Blasio and Malliotakis will have, to varying amounts, at their disposals.

Like Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis, Dietl voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and in fact endorsed him. Both have tried to distance themselves from Trump as they’ve run for mayor. Also like Malliotakis, Dietl has focused his campaigning efforts on painting a picture of a city that is decaying due to a reclassification of low-level, nonviolent offenses under de Blasio, whom he refers to as “Big Bird” because of de Blasio’s height. They both also criticize de Blasio for ethical issues that have dogged the mayor’s term and reelection bid.

In the end, Dietl and Malliotakis may be competing for the same pool of voters, and risk splitting the anti-de Blasio vote.

Dietl has run a Trump-like campaign, complete with a bombastic media personality, a prolific use of Twitter, and calling his opponents nicknames.

But despite the similarities in style and tone, Dietl actually does not promise to bring Trump-like policies to New York, for the most part. While he has adopted a largely tough-on-crime stance when it comes to policing and criminal justice, he has also adopted centrist or even liberal views on some other issues such as transit.

Here are 23 things Bo Dietl promises to do as mayor, accumulated through his public appearances and social media posts, campaign statements and website, discussion on the Max & Murphy podcast, and other sources:

1. Centralize homeless shelter services in facilities on Randall’s and Ward’s Islands.

2. Direct funds from the city’s $4 billion surplus into the MTA’s capital budget to “accelerate infrastructure projects.” This rather than the de Blasio plan of taxing the 1% to fund the MTA.

3. Stop decriminalizing broken windows offenses like public urination.

4. “Eliminate stop-and-frisk in favor of community interactions.”

5. Stop “skewing crime statistics and underreporting crimes in schools.”

6. Implement a commuter tax on drivers entering the city, and use the revenues from that tax to subsidize MetroCards for “full-time employed New Yorkers” making less than $20,000 per year.

7. Increase vocational training within the school system.

8. Ban student cell phone use in city schools.

9. Expand Section 8 housing.

10. Curtail availability of prescription opioids and expand medical marijuana.

11. Keep Rikers Island jails open, but work on improving the complex’s accountability, transparency, services, and infrastructure. Abandon the plan to build new jails in the boroughs.

12. Curtail construction of bike lanes.

13. Avoid raising taxes on income, real estate, commercial rent.

14. Waive the college requirement for entering the NYPD, recruit straight out of high school.

15. Increase pay for police officers to boost morale.

16. Implement a plastic bags tax.

17. Convert all taxis and buses to clean energy vehicles.

18. Provide tax incentives for businesses that use renewable energy.

19. Increase the minimum wage.

20. Offer tax incentives to Wall Street and other businesses to participate in a fund to privatize college tuition grants for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year.

21. Fight the opioid epidemic by utilizing crime-fighting techniques “he used as an NYPD detective to successfully curtail the flow of drugs through communities in the 1980s.”

22. Force all real estate developers to build “meaningful affordable housing in all new complexes.”

23. Hold daily news conferences and “address any concern or answer any question the press poses about New York City.”

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

23 Things Bo Dietl Promises To Do As Mayor Wed, 27 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
The Mayoral Money Race as the General Election Heats Up bo dietl voting crop

Bo Dietl (photo: @BoDietl)

Six weeks from now, on November 7, New Yorkers will head to the polls to decide whether to renew the contract of Mayor Bill de Blasio, or if they want new leadership from one of the incumbent Democrat’s opponents in the general election.

The latest mayoral race poll, from NBC 4 New York/Marist, was released on September 19 and shows de Blasio well ahead of his main challengers -- Republican nominee Nicole Malliotakis and independent candidate Bo Dietl. De Blasio received 65 percent from likely voters, including undecided ones, while Malliotakis received 18 percent and Dietl 8 percent. Sal Albanese, a former City Council member and lost by a wide margin to de Blasio in the Democratic primary, will also be on the ballot on the Reform Party line, but he was not included in the poll. Michael Tolkin, another runner-up to de Blasio in the primary, has also created a separate general election ballot line called “Smart Cities,” while several other candidates will also be on the November ballot, such as Green Party mayoral nominee Akeem Browder.

Coming out of primary day with a massive win, securing 74.2 percent of the vote, de Blasio continues to hold a strong fundraising advantage, and his spending on an extensive ground game and media campaign has overshadowed his opponents. The most recent campaign finance filings, covering the period between August 29 and September 18, show the mayor raising campaign cash at a comfortable clip, with a majority of contributions under $175, which qualify to be matched at a 6-to-1 ratio under the Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program.

De Blasio raised just over $272,000 in this last filing period, and his campaign expects that to reach $400,000 with the second round of payouts of public matching funds. This period also coincided with the rollout of a massive ad buy for his campaign, resulting in more than $3 million in expenditures. Of that expenditure, $2.51 million went to airing television ads and $175,000 to digital ads. Overall, the mayor has raised $5.25 million, and received $2.86 million in public matching funds before the September 12 primary. Having spent $5.78 million so far, he has about $2.34 million in cash on hand, with new public money expected soon.

“Our campaign’s grassroots fundraising has only picked up the pace since our strong showing on Primary Day,” said Rick Fromberg, de Blasio’s campaign manager, in a statement that also touted the mayor’s first-term record on crime, affordable housing, and pre-kindergarten.

Malliotakis, a state Assemblymember who represents parts of Staten Island and a sliver of Brooklyn, has also stepped up her fundraising, coming close to de Blasio in this last period with $241,000 in contributions. She spent nearly $300,000 in the same period, of which about $200,000 went to television ads. Malliotakis has struggled to garner name recognition outside of her home borough of Staten Island, with 49 percent of likely voters in the NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll saying they had never heard of her and 17 percent saying they were unsure of how to rate her.

Her campaign has not taken off in terms of fundraising, but it is buoyed by having hit the threshold for public matching funds, and is expecting a $1.6 million payout from the CFB later this week. By qualifying for the funds, “we open a whole new chapter in my campaign to retire Bill de Blasio,” Malliotakis said in a statement. “New Yorkers understand that Bill de Blasio has failed New York City and its residents, that’s why we are receiving the donations needed to turn this race into a competitive election.”

In total, Malliotakis has raised more than $734,412 and spent $571,462, leaving her just $162,950 in her campaign account without public funds. She also surpassed the dual thresholds of campaign expenditure and spending and required poll numbers to face de Blasio on the stage for two official CFB-sponsored debates ahead of the general election. The first is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10, just two weeks from now.

Dietl, the Trump-like former NYPD detective who runs his own private investigation firm, raised just under $20,000 in the last filing period and spent about $80,000. Unlike the other candidates, Dietl did not purchase any ads and has largely relied on social media to get his message out. He has raised just over $1 million overall (including $100,000 from a personal loan he gave his campaign) and spent a little more than $800,000, leaving him with $208,898. He is not participating in the public matching program, so he will not receive any additional funds through the Campaign Finance Board.

Albanese’s campaign has been a small-dollar affair throughout. In the last filing period, he raised just $6,360 and spent $4,424. Much of Albanese’s campaign cash was depleted last month when he made big expenditures to qualify for the Democratic primary debates. Since he joined the race, he has managed to raise $214,141 and has spent $190,081, leaving $24,060 in his coffers.

There are more than a dozen other candidates also running for mayor. Tolkin raised about $234,000 in contributions and spent about $192,000 in his latest filing. Tolkin’s filings also show $5.4 million in total fundraising and expenditures but a majority of that falls under “in-kind” contributions, in the form of services and branded merchandising that Tolkin claimed for his campaign.

The Green Party’s Akeem Browder, brother of Kalief Browder -- the young Bronx man who was imprisoned on Rikers Island for three years on charges of stealing a backpack that were later dropped, beaten and put in solitary confinement, and later committed suicide after being released. Browder, who has criticized de Blasio’s ten-year timeline for closing the scandal-ridden Rikers jail complex, has raised $1,887 and spent just $100.

Libertarian candidate Aaron Commey has raised $2,001 and spent $1,111.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

The Mayoral Money Race as the General Election Heats Up Mon, 25 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000