Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2238 Sat, 16 Dec 2017 09:22:09 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Max & Murphy Podcast: Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7292:max-murphy-podcast-resetting-the-mayoral-race-after-the-final-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7292:max-murphy-podcast-resetting-the-mayoral-race-after-the-final-debate

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


November 3, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate

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After the second and final mayoral debate among Bill de Blasio, Nicole Malliotakis and Bo Dietl, Max & Murphy break down the debate and the status of the race, while discussing what has made it a lackluster campaign season and what could have made both the race and the debates better. They also look ahead to the final days of the campaign and Election Day.

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.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate Thu, 02 Nov 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Mayoral Candidates Make Closing Arguments in Frenetic Final Debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7291:mayoral-candidates-make-closing-arguments-in-frenetic-final-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7291: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.

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Mayoral Candidates Make Closing Arguments in Frenetic Final Debate Wed, 01 Nov 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Following Up with Comptroller Stringer on Several Debate Moments http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7279:following-up-with-comptroller-stringer-on-several-debate-moments http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7279:following-up-with-comptroller-stringer-on-several-debate-moments faulkner stringer comptroller debate election

Faulkner, left, and Stringer, at the Comptroller debate (photo via @NYCVotes)


It appears that a relatively small number of people watched the lone debate in the election for New York City Comptroller, which occurred on Tuesday, October 17 between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and his Republican challenger, Michel Faulkner. It is one of three citywide races, along with those for Mayor and Public Advocate, happening this fall.

Conventional wisdom is that Stringer will handily win a second term on November 7, as he has the full backing of the Democratic establishment and significant fundraising and name recognition advantages over Faulkner and the other candidates who will be on the ballot: Libertarian Party nominee Alex Merced and Green Party nominee Julia Willebrand.

During the hourlong debate, broadcast on NY1 television and WNYC radio, Stringer mostly played it safe and defended his record, at times, especially early on, barely reacting as Faulkner criticized him from an adjacent podium. But in a handful of moments Stringer said especially newsworthy or curious things, taking positions or making statements worthy of follow-up. Gotham Gazette sent a short series of inquiries to the comptroller’s office for more information.

Closing Rikers Island
The debate moment that got the most attention was Stringer declaring that the Rikers Island jail complex should be closed in three years, far short of the ten-year timeline announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat also favored to win reelection this year. Stringer was well ahead of de Blasio is backing the notion of closing the notorious jail complex, but had not made such a splashy public declaration of his desired timeframe.

“Let’s do it in three years,” Stringer said at the debate, when asked about closing Rikers by WNYC’s Brigid Bergin, one of the panelists asking questions, and raising more than a few eyebrows of those who follow city politics closely. “It is inhumane. I’ve walked those corridors, I’ve talked to inmates. I’ve done the data analysis. And it is inhumane.”

Asked for more detail on how Stringer got to the three-year goal and what that “data analysis” looked like, the comptroller’s office told Gotham Gazette that the ten-year timeline is simply too long, that if New York wants to be a leader in criminal justice reform, it must move faster. A Stringer spokesperson said the comptroller has floated the three-year timeline at community events, but offered no specifics for how the comptroller got there.

NYCHA Home Ownership
At the comptroller debate, Faulkner explained his call for allowing some NYCHA residents an opportunity to own their apartments. Stringer expressed surprising support for the idea, which his office then walked back.

“I believe that the NYCHA residents, the long-term residents should have an equity stake in NYCHA right now,” Faulkner said at the debate.

Asked by moderator Errol Louis of NY1 whether NYCHA residents should indeed have a path to ownership, Stringer said, “I think that’s a wonderful idea, but let’s also figure out a way to actually make that happen. It’s easy to talk about it, but look, we have to get more access to loans, to credit, if we’re really going to change the landscape of home ownership for the people who struggle in our city but are building and investing their sweat equity in our communities. That is something that we have to look at, and I would definitely look towards that.”

In a follow-up to the debate, Gotham Gazette asked Stringer’s office about his apparent openness to some home ownership among NYCHA tenants and what that might mean for a privatization of the nation’s largest public housing system. A spokesperson tried to make it abundantly clear that the comptroller does not believe in privatization of NYCHA in any way. The spokesperson said that Stringer didn’t want to shut the door in principle on encouraging homeownership if there is a viable path that does not eliminate much affordable housing. The details of such a plan would be essential, the spokesperson stressed.

During the NYCHA discussion at the debate, Stringer touted his many audits of the housing authority and called for new funding streams, including his push for tens of millions of dollars in Battery Park City Authority proceeds to go toward NYCHA fixes.

A Specific Affordable Housing Plan
A large group of churchgoers, NYCHA residents, senior citizens, and advocates recently rallied near City Hall to push for an affordable housing plan from the Metro-IAF coalition led by two Brooklyn pastors and affordable housing builders. The plan, which has been rebuffed by the de Blasio administration, calls for major additional investments in NYCHA repairs, 15,000 new units of senior housing on NYCHA land, and more.

Stringer spoke at the City Hall rally, expressing his support for the plan, and reiterated it at the comptroller debate, referencing it without being specifically asked about it.

“There is a broad coalition of churches that have come together to build, within NYCHA, 15,000 senior housing units,” Stringer said during the debate. “My office is looking at those numbers, I think it’s a realistic plan. I think that anything we do to build within NYCHA developments has to be with the community -- to go back to something that we don’t do a lot of anymore, which is community-based planning.”

Asked why Stringer had come out in support of the plan to then say that his office is still looking at the numbers, the comptroller’s office said Stringer reviewed the Metro-IAF plan and believes it is viable, partly because it requires increased housing subsidies from the city that would allow for deeper levels of affordability, a desirable outcome the comptroller has been calling for more broadly as he has consistently criticized the de Blasio administration’s housing plan. More review is needed on the specifics, including how much more in subsidy the city can afford, the Stringer spokesperson said.

Stringer looks forward to continuing the conversation, Gotham Gazette was told.

The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Plan More Broadly
Including with regard to the Metro-IAF plan, Stringer has repeatedly said that de Blasio’s larger affordable housing plan is not affordable enough, that it is not reaching enough New Yorkers most in need. It has been part of his push to see the city build more affordable housing on city-owned vacant lots, the source of much controversy and back-and-forth with the de Blasio administration.

Stringer said at the debate that “right now” the city is “building luxury developments with some affordable housing that is not affordable.” Apartments being built in East New York, for example, are not affordable to families currently living there, he said, in apparent reference to the neighborhood rezoning plan passed by the de Blasio administration with the City Council. “[I]t’s not adequate,” Stringer said of the overall approach, adding, “we have to be bigger in thinking about housing.”

In response to a follow-up question from Gotham Gazette, Stringer’s spokesperson said that the current city housing plan is not geared enough toward those in deeper poverty and with current subsidies favoring low-income households, those with extremely low-income or virtually no income face even more pressure, especially when the rezonings are taken into consideration, given that they can risk furthering the threats of displacement.

Stringer wants to see more work done with not-for-profit developers, the spokesperson said, and to add anti-displacement zoning to undercut tenant harassment.

[Read: Comptroller Debate Focuses on Stringer's Record]

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Following Up with Comptroller Stringer on Several Debate Moments Thu, 26 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7259:max-murphy-podcast-analyzing-the-public-advocate-comptroller-debates http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7259:max-murphy-podcast-analyzing-the-public-advocate-comptroller-debates

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


October 18, 2017 - Max & Murphy: Analyzing the Public Advocate and Comptroller Debates

brigid at debate nyc votesThe lone public advocate and comptroller debates of the election cycle occurred on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio (pictured, middle) was one of the panelists asking questions at the comptroller debate between incumbent Democrat Scott Stringer and Republican challenger Michel Faulkner, and she joins this episode of Max & Murphy to recap and analyze that debate and the debate between incumbent Democrat Letitia James and Republican challenger J.C. Polanco in the public advocate race.

Bergin, Max, and Murphy also discussed the state of the mayoral race as we are less than three weeks before Election Day, November 7. The second and final mayoral debate is set for November 1.

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.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates Wed, 18 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Comptroller Debate Focuses on Stringer's Record http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7260:comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7260:comptroller-debate-focuses-on-stringer-s-record faulkner stringer comptroller

Michel Faulkner, left, and Scott Stringer at Tuesday's debate


Echoing more the calm and substantive public advocate debate from Monday than the rowdy, unproductive October 10 mayoral debate, on Tuesday evening the Democratic and Republican candidates for comptroller, incumbent Scott Stringer and Michel Faulkner, respectively, met for their sole debate ahead of Election Day, November 7.

The race to be the city’s chief fiscal officer has, like the public advocate contest, been a sleepy one, with the incumbent Democrat holding major financial and other advantages, and heavily favored, as the higher profile mayoral race has sucked up the attention of most of whatever small number of voters is paying attention to the municipal elections. It is expected to be another terribly low turnout election.

Unlike the Republican challenger for public advocate, J.C. Polanco, Faulkner raised enough money to qualify for a debate with Stringer. Polanco was granted a debate by Public Advocate Letitia James, and the two jousted for an hour Monday evening about James’ record, the role of public advocate, and a variety of other issues.

On Tuesday, Stringer and Faulkner competed in a debate largely focused on Stringer’s record over the past four years, with Faulkner accusing him of not being a tough enough watchdog and Stringer showcasing his record of accomplishments. Both advocated for their positions on a wide range of issues, from managing the many-billion-dollar public pension funds to monitoring the city’s ballooning budget, the potential impact of the Trump administration on the city’s finances, and what to do about the city’s public housing, NYCHA, and with the Rikers Island jail complex.

The debate, hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown Manhattan, was broadcast on NY1 television and WNYC radio, and moderated by NY1 political anchor Errol Louis, with questions also coming from WNYC’s Brigid Bergin and NY1’s Bobby Cuza. It was a spirited but respectful affair between the two contenders, though at times Stringer appeared to shrug off Faulkner’s criticisms, perhaps evidence of the air of inevitability surrounding the race. With a lot more money in the bank and higher name recognition, Stringer is expected to ride to easy victory with support from many labor unions and given the city’s massive Democratic enrollment advantage.

Faulkner, a pastor and a former New York Jet football player, throughout the night referred to his vision of the comptroller’s office as one of an activist auditor who gets things done, rather than someone who simply releases reports and talks about problems.

“Now more than ever, New York City needs an active fiscal watchdog. Someone who will manage our finances, who will push back on the mayor, and push back on City Council, and stop this runaway spending,” Faulkner said. “Scott Stringer has not been tough enough. I will be tougher, I will be better.”

Faulkner attacked a record that Stringer spent the night defending, going so far as to say that Stringer misrepresented who he was while campaigning for comptroller four years ago.

Stringer, meanwhile, defended his record as someone who delivered consistent returns for taxpayers and pensioners, and as someone who was not afraid to call out deficiencies either in mayoral policies or in agency mismanagement. He pointed, for example, to his audit of homeless shelters that exposed major problems with conditions and led to the city taking repairs much more seriously. More broadly, however, Stringer pitched himself as someone fighting for New Yorkers, especially for those struggling to afford the cost of living in the city and immigrants.

Much of the debate centered on two key parts of the comptroller’s job: managing the massive pension system and monitoring the city’s budget and financial health.

On the topic of pensions, wherein former public employees who are vested are guaranteed certain payouts, Stringer somewhat tepidly defended his record after Louis noted that this year’s returns have been around 2%, well below the comptroller office’s 7% actuarial target. Stringer noted that, over his tenure, pensions have hit this target, with a 7.4% return rate. When the pension funds themselves don’t adequately meet payout obligations, the city must make up the difference to the tune of billions in its annual budget.

“That is something that’s taken a lot of work,” Stringer said. He said that one reason for the pension fund hitting its target was changing the “internal workings of the Bureau of Asset Management.” The incumbent showed more enthusiasm in describing reforms he’s led to how the pension system is run, including changing the fee structure for investors hired to grow the funds.

Louis also asked Stringer about a movement among municipal pension systems to move towards investing in passive index funds, which, rather than being actively managed by investors, simply follow a market index such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average or S&P 500, and tend to outperform actively managed funds.

Stringer stated, however, that if the city had invested in an unspecified index fund over the past few years, the returns would be 6.9%, just below the 7% benchmark.

“So, we can’t just rely on the index,” Stringer said. “And that is why we have a varied asset allocation. We make sure that we protect the fund. We’re long-term investors, we’re not trying to game the system. On average, we’ve hit 7.4% the last four years. This year, we returned 13%. But at the end of the day, our strategy is to secure retirement security. We’re not trying to come in and out of funds, we’re not trying to create risk, and that is a conservative approach that I think has served the people who rely on us well.”

Stringer also stated that money managers would no longer be paid no matter whether they made or lost money for the city; rather, they would now only be paid if they did well. He argued that the city is leading “best practices” for pensions nationwide.

Faulkner said that he agreed with several things Stringer’s office did to “shore up the existing fund.” In fact, he largely strayed away from criticizing Stringer’s record in arguably the most important aspect of the job, instead pivoting to the city’s increased operating budget, though he did say the growing public personnel -- which has increased dramatically under Mayor Bill de Blasio -- has had a negative impact on the city’s pension system by increasing obligations.

Faulkner’s most prominent line of attack was, in fact, concerning the city’s rising budget, which has increased by about 18% since de Blasio assumed office, up to about $85 billion this fiscal year. Faulkner said de Blasio and the City Council had an excessive “tax and spend” approach, and that de Blasio tries to throw money at any problem to make it go away, such as with homelessness. But, Faulkner did not offer areas of the city budget he would cut, instead saying that he is sure there could be some savings to be found, and seemingly indicated he wants the city to actually spend more money on programs -- if only the city could keep more of its own tax money, he said.

Faulkner said that the city should aim to stop relying on the federal government for everything. He praised President Donald Trump’s federal tax reform plan as a positive that would put money in the pockets of average New Yorkers and allow the city to comfortably raise local taxes to fund certain priorities like affordable housing.

When NY1’s Cuza questioned the plausibility of Faulkner’s hope that the city would rely on the federal government to return tens of billions of dollars to the city, Faulkner said that rather than asking for the money back, New Yorkers should simply stop giving tax money to the federal government.

“We don’t have to wait for it back,” Faulkner said. “We just stop giving it to them. If it’s my money, I’m just saying, ‘well you know what.’ We need all of the political will in New York to be able to do that.” It was indicative of a pattern in which Faulkner did not seem to have fully fleshed out plans to present to voters.

Regarding the notion of asking the federal government for tax dollars that go elsewhere to be returned to New York, as advocated by Faulkner, Stringer said “I don’t deal in fantasy.”

“Right now, the Trump proposal would cost middle income New Yorkers billions of dollars,” said Stringer, who has been a frequent critic of Trump, while Faulkner has been supportive of the president. “We would lose $7 billion in New York State to this tax cut; 100,000 people who make less than $100,000 a year would be eviscerated by this tax cut. It is dangerous. It is the greatest risk we have right now, along with issues related to the Affordable Care Act and Health + Hospitals. And in no way is this tax cut a benefit to working people.”

On the growth of the city budget, Stringer defended his oversight work, saying he had pushed the de Blasio administration to find more savings, and said that due to his advocacy the city currently held its largest total amount of savings in its history. He said he is proud of the investments the city has been making, and offered a mix of praise and criticism for de Blasio -- the two have endorsed each other for reelection depsite frrequent sparring, mostly earlier in the term, when Stringer was toying with a 2017 mayoral run.

Also discussed were broader political issues of the day, such as affordable housing. Both Stringer and Faulkner criticized the mayor’s affordable housing plan, with Stringer saying that it is not going far enough in reaching the people who most need it. He reiterated his calls for deeper affordability in the plan, for using land banks, and for more aggressively building on city-owned vacant lots.

Stringer also referenced an ongoing threat of federal funding cuts to NYCHA, while Faulkner sharply responded by noting that Stringer had been criticizing federal disinvestment from NYCHA during the administration of Democrat Barack Obama. Instead, Faulkner said that the city could fund NYCHA through a federal tax cut.

Faulkner called out Stringer for simply releasing reports on NYCHA’s numerous shortcomings without proposing or implementing reforms, and, in cross examination, asked Stringer how he would actually fix the things he calls out. Stringer’s answer was to, first and foremost, elect a new president who will invest in public housing. Stringer also defended the results of his audits, noting that he has spurred action across city agencies, that hundreds of audits have led to 1,000 of his office’s recommendations being adopted.

Faulkner proposed that, in order to lift them out of cyclical poverty, NYCHA residents should have the ability to own equity in their homes. In something of a surprise moment, Stringer said that it was an impossibility today, but that he was open to exploring a path to that outcome.

On Rikers, Faulkner gave roundabout answers: he said that the facility should eventually be closed and that the way it’s operated needs to be immediately reformed, but that a closure plan being developed by de Blasio was not trustworthy. However, on the question of housing pretrial detainees within the boroughs rather than on Rikers Island, Faulkner was supportive, saying they should be held near courthouses.

Stringer, who proclaimed that he was the “first elected official to step up and say shut [Rikers] down,” took it a step further on Tuesday. “Let’s do it in three years,” Stringer said, significantly undercutting de Blasio’s ten-year timeline. “It is inhumane. I’ve walked those corridors, I’ve talked to inmates. I’ve done the data analysis. And it is inhumane.”

While Stringer and Faulkner were the only two candidates to qualify for the debate, two others will be on the ballot in November: Alex Merced is the Libertarian nominee for comptroller, and Julia Willebrand is the Green Party nominee.

Near the end of the debate, Louis moderated a “lightning round,” asking Faulkner and Stringer for quick answers to a series of rapid fire questions on a variety of topics, some personal or frivolous, others more substantive. The candidates were asked about ten questions, including whether they had ever ordered from Fresh Direct (Faulkner has not, Stringer has); whether the mayor should use taxpayer dollars to fund his legal defense from investigations that closed without charges (Faulkner gave a resounding no, while Stringer refused to comment because his office is involved in the process). Asked whether the proposed BQX streetcar was a wise use of taxpayer dollars, Faulkner said no while Stringer said “there’s a long way to go” and the project needs “vigorous review.”

Asked for the most recent book both had read, Faulkner answered with If They Can Keep It, by Eric Metaxas, a book about American exceptionalism. Stringer said Shark Detective, a children’s book he had read to his young sons.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Comptroller Debate Focuses on Stringer's Record Tue, 17 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
Public Advocate Debate Shows Stark Differences Between James and Polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7256:public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7256:public-advocate-debate-shows-stark-differences-between-james-and-polanco Tish James JC Polanco public advocate debate via nyc votes

James & Polanco at their debate (photo: @NYCVotes)


Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat running for reelection, squared off against her Republican opponent, J.C. Polanco, in a friendly yet competitive debate on Monday that highlighted substantive differences, and some shared opinions, between the two candidates on a range of policy issues. Given the race features an incumbent, the debate centered in large part on James’ record as public advocate over the last four years, especially her performance in holding the mayoral administration accountable.

Hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in front of a small, closed audience, the debate was the first and only to be held in the public advocate race leading up to Election Day, November 7. It was held at James’ discretion -- she agreed to debate Polanco despite his failure to meet the financial thresholds to qualify for an official Campaign Finance Board-sponsored debate.

The two candidates butted heads, albeit respectfully, through the hurried hour-long debate, articulating sharp contrasting opinions on rent regulations, charter schools, criminal justice issues, and the overarching role of the public advocate’s office as an ombudsman for the city. While James touted her record, Polanco referenced his qualifications stemming from his work for the state Assembly minority conference and his past role as president of the city Board of Elections. He called himself a “common sense” Republican.

Early on, Polanco sought to paint James as a too-close ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio who has failed to stand up to the mayor and the progressive-dominated City Council, a pitch that has been at the center of his campaign along with proposals to strengthen the independence of the public advocate’s office. Polanco believes the office should have investigative and subpoena powers over city agencies, which would require a city charter revision approved by voters, as well as funding equivalent to the much larger comptroller’s office.

James, an experienced litigator, has used her legal skills to inform the core functions of her office. Over the last four years, she said she has worked “to transform the office into a vehicle for social and economic justice for all,” claiming to have resolved more than 30,000 constituent complaints and touting the passage of more legislation than all her four predecessors together. She highlighted her signature legislative achievement: a new law that bans employers from asking job candidates their salary histories, which is aimed at closing the gender pay gap.

James has sued the city 11 times, but has been bounced from several cases for lack of standing. James had to defend her approach early on in the debate when asked by moderator and NY1 anchor Errol Louis whether she sought to win those lawsuits or just make headlines by filing suits.

“I make no apologies for standing up for those without a voice,” James responded, insisting that she would continue to do so and noting that she is working with members of the City Council on a potential legislative solution to codify her ability to sue the city and its agencies. She also cited several instances where she had been victorious, including a lawsuit to make Department of Education School Leadership Team meetings open to the public and another in favor of seniors who were being denied rent increase exemptions by the city.

Polanco agreed that the public advocate should have broader standing in the right to sue the city administration, but pointed out that James would continue to fail until given the statutory authority. Himself an attorney, Polanco sharply stated that it was obvious that James did not have standing in cases. “You’ve had over two million minutes in office, I know in my first minute, as soon as I get there, that we have to work very closely on a public education campaign to get this question on the ballot so that cases stop getting thrown out of court,” he said.

It was one of the few issues the two candidates agreed on. James has called for subpoena power for the office in the past, which she repeated Monday, and said the mayor “should not hold the purse strings to the office of the public advocate.”

Both candidates disagreed with debate moderator Brian Lehrer from WNYC, when he suggested that perhaps the public advocate might be more effective if they represented a different political party than the mayor. James has been a close ally of de Blasio and endorsed him for reelection. “I stand with the mayor when I agree with him, and I oppose him when he’s wrong,” she said, pointing out instances when she has critiqued his administration, such as when the mayor opposed creating a stand-alone agency for veterans affairs or when she challenged him over the lack of air-conditioned buses for disabled school children.

“I don’t think that Tish has been as independent of the mayor as she claims,” said Polanco, stressing that he had heard little consternation from James when the mayor and his administration were embroiled in a pay-to-play scandal. “There’s a whole myriad of times where I think this public advocate has been very quiet and silent to make sure that the mayor’s on her good side and that the voters who are constantly with the mayor are with her in four years.” He said he would have no problem “going toe-to-toe with Republicans” if he were in the office.

Neither James nor Polanco supports de Blasio’s homelessness-fighting plan that includes opening 90 new shelters while halting the use of hotels and cluster site apartments. Polanco was direct, blaming the mayor’s mismanagement for the problem and insisting that new shelters would burden neighborhoods that are already inundated with shelters. “This is gonna just help two people,” Polanco said, “One, the mayor because he’s gonna get this problem off his back. And two, wealthy developers that are gonna benefit from building these new shelters.”

James, on the other hand, delivered a meandering response that delved into the need for “bold leadership” and housing bond legislation to encourage the creation of affordable housing in the city. When NY1’s Louis sought more clarity, she said, “I think at this point in time what we really need to do is look for other initiatives in the city of New York to address homelessness...what we really need to do is think bolder and we need to make sure that the two individuals, the governor and the mayor of the city of New York, two individuals with oversized egos, resolve this issue so that we don’t have countless numbers of individuals that are homeless this evening.”

“So I’m gonna take that as a ‘no’ on the 90 shelters,” Louis noted.

A clear distinction emerged between the two candidates on how they view the public advocate’s office as a voice in police accountability. James has been a vocal proponent of criminal justice reform and she recounted her efforts to unseal the grand jury transcripts from the Eric Garner case, touted her support for reforming the grand jury system, for releasing the disciplinary records of officers charged with misconduct, and for advocating for the NYPD’s body camera program and shot-spotter technology. She noted that she led the movement for the city’s pension funds to divest from gun retailers as well.

“It’s really critically important that we be a voice in the criminal justice system,” she said. She also said that she is still reviewing the City Council’s long-proposed Right to Know Act -- that would require officers to identify themselves during certain street stops and inform people of their right to refuse a search in some instances -- but said she supports its objectives.

Polanco sought yet again to tie James to de Blasio, critiquing the mayor for creating a hostile attitude toward the NYPD and criticizing James for standing with him. “Frankly, this city has gone through an enormous political campaign against police,” he said, “including adding all of these layers and layers of actually monitoring their job performance, which really strangles the police from active policing.” He did concede that in cases where an officer violates a person’s constitutional rights, the release of disciplinary records is warranted.

The candidates had an opportunity to cross-examine each other, which Polanco seized on to question James’ support for de Blasio despite his proximity to lobbyists and consultants with clients who had business with the city. “How could you in good conscience endorse the mayor for reelection?” he asked. James deflected, speaking of the larger issue of campaign finance reform and the need to repeal the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. (Polanco jokingly praised her masterful deflection. “That was good, how you did that,” he chuckled.)

James asked Polanco about his position on workers’ rights, and whether he would picket with the employees of Spectrum, currently in the seventh month of a strike against their parent employer Charter Communications, which owns NY1. Polanco agreed that labor unions have the right to strike, but said elected officials should stay out of this case, which involves a private union.

Asked about the rent freezes that de Blasio has repeatedly touted as one of his biggest achievements for low-income New Yorkers, Polanco called them a mistake and made a forceful argument against rent regulations and other policies, referencing what he called the city’s “army of social engineers” that he said have exacerbated problems. He said the city’s policies were disincentivizing landlords who are “hard-working people just like ourselves” and that not all of them are “evil landlords” that should be put on a list, taking a sly dig at the public advocate, whose office famously puts out the “100 Worst Landlords” list every year. “We really have to take a look at the way we’re getting involved in engineering the market to create a social outcome,” Polanco said, offering a somewhat typical conservative assessment of meddling in the free market.

While James agreed with Polanco that the city needs to reform the system of tax breaks given to luxury developers in exchange for creating affordable housing, she staunchly backed the rent freezes enacted under de Blasio’s administration. “I think it’s really critically important that we stand up and strike back against market forces and gentrification,” she said.

The issue that divided James and Polanco the most was charter schools. Earlier, the debate briefly veered into the issue when Polanco suggested James’ opposition to them was because of her partisan affiliation with the mayor. James insisted, “All I want charter schools to do is play by the same rules and to be held accountable and obviously to be accessible to all children in the city of New York.” She later criticized charter networks that have zero-tolerance discipline policies and high staff turnover, and that tend to exclude homeless and disabled students. She emphasized instead that the state should live up to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity court ruling and provide sufficient funding to all public schools.

Polanco, a long-time educator, disagreed. “This is not an issue about money, this is an issue about the culture of education in our inner cities,” he said. He decried the “ultra-left” city leadership, particularly the City Council, that he said conflates discipline with racism. Polanco promised that as public advocate he would push for a major expansion of charter schools. James said she has been supportive of some charter schools in the past and is a proponent of school choice, but that she maintains her critiques of some charter schools and networks.

There were some moments of levity at the debate, particularly during a lightning round of mostly “yes” or “no” questions near its conclusion. Polanco said that in November he will vote for a constitutional convention while James said it was “too risky.” Both were critical of district attorneys being allowed to accept campaign donations from people with business before them. James supports the legalization of small amounts of marijuana while Polanco opposes it. And while James had never voted for a member of the opposite party, Polanco said he had.

“Wanna tell us who?” Louis ventured.

“Tish!” Polanco said, with a wry smile, eliciting laughs from the entire room.

The exchange was perhaps telling of the fact that Democrats have a massive enrollment advantage in the city. Combined with her immense lead in fundraising, James is a heavy favorite to win a second term come November, though Polanco has proven a substantive and thoughtful candidate. Other public advocate candidates who will be on the ballot include Green Party nominee James Lane, Libertarian Devin Balkind, and Conservative Party nominee Michael O’Reilly.

The James-Polanco debate concluded much as it had begun, with James stressing the importance of the checks and balances provided by her office. “You can get work done and be quite effective, but you need to reimagine the office,” she said. For Polanco, winning the office itself will be a battle, in a city where there are six registered Democrats to every registered Republican. He readily acknowledged that Monday night. Everyone knows trying to win citywide office as a Republican is an uphill battle, he said, but it’s much more challenging than that. “This is climbing Mount Everest in December,” he said, “This is tough.”

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Public Advocate Debate Shows Stark Differences Between James and Polanco Tue, 17 Oct 2017 01:23:06 +0000
Who will be at the second mayoral debate? http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7247:who-will-be-at-the-second-mayoral-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7247: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.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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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 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7245:mayoral-candidates-differ-sharply-on-fixing-transit-congestion http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7245:mayoral-candidates-differ-sharply-on-fixing-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
     

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Note - This article has been updated.

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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 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7243:max-murphy-analyzing-the-first-general-election-mayoral-debate http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7243:max-murphy-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.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:23 +0000
Post-Debate, Malliotakis Clarifies Some Stances, Promises Plans to Come http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7246:post-debate-malliotakis-clarifies-some-stances-promises-plans-to-come http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7246:post-debate-malliotakis-clarifies-some-stances-promises-plans-to-come malliotakis at presser

Assemblymember Malliotakis (photo: @NMalliotakis)


During the first general election mayoral debate on Tuesday night, the substance was often overshadowed by the yelling, whether from the crowd or the candidates, especially Bo Dietl. Nevertheless, there were a series of policy-oriented questions posed to the candidates and multiple instances where responses from Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat seeking re-election, and Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican Assembly member, were vague or significantly insufficient.

On issues like school segregation, mass transit funding, and street congestion, de Blasio gave answers he’s been giving that are each lacking in different ways. There is much about the mayor’s stances on issues, reelection platform, and debate answers that needs further discussion.

But for Malliotakis, widely seen as de Blasio’s main challenger, especially given the dynamics at play during the three-way debate on Tuesday, the televised contest was her opportunity to introduce herself to more voters, make an impact, and gain new momentum in a race that is seen by many as a foregone conclusion of four more years for de Blasio. Early polling indicates that the mayor is indeed gliding toward a second and final term.

Malliotakis, a boxer who strapped on the gloves in her first campaign ad, landed a significant number of body blows to the mayor during the debate, as she has throughout her campaign, though de Blasio has not shown signs of wobbling as of yet. Where Malliotakis has been less than impressive and was again at the debate, however, is in presenting her own ideas and policy plans for where she will take the city if elected.

In that vein, several of her debate statements required follow-ups.

Malliotakis showed at the debate that she does not have plans in four major areas: school desegregation, property tax reform, slicing the city’s ballooning budget, and affordable housing. The first does not appear to be on her radar, but she has long made property tax reform and budget growth areas of focus in her attacks on the man she’s pitching to replace. Malliotakis regularly calls the property tax system inequitable and has criticized de Blasio for not addressing it (he has indeed been delinquent on this topic, promising to tackle it in a potential term two), while she has also beat the spending drum over and over, but can only name a drop in the $85 billion bucket for what she would cut: some of the “special assistants” de Blasio has hired so many of during his term.

And, perhaps the most exasperating for those looking for policy proposals from her, affordable housing, recognized by many, including the candidate herself, as a crisis in the city, yet one she has only railed about, without offering much beyond a call for doing more city business with nonprofit affordable housing developers.

Gotham Gazette sent a series of post-debate clarifying questions to the Malliotakis campaign on Wednesday. Several interesting answers, and two telling non-answers, were provided.

A spokesperson for Malliotakis said that she will be releasing an affordable housing plan before the election and that she will be having a “property tax news conference” on Thursday, October 26. (Malliotakis has called for a cap on property tax increases, and voted for one in Albany, though it has not passed her chamber, which is controlled by Democrats.)

On budget cuts, the campaign did not offer a response.

As for school desegregation, Malliotakis addressed a question from moderator Errol Louis of NY1 by discussing the need for metal detectors in schools and her support for charter schools. Asked on Wednesday if Malliotakis believes anything should be done to desegregate the city’s highly racially segregated schools, the campaign offered no response.

Malliotakis has more clear proposals on mass transit funding and fighting congestion than she made clear at the debate, possibly because she was either interrupted by Dietl and audience members or somewhat thrown off by the general course of the debate. Either way, she did not make clear that she wants the city to commit half of the funding for the MTA emergency subway action plan and if she supports moving toward some version of congestion pricing. But, she has in the past expressed support for using some of the city’s surplus funds to provide the MTA with that money, which de Blasio has refused to do, and for the Move New York congestion-fighting plan. Her campaign confirmed these positions on Wednesday. On the Move New York plan, her campaign said she likes it, but is “keeping an open mind.” Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to put forth his own version of a congestion pricing plan in January.

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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Post-Debate, Malliotakis Clarifies Some Stances, Promises Plans to Come Wed, 11 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000