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Max & Murphy Podcast: Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl

Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, & Ben Max of Gotham Gazette

Max & Murphy is a podcast focused on New York City politics and policy hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. Recent episodes of the podcast can be found here and can be dowloaded from iTunes and other podcast networks. The podcast began with a focus on housing in early 2016, but has expanded into other areas, now turning to the 2017 city elections, especially the race for Mayor.

Bo Dietl

Bo Dietl talks fast, often switching topics multiple times in what seems like one long sentence that can last two or three minutes, or until he is interrupted. Dietl, a former NYPD detective now running for Mayor of New York City, is not always polite or politically correct. He can be crass and insensitive, he lets curse words and insults fly, but he's also running for office on his compassion, he explained during a discussion on the Max & Murphy podcast held at his office at 1 Penn Plaza. Dietl said he has evolved from being a lifelong Republican to a Democrat, in large part because he has a more inclusive view of the world when it comes to people of various races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.

After problems with his registration paperwork and negotiations with political party leaders, Dietl is ultimately running as an independent for the November mayoral election. In the podcast interview, he went through some of the confusiong details, explaining that Republican Party bosses have had mixed feelings about him, but asserting that they made a major mistake in not letting him compete in the primary against the presumptive GOP nominee, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. Dietl said he even offered to drop out of the race completely if he lost the Republican primary, but GOP leaders still would not grant him the waiver (known as a Wilson-Pakula) to appear on the ballot.

Now, he says his focus is on unseating Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom he disparagingly refers to as "Big Bird" becuase of de Blasio's height. Dietl is sure that New Yorkers will choose him ahead of Malliotakis and believes he can beat de Blasio, asserting that the incumbent Democrat is corrupt, lazy, and a bad manager. Dietl's campaign policy platform isn't always clear, but he gave a few points when asked -- he'd institute zero balance budgeting, he said, in order to reduce the city budget; reinstitute the so-called cell phone ban for students at city schools; and work more closely with the Trump administration to secure federal funding for infrastructure, affordable housing, and more.

In some ways, Dietl is making a similar argument that Donald Trump made -- he's running as a non-politician who can "drain the swamp" and make good deals for his constituents. Dietl doesn't particularly like comparisons to Trump, though, which he made clear during the podcast conversation. Listen to the full conversation through the embeded audio below, or download Max & Murphy wherever you get your podcasts.

July 24, 2017:

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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Bo Dietl: Running City Government 'Isn't Rocket Science'

Bo Dietl

Bo Dietl at his office (photo: Ben Max)

In his 50th floor corner office in Midtown, the characteristically brash private security CEO Bo Dietl made the case Monday morning for his outsider mayoral candidacy. Appearing on the Max & Murphy podcast, Dietl explained his brand, his political evolution from Republican to Democrat, and his independent candidacy for the city’s top job.

A former NYPD detective who gained celebrity status and became a Fox News personality, Dietl is always ready to talk. “Everybody knows Bo Dietl, I have a brand, I’m recognizable,” he said.

Part of the brand is a palpable disgust for politicians and the political system in the city, especially “Big Bird” – how he often refers to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is taller than average – saying “everyone’s afraid of de Blasio because of the Democratic machine,” which he labeled as corrupt and beholden to special interests, especially labor unions.

“All the mayor is good for is citing statistics,” he said, and accused de Blasio of not talking about how lately “murders are soaring” -- Dietl wants to see the data from the last 30 days, he said (New York’s homicide rate is 85% below its 1990 level and hit a near-record low last year). Despite the falling crime rates, Dietl said that people in the city were feeling increased fear, and “fear to me is a crime.”

He also had harsh words for the presumptive GOP nominee for mayor, State Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (listen to her Max & Murphy episode here), whom he called “that girl from Staten Island” when he wasn’t mispronouncing her Greek surname. “I don’t like that she voted against gay marriage. This is New York City,” said Dietl, referring to a 2011 vote that Malliotakis recently said she regrets. Dietl said Monday he is heading to Long Island the next two weekends to spend time with and raise money from Greek associates, including supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, who ran for mayor in 2013 but decided against a run this year.

Dietl was particularly irked about his inability to participate in a primary or run on a major party ballot line. He’s been battling the Board of Elections (BOE) over a determination that he cannot run as a Democrat after trying to register both as a Democrat and as an independent. He has also tried and failed to get on the Republican line by obtaining a so-called Wilson-Pakula waiver, which allows a candidate to run if they obtain approval from three of five county committees.

“She’ll do worse than Lhota,” Dietl said of Malliotakis, referencing current MTA chair and 2013 GOP mayoral nominee Joe Lhota, who lost to de Blasio in a landslide, and faulted the state Republican Party for not giving him a fair chance, even after he was endorsed by the Queens County Republicans. He described receiving a call from Republican State Committee Chair Ed Cox asking him to support Malliotakis; according to Dietl, he told Cox off over the course of an hourlong conversation, during which he also offered to drop from the race completely were he to be granted the chance to face Malliotakis in the primary and lose.

When talking with Max & Murphy, Malliotakis had previously given little indication that Dietl was of concern to her, saying she wasn’t really sure what he was doing, other than “making noise.” Dietl replied on Twitter that he was indeed making a lot of noise, and also out-fundraising Malliotakis, which is true.

Corruption was a running theme for Dietl. “I guarantee you this corrupt BOE and this corrupt mayor will still try to keep me off the ballot,” he said about his issues with registration. He also described an incident – one that has not been verified – where an unnamed Brooklyn reverend came to Dietl and said he’d “deliver the black vote from Brooklyn, if [Dietl] put [him] on $15,000 a month as a consultant. I said ‘get out of my office!’”

Dietl’s persona and electoral pitch have invited comparisons to President Donald Trump, who Dietl said he has known for 40 years. Yet the insinuation isn’t welcomed by Dietl, who called the president “narcissist, big mouth Donald Trump,” while allowing that “he gets things done.”

He said he would make sure to work with both Trump and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to act on his priorities for the city, which included floating a $5 billion state tax bond to reform the city’s public transportation system, obtaining federal money for anti-terror, and reimagining the city’s education system.

Asked if he knows enough about city government to have more success than Trump has had adjusting to running government, Dietl said "it's not rocket science" and explained, a la Trump, that he would hire the best people.

Listen to the whole podcast conversation with Dietl here.

by Felipe De La Hoz, Gotham Gazette

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Brooklyn District Attorney Candidates Address Criminal Justice Reform at Forum


Brooklyn DA candidates at Thursday's forum (photo: @FaithinNewYork)

The candidates for the Brooklyn District Attorney race gathered at St. Francis College in Brooklyn on Thursday for a forum hosted by criminal justice and civil rights advocacy groups, focusing on contentious issues revolving around criminal justice in the borough. Five candidates offered their takes to an audience of community advocates and Brooklynites concerned about mass incarceration, police abuse, bail, and other contentious issues.

The candidates present were Acting DA Eric Gonzalez, City Council Member Vincent Gentile, Ama Dwimoh, Marc Fliedner, and Anne Swern. Candidate Patricia Gatling, who attended a previous debate in June, was not present.

The presence of former DA Ken Thompson, who died in 2016 after a bout with cancer and for whom Gonzalez stepped in, hung above the forum throughout the night. Thompson had widely been praised as a reformer after replacing the controversial longtime DA Charles Hynes. Gonzalez, in his opening statement, framed himself as a continuation of Thompson’s legacy.

“I stand with all of you to say that I believe that we can end mass incarceration while continuing to keep our city and our borough safe,” Gonzalez said. “In 2014, Ken Thompson chose me to help him run that DA’s office, and I stand with all organizations who want to see a continuation of the policies that started in Brooklyn and the expansion of those policies, because I believe we can send less people to prison than we’re currently doing, and make sure that Brooklyn continues to be safe.”

Fliedner was formerly chief of the Civil Rights Bureau under Thompson; he left after a dispute over the handling of the Peter Liang case, in which an NYPD officer received no jail time despite being convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man. Fleidner jumped out of the gate with stinging criticisms of Gonzalez.

“You cannot vote for acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez into office,” Fliedner said, eliciting both claps and boos. “In the short time that he was in charge of that office, he’s committed more acts exhibiting a disregard for the rule of law, a lack of respect for victims, and out and out acts of corruption.” Audience members frequently and freely engaged with the candidates throughout the night, loudly calling them out on answers they deemed unsatisfactory or dishonest.

Dwimoh, a former prosecutor under Hynes, also left the office due to a “difference in values” with the then-DA, she said. She emphasized “proactive justice,” meaning a focus on prevention rather than punishment, and “rebuilding trust between the community and law enforcement.” But she also erred towards a “tough on crime” mentality in some areas, saying that crime is going up in some neighborhoods and being the only candidate who didn’t support ending mandatory minimum sentences for gun possession.

Swern, a former Assistant District Attorney (ADA) under Hynes who also has experience as a defense attorney, claimed her experience as the latter gave her a unique connection and empathy among the candidates for those on the other side of the justice system: the defendants. In her opening statement and throughout the night, she focused her argument on making the DA’s office more transparent and the DA him- or her-self more accountable. She said she would hire a statistician for her office to determine how actions and policies undertaken by the DA disproportionately affect people of color.

City Council Member Gentile, who is term-limited from running again for his current position, framed himself as the “only independent person” running in the race. Gentile, who had a career as a prosecutor under the Queens DA rather than the Brooklyn DA, was referring to the fact that he was the only candidate at the forum who was not working at the DA’s office in the time period where numerous wrongful convictions occurred under Hynes, which were later uncovered and undone by Thompson.

The candidates were all largely in agreement on many of the major, big picture issues: all candidates supported either diminishing or eliminating reliance on cash bail, which has come under intense scrutiny after young Bronx resident Kalief Browder committed suicide following a two-year stay on Rikers Island after not being able to post bail. All the candidates supported diminishing the use of broken windows policing, though they didn’t offer specific solutions, with the exception of Fliedner who noted low-level drug offenses and gravity knife offenses as two crimes that wouldn’t be prosecuted under his stewardship.

The candidates also all stated their support for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ call for an independent commission into wrongful convictions, as well as for term limits of two or three terms -- there are currently no term limits for District Attorneys.

[Related: Candidates for Brooklyn District Attorney Seek to Set Themselves Apart]

The shouting matches, interruptions, and audience interjections mainly concerned the candidates’ records. The candidates routinely accused Gonzalez of malfeasance and not 'walking the walk,' as well as co-opting the legacy of Ken Thompson.

Hertencia Petersen, the aunt of Akai Gurley, a young black man killed by NYPD officer Peter Liang in an apparently accidental stairwell shooting, rose to ask a question and accused Gonzalez of mishandling the Liang case. Liang was sentenced to five years probation and 800 hours of community service, a move that had been widely criticized by criminal justice reform advocates. Petersen chastised the DA’s office, then under Thompson, for failing to adequately communicate with the Gurley family during the legal process and for recommending that Liang serve no jail time, which the family only found out about in press reports.

For Petersen, Gonzalez is a continuation of that kind of leadership; she referred to him as having been a “crony” to Thompson throughout the legal process. Petersen also explicitly admonished Gonzalez for seeming to run as the second Ken Thompson without necessarily presenting his own plan. “Run on your own vision, she said to loud applause. “Give the people of Brooklyn what you want for your family.” After the debate, Petersen tweeted, “#ERIC GONZALEZ IS NOT FOR THE PEOPLE OF BROOKLYN.”

Defending himself, Gonzalez pointed to the fact that Liang had been convicted, and denied that the office had maintained inadequate contact with the Gurley family.

“She’s upset because Ken Thompson recommended a no jail plea on Peter Liang,” he said. An audience member shouted to Gonzalez, pointing out that he had been Thompson’s “chief advisor” (Gonzalez was Chief Assistant District Attorney under Thompson).

Gonzalez also received criticism for continuing to impose punishingly high cash bail despite his stance that its use should be diminished. “$500 is asked for bail for a homeless person who steals cheese, and the Assistant District Attorney responds to the defense attorney, ‘well, it was expensive cheese,’” said Swern. “We will never close Rikers Island,” she said, referring to the fact that many held at the jails there are pre-trial detainees unable to post bail.

Fliedner said that if he is elected, his office would not seek bail “on cases where we’re not seeking jail,” and further reprimanded Gonzalez on his supposed failure on bail reform, citing a case where bail was set at $1,000 for a turnstile jumper.

Gonzalez was also singled out on the issue of wrongful convictions -- since he worked for the DA’s office under Hynes -- despite the fact that all candidates with the exception of Gentile had worked at the Brooklyn DA office under Hynes in some capacity.

In this regard, Gentile seized the opportunity to paint himself as the only candidate separate from the failures of the Hynes era. Concerning the spate of wrongful convictions, Gentile said this “all happened under the tutelage of Charles Hynes...and Eric Gonzalez is a creation of Charles Hynes. He spent most of his years as prosecutor under Charles Hynes and only three years under Ken Thompson.” He proceeded to say that he has “never gotten the answer” to his inquiries into the policies that led to the Hynes-era wrongful convictions.

Nonetheless, Gonzalez resolved to defend his record, touting for example a “Young Adult Court” diversionary program for young offenders created by Thompson’s office (Swern insisted that it was created in 2012, prior to Thompson’s ascendancy to the office). He also said that he has “done more work on wrongful convictions than all the other candidates put together.”

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Note: This article has been updated.

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