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Mayoral Debate Transcript - September 8, 2005

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Sep 08, 2005
 

Following is text of the New York City Democratic mayoral candidates debate televised on WABC-TV Thursday as recorded by The New York Times.

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BILL RITTER. And good evening everyone. I'm Bill Ritter of Channel 7's Eyewitness News. Welcome to the final televised debate in the Democratic Party primary election for New York City mayor. All four of the candidates are here, right here in our studio. They are vying for the right to take on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and become the city's 109th mayor.

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We do hope tonight program will help you make an informed decision, first for the primary which is next Tuesday, Sept. 13, and eventually for the general election in November.

We're going to begin by introducing the candidates. The order in which they appear on stage was picked randomly. And the first one, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Congressman Anthony Weiner and former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

I'm also joined today by three respected New York City journalists who will be asking the questions of the candidates. They are Dave Evans, political reporter for Eyewitness News, Errol Lewis, columnist for The Daily News of New York, he's also a member of the paper's editorial board, and Denisse Oller, an anchor with Univision Television.

Now in the first round each candidate will have 45 seconds to answer the question. We would ask each candidate to please stick to the time limits. I will be polite in enforcing that rule the first time. The first question tonight from Dave Evans and it is directed to Ms. Fields. Dave.

Q. Thank you, Bill. Ms. Fields, of course on Sunday morning we will all be commemorating the tragedy of Sept. 11. If we've seen anything in the investigation over the last few years it is that we as a nation were certainly not well-prepared for such an attack. These last couple of weeks we've seen certainly an inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina. In your opinion are we in New York City adequately prepared for such an emergency? What do you see as the most serious deficiency here in New York City? How do you fix it?

C. VIRGINIA FIELDS. We have heard from the mayor that we are adequately prepared, but we have not been told what those preparations are. We must be prepared not only in terms of providing security for our transit system, but for our ports, our tunnels, safe - soft spots as Broadway and shopping areas.

I have called for an additional 2,000 police officers to be added to the antiterrorism unit so that we will not have to remove police officers from their regular assignments. We must make sure that our staff are trained sufficiently in our subway system. And involve our citizens. Let's prepare our citizens for emergency response training as well as our staff municipal employees. Those are the important steps to make sure that we are more adequately prepared.

Q. Thank you, Ms. Fields. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. Well, first of all, I think you have to give the Police Department, Fire Department great credit for doing a good job of preventing a terrorist attack. And in terms of our uniform agencies, I think they do the best they can with the resources they have.

I do think that this mayor has significantly downgraded the Office of Emergency Management. In the broader sense, we are not having one person and one agency in charge of coordinating all of our response. And that's a mistake. I've said that I will replace the Office of Emergency Management with the Department of Homeland Security: one person in charge, 24 hours a day, of making us really prepared.

And not just coordinating agencies, but also preparing civilians. New Yorkers are not as prepared as they need to be. We've trained 200 people to be part of neighborhood response teams in this city. In San Francisco, they trained 11,000. We need to change that and in a Miller administration I will.

Q. Mr. Weiner.

WEINER. Well, you know, safety and security is a continuum. We should never stop, pat ourselves on the back and say it's O.K., we're safe. We should always need to be thinking the way, frankly, terrorists and criminals think about ways to vex our system by seeing how we can do more.

If I would have told you three and a half years ago that we would have 3,000 fewer cops on the street, now nearly four years after Sept. 11, you would have said, that's a ridiculous response to the challenges we face. I want to hire those cops back.

We also need a telecommunications contingency plan. If all of us get on a cell phone at the same exact time, if there's a flood or an emergency, none of us are going to be able to get through. In my administration we're going to build a backup plan so that fire, emergency, police officers can talk to one another and deal with the crisis, should we have one.

Q. Congressman, why should we see more police officers if we see crime down dramatically these last four years.

WEINER. Well, you know, first of all the job of protecting the city has become a lot more complex in the last four years. We are not only doing the job of stopping criminals from stealing iPods in the subways. Now our police are being called upon to stop Bin Laden from striking again at ground zero, which is all the more outrageous the fact that the Bush administration has eliminated the COPS program, something that I sponsored to renew, that Chuck Schumer originally fought for. That's why we need to be fighting every single day against Washington.

Q. All right. Thank you, Mr. Weiner. Mr. Ferrer, your response.

FERNANDO FERRER. No leader can predict exactly when and where a calamity strikes a city, whether it's God-made of manmade. But I can tell you this, a leader has to be ready to respond. A leader has to be ready to protect human life.

And that means, one, a unified command of first and secondary level responders in this city.

Second, it means communications that aren't confused, communications that are clear and functional above the ground and below the ground. And third, it means an unconfused way of responding to emergencies with no overlapping jurisdictions. There has to be one commissioner of emergency management - not only settling disputes on the ground but there should be no disputes about saving human life, protecting human life and protecting our city.

Q. All right. Thank you, Mr. Ferrer and all the candidates. The next question, Errol Lewis of The Daily News and it's directed to Mr. Miller.

Q. Mr. Speaker, in 2002, after an economic downturn following 9/11 and a city budget shortfall of more than $3 billion, Mayor Bloomberg raised property taxes by 18.5 percent. Do you think he was right to do that? And if not what would you have done differently?

MILLER. Well actually the mayor tried to raise property taxes by 25 percent. And I reduced that proposal to 18.5 percent. Look, we were facing not a budget of $3-billion gap, we were facing a $7.5-billion gap. And I'm proud of the fact that I'm the person on the stage who made the tough decisions and the person who was in there fighting every day to make sure that we made the right choices and that we put our values into place. We had to protect the basic services that New Yorkers depend upon and I stopped this mayor from closing seniors centers and child health clinics, from making the wrong choices. And ultimately reduced his tax increase request.

And as we move forward we need to do more to make this city a better and more just place - cut taxes for working families, provide rent tax credits for renters - and to make sure that we continue to make those right choices. And I'm proud of having done it over the last four years.

Q. Mr. Weiner.

WEINER. You know, part of my concern about the discussion about taxes: It's been fundamentally dishonest. It was an 18.5-percent increase. It was closer to a 40-percent increase. There was an 18.5-percent increase in the rate and then the city rushed in and evaluated - reevaluated everyone's property, which has now gone up about 20 percent in the last couple of years. That means that for an average business, a homeowner, their taxes have gone up 40 percent despite the fact that their income has been flat. That's why I'm saying we need to provide tax relief.

If you make less than $150,000, I'm going to give you a 10-percent tax cut on your income tax. We're going to pay for it with a new seventh tax bracket on millionaires and cutting 5 percent of waste each and every year out of the budget. That's the kind of budgeting we need and that's what Democrats should stand for: helping middle-class New Yorkers stay in the city.

Q. Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. There's a rising crisis of affordability in this city and it affects owners, renters and consumers alike. It is, in part, set into motion by an 18.5-percent real estate tax increase. And the interesting thing is the tax hiker that you're talking about is Mike Bloomberg and he's not in this studio answering for it.

But I'll tell you this, also: He sends a $400 rebate check with his name festooned all over it to homeowners and he dares to call it a tax cut. Well, it's not. We've got to look for ways to bring down that property tax rate. It's clear that he asked too much.

But it's also clear that on the other side of it money was no object when he was ready to give away $1.2 billion of our money to build a Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. It's about priorities. His priorities are wrong.

Q. O.K. Thank you. Ms. Fields.

FIELDS. You know, this mayor did not pay attention. You will recall during that time period this mayor was so involved with making sure that George Pataki was reelected and did not pay attention. So therefore, after the budget was in fact passed in November, we were told we have to increase the taxes and property and it had to be 18.5 percent. Had that decision been made in July, we could have had a smaller tax cut because we would have had a longer period of time to realize savings from that cut. But at the time it was made, it was made at the last minute, it was made after George Bush - George Pataki, I'm sorry, it was elected and the decision did not have to go against the people of this city in the way that this mayor did it.

Q. O.K. Thank you, candidates. The next question is from Univision anchor Denisse Oller and she has a question for Mr. Weiner. Denisse.

Q. Mr. Weiner, good evening. There is a widely noted housing shortage in New York City. We spoke with one Brooklyn man, Jose Fortuna, whose situation is typical of many New Yorkers. This is what he had to say.

JOSE FORTUNA. Rent is too high, everything is high, you know. And I live in one room, paying $450 a month for one single room. I'm trying to get into housing and it's so hard to get in and everything, you know. So I wonder what's going to happen to us, you know.

Q. Mr. Weiner, can you tell which areas of the city have the most serious housing problems and how do you intend to target those areas?

WEINER. Well, I have to tell you, if there's something that's transcending in every corner of this city, people talk about how difficult it is to find affordable housing. And if we have one kind of real existential threat to the future of our city being a magnet for creative people - being a place that immigrants come, get their start, keep generating the economy - it's the lack of affordable housing.

You know, there used to be a place that you could recommend: Well, here's a neighborhood you for a starter home. Here's where you can go to find a cheaper rent. Those places are disappearing. We have to do a couple of things very quickly.

One, we have to provide Section 202 housing for seniors. We can do it on public housing property, there's a surplus of property. And what that'll do is free up apartments.

Second, we need to reduce the tax burden on people like Jose and so many others who are paying so much out of their pocket for taxes they can't afford to pay it for rent.

And the third thing that we have to do is we have to build more housing that's not just focused on the very well-to-do, but focused on working- and middle-class people and those who strive to get into the middle class.

FERRER. There's no part of this city that's immune from people. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers being priced out of the neighborhoods they love, tens of thousands of New York

ers who can't find a decent place to live at a rent that they can afford.

Look, I know the value - the power - of decent housing in people's lives. I know it in my own life. I know it as borough president of the Bronx when we worked with two mayors and scores of community organizations to build 66,000 units of affordable homes and apartments. It made a difference in people's lives. It made a difference in the life of a borough. We got to get serious about affordable homes and apartments. And that's why I've proposed a plan to build and maintain the affordability of 167,000 units over 10 years in the city, and a way to pay for it. Anything less will not serve the legitimate, real, pressing housing needs of New Yorkers.

Q. Ms. Fields.

FIELDS. Demand outpaces supply for affordable housing throughout every area of this city. We must build more affordable housing at all of the income levels. And as mayor I will begin the pathway of building 100,000 new units of affordable housing, 10,000 units annually, and I have proposed ways to pay for it.

But we must also preserve housing. Let's protect New York City Housing Authority developments. Let's make sure that they are not privatized. Because if they are that will mean massive displacement.

And yes, I have put forth a plan for building more affordable housing for seniors, not only using Section 202, but 5 percent of all city-subsidized housing development will be set aside for seniors.

Q. O.K. Ms. Fields. Thank you very much. Mr. Miller, you have the last word on this subject.

MILLER. Well first of all, one difference between me and a lot of the other candidates in this race is that I've really focused on preservation in this race. We need to use more of our resources to preserve existing affordable housing. It does us no good when we create new units of affordable housing and we see tens of thousands of units in Section 8 and Mitchell-Lama and other rent-control and rent-stabilized units leaving our system.

And we need to preserve it, and that's one of the reasons I'm proud to be endorsed by Tenant-PAC because of my work already in doing that and my commitment to doing it as mayor.

Secondly, rent's hit an all-time high. What Jose's talking about is his rent keeps going up. It hit an all-time high this year. I'm the only candidate on this stage to propose a renters tax credit: 3 percent of your rent. We need to give relief to homeowners, and we do, and we should do it more fairly and more effectively. But we also need to give some relief to renters. They are two-thirds of New York residents and they very get extraordinarily little attention in this city.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Miller and all the candidates. The fourth question is a round. Dave Evans for Mr. Ferrer. Dave.

Q. Mr. Ferrer, at the M.T.A. there are a lot of different proposals on the table right now, everything from the Second Avenue subway to extending the No. 7 line to the far West Side to the downtown rail link. Let's say you're mayor: Which one of those proposals is your No. 1 mass transit proposal? How do you pay for it?

FERRER. Well, Dave. In a world of unlimited resources, I'd like to do most or all of them. But we don't live in such a world. I'd pick one - it's the full-length Second Avenue subway. It unites not only new residential communities with new job-generating communities, but goes through four boroughs and provides the East Side of Manhattan with much needed relief from it's one existing East Side subway line. Look, it's an investment in the economic future of this city that we dare not not make. I support it.

Q. How do you pay for it?

FERRER. Well, first of all, I think that's why we need the commuter tax back in this city, a dedicated stream of revenue to offset the payment of bonds so that we can build that Second Avenue subway. That is an important investment in the economic future of New York.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Ferrer. Ms. Fields, the subject is transportation.

FIELDS. As the borough president who brought the Second Avenue subway back and made sure that it is now a part of this debate, the Second Avenue subway would certainly be my priority because, again, not only will it provide safe, efficient transportation for the many residents on the East Side corridor, as well as some other boroughs, but it is about jobs, economic development and being able to have safe and efficient transportation.

We pay for it - must have support from Washington. The good news is that we do have a line in the budget now in Washington for the Second Avenue subway. But we must have a steady revenue stream within the M.T.A. and I, too, support reinstatement of the commuter tax in an effort to be able to pay for the Second Avenue subway as well as maintain other safety services on our system.

Q. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. Well, you're going to get a lot of agreement here. I - first of all, let's say this - and let's acknowledge this - that the subways are breaking down. They're going in the wrong direction and part of the reason is that this mayor has been silent about this. He's watched as fare increase after fare increase has occurred. He's failed to fight, whether it's on the security for our subways or whether it's on expansion of the Second Avenue subway, which is - would certainly be my top priority. When the Second Avenue subway is built, Dave, on Day 1 it will be the only major transportation improvement in the history of this county that will be operating at 100 percent of capacity. That's how badly it's needed. And certainly I was the first candidate here to propose - and I agree with my colleagues - we need to use a progressive commuter tax because people that live outside the city but work here ought to be investing something in New York. And the most sensible thing for them to invest in is something they use: our mass transit system.

As mayor, I'll go up to Albany and fight to get that done.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Miller. Mr. Weiner, you have the last word on transportation.

WEINER. The Second Avenue subway, I was helpful in passing, on the transportation committee, a down payment on it. We need to pool the resources from the other major projects and do this one first. But I want to ask your viewers and ask you a question: Can you name two members of the M.T.A. board? Who are these people? Why do they have so much control over the destiny of our city? We provide 90 percent of the fare box, only get 70 percent back. When there's a major development deal to be done on the West Side or in downtown Brooklyn, it's - the M.T.A. board suddenly takes over our destiny.

One of the things I'm going to do every single day as mayor is start to question why so little of our future isn't in our own hands as New York City residents. The mayor deserves credit for winning back control of the Board of Ed, but we shouldn't stop there. We should demand representation. We only have four seats in a 14-member board at the M.T.A. and yet they control so much of our destiny. I'm going to fight to change that as mayor.

Q. All right, thank you Mr. Weiner and candidates. In fact in this round we're going to talk about education. The rules are going to be a little different. We're going to have what we hope will be a free-wheeling discussion about education. We will not be timing each answer, candidates. But brevity will be appreciated as always. All the candidates will have the opportunity to jump in when and if they want. We want a free-wheeling discussion.

The first topic is overcrowding in the classroom. And here's what one high school student's firsthand experience.

VOICEOVER. It's ridiculous. It shouldn't be like that. And we shouldn't be put through it. We're bunched up. We're always bumping into each other. There's always fights. There's always commotion, really big ones.

Q. Mr. Miller, my question is to you. The cornerstone of your education plan is to reduce class size. But you propose to pay for it with a tax that depends on Albany's approval. And spokesmen for both the governor's office and the State Senate have in effect told us that is not going to happen. What is your Plan B? Could you explain?

MILLER. Well I don't think we need a Plan B. I'm not prepared to give up on Plan A yet. This is a - The way I'm planning to pay for lowering class sizes to 17 kids in a class for kindergarten through third grade, 20 kids for fourth and fifth, and 23 kids for sixth through eighth is to cancel a tax cut that's coming Jan. 1 for people in this city that are making more than $500,000 a year. We can't afford to give people making more than $500,000 a year a tax cut when our schools are as overcrowded as they are today. And I have made a real commitment to this issue.

I think New Yorkers want to know - they hear a lot of noise, they hear a lot of talk about this - they want to know what have we done. Here's what I've done, over the past year I stopped this mayor from cutting $1.3 billion, half of the capital budget, in order to build more schools. And when I'm the mayor of the City of New York and I go up to Albany - and Shelly Silver has said that he thinks this is a sensible idea - when the mayor and the City Council go up together and say, you know what, we need to invest in our schools, we need to invest in lower class sizes because that's how kids are going to learn better, we're going to get that. And I won't come back until it gets done.

Q. Mr. Miller, I have a follow-up question. Your plan does not focus on high school, which remains by the way the most overcrowded in the system. Why did you exclude them? And what to you plan to do about the overcrowding?

MILLER. Well, look, in order to do something about high school overcrowding we need to build more schools. And there is some capacity in elementary and middle school. It will take longer for us to be able to get the class size reduction in high schools that we need. And we need to build those schools. I don't like to make promises that I can't keep. I just won't do it, not in the campaign and not in government. -

Q. Any candidate, by the way, can jump in . . .

MILLER. - And so it's going to take longer for us to be able to get that done. But you know, for those high school students that are having lunch at 9 o'clock in the morning, they're going to science labs where the science teachers are older than the - are younger than their science labs. We need to change that. And I've made the commitment on paper and in principle and in action to put the money into the budget to build more schools. When I'm mayor, that's how you know I'll do it again.

Q. Anyone else want to talk about this subject?

WEINER. Well, look, where you're going to get the money is a fundamental point of division between me and Mr. Ferrer. I'm a great fan of Mr. Ferrer, I think he's a good man. I think he's just wrongheaded in this idea. You know, the idea that we should put over a billion dollars of our own money to get back from Albany the money that a court has already said after a seven-year lawsuit that we have coming to us is a bad idea. And particularly when the stock transfer tax would be a tax that would cost middle-class New Yorkers, those trying to get into the middle class, their jobs.

You know, I read an article recently in The Chicago Tribune that talked about how traders in Chicago are watching very carefully this race because they get very interested any time we talk about doing a stock transfer tax in New York because that's going to mean more business and more jobs for Chicago.

I think we've got to fight a much tougher bargain. We can't bargain against ourselves. And here's what I've proposed - You know this is now seven years, we're in the home stretch of this lawsuit. Now is the time for us to really batten down the hatches and say, you know what Albany, this is the money we have coming to us. And the one thing Democrats shouldn't be saying is we want a large tax increase.

Q. Let me just move on to the education -

FERRER. I'd like to respond to that.

Q. Directly to the stock transfer tax -

FERRER. Absolutely. Absolutely. Look, earlier today, start of school, I was in front of Canarsie High School - 130-percent utilization. Their freshman class a couple of years ago was at 1,100. Their junior class two years later: 400. We know where those kids end up: on some street corner. Let me tell you something, the minute we give an inch in the fight to leverage $23 billion to improve our schools and to improve their lives, we give up on another generation of New Yorkers, and I won't be part of that failure.

Q. O.K., let me continue -

FIELDS. But I also want to comment.

Q. Yes, Ms. Fields.

FIELDS. That is, I would agree, actually, with the congressman. We must go to Albany and be very aggressive in our fight for the dollars on the campaign for fiscal equity because the reality is without those dollars we're not going to be able to respond to this young lady's complaint in terms of her concerns about overcrowding. So we must be active, we must be vigilant. And as mayor, I will make that a top priority as a public campaign involving parents, advocates and the general public. This is unfair. It has gone on too long. And a mayor can lead the way and as mayor I will do that.

MILLER. Bill, can I just . . .[speaking over moderator] Freddy for one second? Because, look, I don't agree with the stock transfer tax is the way to raise money, but the notion that kids care whether these are state dollars or city dollars, in the end these are our responsibility. When I'm mayor, I won't use excuses. I'll fight hard to get that money from Albany.

Q. O.K.

MILLER. But you just can't give the excuses that, you know, we have to keep waiting. Sometimes you have to step up to the plate and get it done.

Q. Let me - Mr. Miller, let me talk about something parents are very concerned about - so are students. It is a test determining whether a child advances, so-called social promotion. It's done in the third, fifth and soon in the seventh grade. It's very controversial. One parent we spoke to isn't so sure this is a good idea.

CHERITA ROSE. At the end of the year you have one test that's going to put an outlook on your education and it's sad. And it's scary, it's scary. For the children and, I think, and as well the parents, also.

Q. Mr. Weiner, I'd like to ask you, first of all, about this. If you were mayor, would you rescind Mike Bloomberg's decision to make one test the overall deciding factor as to whether that third, fifth and now a seventh grader would be promoted onto the second -

WEINER. You know, I don't - I support eliminating social promotion and I don't have a problem with giving tests to make sure we're moving people forward based on what they know not how old they are. But I'm -

Q. But should it be the deciding factor here?

WEINER. Well, here - even in the Bloomberg administration they still, after someone fails a test, they get to -

Q. There is no process.

WEINER. - go and get remedial attention. But here's what we have to do. You know, this whole debate has left out a whole group of New York students. What about the average student - the student who's not going to fail the test, but that average student like I was. I went to public schools my whole life - an average student who needs that push from a really attentive teacher? That good student who we want to make an Intel scholar at the end of the day or a scholarship winner.

You know, we have to get into the minds of those people who are leaving the school system right now and some of them are concerned about their failing child, but a lot more of them are concerned about the idea, you know, our schools are so focused in making sure that we get kids off that bubble - as we desperately need to do - we've lost sight of the fact that we need to pay teachers better so they stay in the system. You think students don't like those tests? Think about how teachers feel when there's so much obsession on the idea you better teach to this test from Day 1, that the kids that are somewhere in the middle of the range are not getting the attention they need.

Q. But would you do away with this process of having -

WEINER. No.

Q. You would not. You'd keep it as it is.

WEINER. No, I would not. But it would be entirely different focus in my administration. I would honor teachers by giving them a raise. I would honor teachers by giving them more flexibility for how they run their classroom. I would honor them by giving principals real authority over the discipline in those classes. You know, if we start hemorrhaging any more teachers, like my mother, a teacher for 31 years, we are not going to be able to repair even the most basic problems in our school system because the most senior teachers are leaving because they're not getting paid enough and the most junior teachers are leaving because those senior teachers aren't there to mentor them anymore.

Q. You don't want to address the - Fred.

FERRER. No one here is in favor of social promotion - the practice of moving a child one year ahead simply because they got a year older. And I think everybody wants and supports the idea of measures - measures to see how they're doing.

But that's not the same thing as saying - and most educators would agree with that mother - that's not the same thing as saying that should be the only measure of a child's achievement. Look, we've got to move away from a school system that merely teaches to a standardized test and move to a system that teaches to the highest standards. And here's the problem: While we obsess about a few test scores rising in the early grades in an election year, we're forgetting about a high school dropout rate of over 50 percent. That's the failure of this system and that's the responsibility of Mike Bloomberg.

Q. I do want to talk about - FIELDS. There has been too much emphasis on - I just want to comment on the test also -

Q. Very briefly though because we're already out of time on this subject. FIELDS. Because I think this administration has stressed the standardized tests far too much. And as a result we're not putting in the massive interventions earlier, making early assessments, providing the resources so that we can better prepare students as they move through the first, second, third and other grades.

MILLER. Can I give a clear - My clear answer is this: Yes, I'll repeal it. It's wrong for 8-year-olds to be given one test and told that's it for your entire year. And the way that we fix social promotion is by lowering class sizes. P.S. 7 in Elmhurst Queens opened today, 28 kids in the kindergarten class. Those are the same kids that are going to be failing in third grade. We shouldn't wait till third grade, we should intervene. Tests should only be one element of an overall assessment of student performance.

Q. Thank you all very much. Education obviously a hot topic. I am going to take - ask some questions in a little lightning round.

FERRER. We love these.

Q. Do you really?

FERRER. Yeah.

FIELDS. Sometimes.

Q. These are yes or no questions, so please don't extrapolate. FIELDS. But you know we don't answer yes or no anymore.

Q. I think we're asking that you do, Ms. Fields, this time. The first question: Should legal noncitizens be allowed to vote in New York City elections? We'll begin this way this time with Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. Yes.

WEINER. No.

MILLER. No.

FIELDS. Yes.

Q. O.K. Two yes's and two no's. Should undocumented or illegal immigrants be allowed access to public health care and public education? Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. Yes, it's the law.

WEINER. Yes, certainly. We all benefit from that.

MILLER. Absolutely.

FIELDS. Yes.

Q. O.K. Now a final question, Ms. Fields, I'll begin with you.

MILLER. Did Absolutely count? I'm sorry, I should have said yes.

Q. Absolutely does count as a yes, Mr. Miller. Do you ever give money to panhandlers on the street?

FIELDS. Yes.

MILLER. Yes.

WEINER. Yes.

FERRER. Yes.

Q. O.K. Thank you all for keeping the answers brief this time. We are going to go on to round three and we are back to timed questions and answers. The candidate who is asked the question has one minute to answer; the others will have 30 seconds for rebuttal, if they choose. To begin the questioning, The Daily News's Errol Lewis with a question for Mr. Weiner.

Q. Congressman, cutting waste and cutting taxes have been the cornerstone of your campaign, but in the past you've said - and I quote - the era of small government is over. And, quote, no one in my district is asking for tax cuts. You also get among the lowest ratings in Congress from business and anti-tax groups. Can you name some areas where you've actually cut government waste?

WEINER. Certainly. First of all, let's not lose sight of - you know, we, as Democrats, have lost the language game here. We're opposed to waste, too. I'm opposed to waste in programs throughout the budget that so many of my Republican brothers and sisters are not. We have a different view about what it is.

I'm going to tell you I made that comment about the era of big government being back talking about the year after Sept. 11. We're asking government to protect our ports, as we should; we're asking government to protect our food supply, as we should; our water supply, as we should. This is not the time for mega-tax cuts for the very best-off among us.

We, as Democrats, believe something else. We - if you believe my view of the party - believe in easing the burden on the middle class, honoring work in New York City, treasuring those people who work every single day to make it. That's why I want to cut taxes of those below $150,000 a year and a marginal, slight increase for those who make more than $1 million, to make the tax code more progressive.

Don't believe the hype from some of these right-wing think tanks. They desperately don't want me to get elected because they know I'm going to shift our city to the place that we ease the burden on the middle class and where you do ask those who are wasting money in government to stop it.

Q. Well, here again, you've been in the City Council, you've been in the Congress. Where have you cut waste?

WEINER. Well, listen, I'll tell you I've put out - and, listen, I'm the only person up here who can say this - I've put out a list of $1.7 billion worth of cuts. You know, The New York Times identified 1.3 billion of waste in Medicaid alone. I've talked about taking some of these tax breaks we give for corporations that make no sense and eliminating them. Look, you can take a look at my Web site - anthonyweiner.com - to take a look at my whole financial plan that not only cuts waste, cuts taxes on middle-class New Yorkers, makes the tax code more progressive, but also has money left over.

Q. Anyone else want to deal with this question?

FERRER. Well, sure. Look, we've all had experiences within government - early, when I became borough president, a little after that in 1988. I teamed up with the state and city and voluntary hospitals and city hospitals in my borough to do two things: to go after the Medicaid mills, those clinics that fraudulently promoted that they were giving health care, because I understood that people in our neighborhoods wanted decent adequate health care - worked to enforce them out of existence, worked to bring voluntary hospitals and family practices into neighborhoods that hadn't seen a family doctor for 30 years and more. That saved money and that improved health care.

Q. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Ferrer. Let me just remind you, in this round we're trying to get people to respond to the person who's asked questions. If you could respond directly to what Mr. Weiner said.

WEINER. I was trusting he was going to do that anyway.

MILLER. Look, I think the important thing for New Yorkers to ask themselves is if we're asking somebody to get elected mayor to make these tough choices, to - and I've over the past four years actually made these tough choices. I cut, with this mayor, more than $3 billion out of our budget over the last four years. But I stopped him from doing the kinds of cuts that went straight to the heart of the services and the values that New Yorkers depend upon. When this mayor wanted to close senior centers I said no, we're going to have to go somewhere else in order to get our savings. And so if you're looking for somebody who isn't just going to talk about it and isn't making a bunch of promises about how we're going to cut a lot of money without any pain, if you're looking for somebody who's made these tough choices and you want to trust to make the tough choices in the future, then you ought to choose somebody who's actually done it.

Q. All right, thank you Mr. Miller -

FIELDS. And when you talk about differences, and we've often been asked about differences among us as candidates, I'm the only candidate who's not talking about cutting taxes. And I am very proud to have had the Citizens Union give me their preferred status as a result of working to make sure that we eliminate debt, which is very important as it relates to our overall budget, and not increasing taxes at this time.

Q. O.K., thank you, Ms. Fields. Denisse, you have a question for Mr. Ferrer.

Q. Yes, I do. Mr. Ferrer, there's been some question about how much you really want to be mayor. There's been criticism that a feeling of inertia surrounds your campaign, that you don't have the fire in the belly, to put it bluntly, this time around. And in speaking about your third run for mayor you said, and I quote, I was not especially eager to do it because I happen to like the idea of coming home for dinner. I had a nice live - end of quote. Now, what do you tell viewers, voters, particularly those undecided, to absolutely convince them that you have what it takes to be the mayor of New York City?

FERRER. Well, first of all, Denisse, if anyone had as pretty a wife as I do, as good a cook as she is - she's up in the audience, I hope she's hearing my words - then I can tell you this: They'd understand completely those words. But I have enough fire in my belly to melt concrete. That's why I'm running for mayor.

Look, I'm running for mayor because I want to make this city work better for everybody. We've got to get serious about affordable homes and apartments; we've got to get serious about the dropout rate; we've got to get serious about the onset of crushing poverty in this city - 105,000 more New Yorkers sliding into poverty over the last year; one in five New Yorkers living in poverty; half a million children with hunger as their daily condition? A serious person has to do it. That's why I'm running for mayor, because I want to get serious about these problems.

Q. Does anyone want to respond directly to this?

MILLER. I think Freddy wants to be mayor too. And I also think that all of us want to be mayor. I think that the question here is not our desire to be mayor. The question is is are we going to respond to the desires of New Yorkers? Are we going to meet their needs? Do we lay out ideas that will move our city in a new direction and do we have a record of actually accomplishing them in the past? So I think that - I certainly - I've seen Freddy go to an awful lot of debates, work all over the city. I think he wants to be mayor.

Q. Briefly anyone - Mr. -

WEINER. I was going to say something similar. You know, I've been trying to keep up with Freddy Ferrer the last year and a half. No one hustles more than he does.

Q. O.K.

WEINER. And I can tell you, he doesn't fly off to Bermuda to take time off; he does it in South Queens and the Rockaways and the Bronx. He works very hard and he is going -

Q. Thank you.

WEINER. - and he is going to - I'll tell you what, he's going to show a new standard of fighting and hustling for the city -

FIELDS. There's no question.

WEINER. - if he gets to be mayor, but, of course, he's probably not going to. So I think [laughter obscures words]

FIELDS. There's no question of Mr. Ferrer's desire to be mayor. He would not be out here doing all this if not. And I can tell you, he's been on it.

Q. We all like to go home for dinner. There's nothing wrong with that.

FIELDS. Especially when somebody's a good cook.

Q. Lewis has a question for Mr. Miller. Errol Lewis. I'm sorry, Dave Evans

Q. Ms. Fields, I'd like to ask you, like all of the candidates you have made education a key element in your platform. And to pay for your proposals in regard to education you recently said, and I quote, A fourteen - and I think this was in a recent debate actually - A $14 billion budget will be our first area to redirect priorities to make sure that the use of these funds are there for the purpose of what we are proposing. I think someone might look at that and say translate that for me, give me some concrete areas of what you would redirect. What priorities?

FIELDS. I have said that there are three major areas that I would focus on in addition to class size, recruiting/retention of teachers, but I would focus on linking education with jobs and job growth - focus on vocational training as a way to help our students not drop out. We have a very large dropout rate among high school students. We must get their attention. We must keep them in our schools. So I will expand vocational training programs.

I will also expand career programs so that students in our middle schools will begin on a career path straight through high school into college in our city universities. And I will focus on expanding math and science classes. In order to pay for those within the existing budget my priorities will be to make sure that the dollars within that budget that it will take in order to accomplish that, you know, out of the budget. But it is not really more money. That's the point that I think is getting missed here.

Q. Thanks, Ms. Fields. I do want to move on -

FIELDS. But let me just finish because I don't think that he kind of -

Q. But I want to stick to our time and that was the time limit, Ms. Fields. FIELDS. Let me just finish this point and to simply say -

Q. Ever briefly.

FIELDS. Ever briefly - to simply say that I am not talking about increasing the budget, but focusing the dollars in those areas. Instead of 3 to 5 percent of dollars going into Tweed building, let's use those moneys for my programs.

Q. Thank you, Ms. Fields. Errol Lewis, a question for Mr. Miller.

Q. One of the most contentious issues of the last City Council session was New York's long-term sanitation plan. In 2002, you supported waterfront transfer stations to solve the city's garbage problems, but when the mayor announced locations more recently, the plan included reopening the transfer station in your Upper East Side district. At the time you said - and I quote - this proposal stinks of politics. What exactly where the politics the mayor was playing? And if not in your Upper East Side district, where would you support a waste transfer station?

MILLER. Well, look, first of all, I am very proud to have a very strong environmental record. I have fought very hard to turn this City Council into the most effective legislative body. I saved recycling when this mayor tried to eliminate it - along with my colleagues in the City Council - when he tried to eliminate it three years ago. And I believe that we do need to do a much better job of handling our sanitation problem and our trash problems.

And one of the effective ways that we can do it is using marine transfer stations. What I -

Q. Mr. Miller, the question was -

MILLER. But I'm going to get to -

Q. - what were the politics that you were referring to?

MILLER. Sure, so what I said was is that I support marine transfer stations. But I think that they ought to be located not in residential communities, but located in industrial areas along our waterfront. And I opposed the transfer station on 135th Street and the transfer station on 91st Street because both of them are located in the middle of residential communities - and laid out an alternative plan that included a transfer station on 38th Street in nonresidential areas, in commercial and industrial areas. What I said in that time, what I was saying was is that the mayor appropriately decided not to open a transfer station on 135th Street. It was the wrong place for it and it's still the wrong place for it. And I'm glad that he responded to my calls to not open it. He only decided to try to open a transfer station - a 24-hour commercial waste facility - in the middle of one of the densest residential neighborhoods -

Q. Mr. Miller, thank you.

MILLER. - in the city when there were alternatives because it was in my district.

Q. Anyone want to respond directly to that?

FIELDS. I agree with Mr. Miller that that is the wrong location for the marine transfer station. It is too close to the residential area and it violates the city's rules in terms of being within 400 feet of a residential or a playground area. So he's absolutely correct. And I believe that we must find an alternative.

Q. All right, thank you. Mr. Weiner.

WEINER. I have - I don't have any trouble buying the debate that it ignores some communities that perhaps are not as politically sophisticated and affluent. You know the waste transfer station in southwest Brooklyn was already ordered closed once by a court - $100 million they want to invest in reopening it. It's already been found to be in violation of environmental laws and frankly a hazard to the communities. One thing I'm going to do as mayor is not just look out the window of Gracie Mansion and say these are my constituents. I'm going to look at all five boroughs and realize, you know what, we're not just going to shift problems to places that perhaps not as politically affluent or sophisticated.

You know, we should revisit this plan. It doesn't have a commercial element that's proper. And the southwest Brooklyn plan also is something that's - There've already been orders to be closed once.

Q. Mr. Ferrer, you want to jump in I see.

FERRER. Yeah. There are communities in this city that have an unacceptably high rate of asthma. One of the significant reasons is the high rate of transfer stations in their areas. Look, when I was borough president of the Bronx for nearly 15 years, we put our belief in borough self-sufficiency into action - being the first borough to come out with a plan after they closed the Fresh Kills landfill. Not only because I believe it, but because we all generate garbage and we all have to do our part. Let's do it fairly, let's do it equitably and let's all do our share.

Q. O.K. Thank you, candidates. In this round, each candidate is going to have 30 seconds to respond. I'm going to ask the first question. It's of Mr. Ferrer. We have just conducted a new Eyewitness News poll. It came out today. It shows that 55 percent of Democrats - Democrats in New York City approve of the job Mayor Bloomberg is doing. If you should win the primary, Mr. Ferrer, why would they vote for you over Mr. Bloomberg with that kind of rating?

FERRER. Well I'll tell you this: Mike Bloomberg is a Republican; he supports Republican policies that have hurt this city. But Mike Bloomberg's own policies as a Republican have hurt this city. Look, he hasn't gotten serious about - despite his promises - affordable houses and apartments in this city. He hasn't gotten serious about the dropout rate in this city that brings us all down. He hasn't gotten serious about chronic unemployment in this city: 40 percent among black men; 33 percent among Latino men. He hasn't gotten serious about poverty in this city. That's a failure of his. That's a failure I intend to debate with him once I'm the Democratic nominee.

Q. That question to Ms. Fields now.

FIELDS. Mike Bloomberg is a Republican. And this is the same Republican who supported George Bush for reelection and said that George Bush would be the best person for this city, and we all know that that simply is not true. But he also is the mayor who violated the rights of protesters during the Republican Convention. Aside from that he has not moved to create opportunities for the chronically unemployed - they're still unemployed; to make sure that affordable housing is available. And all of these are important in the lives of people in this city.

Q. Thank you, Ms. Fields. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. You know, I think all of my colleagues on this stage have done a good job over the last four months of explaining why it is that this mayor has been making mistakes and why it is that he's completely out of ideas as to where he wants to go over the next future - but I'm the candidate who spent the last four years actually fighting the tough battles with this mayor and winning: stopping him from closing senior centers and child health clinics; stopping him from preventing sexual assault victims from having access to emergency contraception; stopping him from and overriding his veto of legislation to protect children from the dangers of lead paint. If we want to choose somebody who's going to take this mayor on and take him on and win, we ought to chose the person who's been doing it for the last four years and winning.

Q. Thank you. I'm going to ask each candidate to stick to 30 seconds. We want to get a lot of questions in. Mr. Weiner?

WEINER. Well, listen, I just hope my fellow Democrats give me the chance to stand on the stage with Mike Bloomberg. I'm going to look at him and say, Listen, you say that New Yorkers are undertaxed? I think they're overtaxed. Talk about my tax cut plan versus his plan that has increased taxes more than 40 percent. I'm going to say, You think Mike Bloomberg is so good on economic development? Go visit Ground Zero not far from my campaign office. You see tourists gathering around looking at a fallow pit. And I'm also going to look at him and say, Do you know, Mr. Mayor, that we have 20 percent of New Yorkers, one in five, live below the poverty line. Over 500,000 children turn to a soup kitchen, a church basement or the city for a meal. If - I am eager to have that debate and unlike other Democrats in the past, I'm not going to come into a knife fight carrying library books. I'm going to fight to win.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Weiner. Our next question for Ms. Fields comes from Denisse Oller.

Q. Ms. Fields, what would be your first official act as mayor? FIELDS. My first official act as mayor would be to appoint my deputy mayor for full employment. And I'll tell you why: Because again, we are looking at math - we are looking at chronically unemployment among African-American men and Latinos and it has not been addressed. And we must put people back to work. There's a report that recently came out that shows that New York City has increased in terms of poverty. The best way to address poverty is to put people to work. It was the late Adam Clayton Powell Jr. who said, When you put some green in a person's pocket, that's when you begin to eliminate poverty. So I will work on jobs.

Q. O.K. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. Cancel the tax cut that's coming Jan. 1 for people making more than $500,000 a year, and taking that $380 million and devoting it directly to reducing class sizes.

We can do this. And there is nothing that's stopping us except the will and the vision to do so. There is no excuse for having 550,000 kids failing in our schools. There's no excuse for having 28 kids in a kindergarten class. If we take that money and devote it, we can hire the teachers, we can make sure that we build the schools over the long run in order to create the capacity, and we can actually transform our schools so that we can finally say to ourselves we're giving our kids the education they deserve.

Q. O.K. Mr. Weiner.

WEINER. Do you want to know another reason why last year in this city of plenty we had over a half a million children turn to a soup kitchen for a meal? We are one of the last major cities that requires mothers applying for food stamps to be fingerprinted as if they're criminals. We do everything possible to put barriers in their way of providing food for their children. You know, we should never lose sight of the fact that for so many New Yorkers, their life isn't about politics, their life is figuring out a way to feed their children. And I -

Q. Excuse Mr. Weiner, your first act as mayor -

WEINER. I'm answering the question. So the first thing that I would do is remove those obstacles by eliminating that fingerprint requirement. Feed those children first. Don't let politics get in the way.

Q. O.K., thank you. Mr. Ferrer, your first act as mayor.

FERRER. I'd appoint a chancellor who's an educator, who agrees with me that we've got to improve teaching and learning in every grade; we've got to bring down the unconscionably high dropout rate; we've got to fight shoulder to shoulder to get the $23 billion that will improve our public schools at every grade and improve the lives of 1.1 million school kids as they face a future in New York, a future that will require them to be economically self-sufficient.

Q. O.K., thank you for all sticking with the time limits, as well. Errol Lewis, a question for Mr. Miller.

Q. Parks advocates have pushed for New York to follow the practice of other cities, notably Chicago, and set aside 1 percent of the overall budget for parks and recreation. Only one of you, Virginia Fields, has taken a pledge to do so. I'm wondering why for you and for Congressman Weiner and Mr. Ferrer, why not spend 1 percent of the budget on parks and recreation?

MILLER. Let me, first of all, thank the congressman for mentioning the food stamp issue because in the City Council we just passed legislation, over the mayor's veto, to do just that: remove the obstacles to people getting food stamps in this city. It's an important issue and another example of not just talking about doing something about it but doing something about it.

We can't afford 1 percent because that's more than doubling our Parks Department's budget. But we do need to increase our Parks Department budget. We need to make it more effective, the maintenance. We need to provide more recreation opportunities. I think we should work towards 1 percent. But to sit here and promise that we're going to get to $450, $500 million when we're currently still at around $150, $160 doesn't make sense. We just don't have that ability to more than double our Parks Department budget. But I certainly have increased the budget for the Parks Department -

Q. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Miller. Mr. Weiner, 1 percent.

WEINER. Well first I want to thank the speaker for adopting something I proposed in one of my first policy speeches on the campaign trail. Look, here's my view, my view is that you don't draw line items in the budget here in the context of the campaign. The one thing I'm not going to do is what we've done - allowed to have happen now. We really have a tale of two cities as it relates to parks. If you're in an affluent community that can put a active parks group together to raise money, you do a lot better than a lot of the neighborhood parks. I'm going to try to end that imbalance by always focusing not just on the good - the quality communities that have really nice active parks groups, but also trying to get the services where they're needed in the less affluent communities as well.

Q. Thank you. Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. Look, I believe in safe and well-maintained parks in every community. But I do not believe in standing here or anywhere else and promising something that you can't fund because you have no funds to do it. Now I believe that we've got to increase funds for parks. In fact I made a specific proposal in response to that, and that was allow the Parks Department to keep the $15 million it currently generates in concession fees and reinvest it in parks. That I believe is a way to go toward getting to that 1 percent. We can't do it in the next four years. I hope we can do it in the next eight. But I'm not going to promise it now because it wouldn't be right.

Q. Ms. Fields.

FIELDS. I'm realistic for the parks advocates to ask each one of us to make a commitment to work toward this funding. And because of my commitment in terms of funding parks and make sure that the resources are there, it is something that I believe in and I will certainly work toward making that happen. And I'm sorry that you guys don't agree.

Q. You are alone in the 1 percent apparently. We would ask for the next round of this next question, to get everything in, please limit it - I'm sorry - to 20 seconds. And it's for Dave Evans to Mr. Weiner.

Q. Mr. Weiner, civil rights advocates have asked us during this campaign the issue of discrimination in civil rights has not been talked about a lot. For example, they point to the lawsuit over the Fire Department being 91 percent white. Why has this not been an issue in this campaign?

WEINER. Well, frankly, I believe civil rights has been something of an issue because of the rights of so many people trying to achieve gay marriage, something that I support and supported since my campaign in 1998. I agree with you, we haven't had that kind of a big high-minded debate in this city and we should have it. Too much has been focused on - what's been focused to your polls and who believes what about whom. We should use elections as a chance to have a full-throated debate about the difference in Democrats and Republicans. Republicans like Mike Bloomberg have done everything to stand in the way; Democrats like all of us - some of us - are the living -

Q. Thank you.

WEINER. - embodiment of it, have done everything to advance it.

Q. Thank you, Congressman. Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. That's right. In the Fire Department that inequity exists not only among the ranks of firefighters but all the way up levels of the department. It's wrong. In fact, it was the very first topic I discussed with Mayor-elect Bloomberg in 2001. Showing a picture in The Times and saying, What's wrong with this picture. We have to make every department of our city reflect the entirety of this city.

Q. O.K. Thank you. Ms. Fields.

FIELDS. I have talked about it. As a matter of fact, I joined firefighters last week at a press conference on the steps of City Hall to talk about the unfairness and the inequities. I have talked about health care disparities that exist in communities primarily of color. I have talked about the disparities with respect to women and men with contracts, making sure that more women and more people of color get contracts for the city.

Q. Thank you, Ms. Fields. Thank you. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. Well this is something I haven't just talked about during this campaign, it's something I've done something about over the last four years. I passed the first racial profiling ban in the history of our country for a municipality - legislation that actually the former borough president worked on originally. I passed legislation over the mayor's veto to provide that all New Yorkers regardless of their sexual orientation should be able to access health benefits. I've spent the last four years working on this and that's how you know that over the next four years I'll remain committed to it.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Miller. Before we get to the closing arguments, I do have a question about public transportation. I'd like a very brief answer, we only have about 30 seconds for total. I'm going to start with Ms. Fields. How often do you take public transportation around the city per week?

FIELDS. Not per week, but probably twice a month.

Q. O.K., Mr. Miller.

MILLER. Yeah, I've been riding subways all my life, but as speaker of the Council I end up taking the subways once or twice a week.

Q. O.K., Mr. WEINER.

WEINER. About once or twice a week; the other times I'm in my hybrid car.

Q. O.K.

MILLER. Showoff.

Q. Mr. Ferrer.

FERRER. Used to take it every day. Now I take it about five or six times a week.

Q. O.K. Thank you all candidates. We are now going to give each of the candidates one minute to make a closing statement. The order of the closing, like all of this, was drawn and conceived randomly. Mr. Weiner is first. You have 60 seconds, sir.

WEINER. Well thank you very much. You know, I grew up in New York, not a political family, a middle-class family in Brooklyn. My mother was a schoolteacher for 31 years. Went to work for Sen. Chuck Schumer, my mentor, before I had the honor of serving in Congress.

I have a different approach than some of my colleagues in this race. I believe we as Democrats don't deserve to win after losing three straight municipal elections, two gut-wrenching presidential elections, unless we start to talk about real ideas to address what Democrats and frankly all New Yorkers are thinking.

One, we need to reduce taxes on those - in the middle class on those who are striving to make it there. If you make less than $150,000 a year I'm going to give you a 10 percent tax cut.

But I pay for it as well by making the tax code more progressive, a new seven tax bracket on those that make more than a million dollars a year. And we're also going to cut waste - at least 5 percent every year. With the money left over we're going to honor the teachers in our city by giving them a raise. We're going to do what we can to provide health insurance for the 1.8 million New Yorkers.

These are the ideas that are at my Web site: anthonyweiner.com. And I hope you take a look at it and take a look at all four of us. Any of the three on this stage, including myself, would be better than this mayor. Please get out and vote.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Weiner. Mr. Ferrer, you're next.

FERRER. Well, I grew up in the South Bronx in a five-story walkup raised by my mother and grandmother. Every opportunity I got in life - the reason I'm here tonight at this debate is because of Democratic policies they successfully pursued. The reason I'm a Democrat is to pass on opportunities to the next generation of New Yorkers. Now to those who argue that the Democratic Party somehow has to reinvent itself to become more popular, to them I say they're dead wrong. Democrats always stand up for opportunity, for fairness, for hope. That's what Democrats do. Democrats get serious about affordable homes; serious about improving education so we have schools that represent equity and excellence in every neighborhood; serious about oncoming poverty in too many of our neighborhoods for too many New Yorkers; serious about chronic unemployment. Look, that's what we're not getting from Mike Bloomberg. That's why I'm running to replace him: to make this city work better for every New Yorker. For me that's more than a slogan; it's a cause I have fought for all my life. It's a cause still worth fighting for. That's why I'm running for mayor.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Ferrer. Mr. Miller.

MILLER. You know, Bill, I've heard some people suggest that it doesn't matter who wins the Democratic nomination in this election. And I would ask them to talk to the parents who left school today that I spoke with whose kids are in fourth-grade classes with 31 kids in them. It matters. And if you think it matters, then when you go to the polls on Tuesday, I ask you to stand with me. I've stood up for New Yorkers for the past four years - stopping this mayor over and over again when he was trying to do the wrong thing and standing up for our principles and our values. And now we have a chance to elect a mayor who's going to do the right thing right from Day 1. We need to reduce class sizes so we can really improve our kids' education; give teachers a competitive contract so that we can retain them. We need to make sure we preserve and create affordable housing because families are struggling to be able to put a roof over their heads. We need to make sure we cut taxes for small businesses so we can create growth. We need to give renters a tax credit so they can afford to stay in the city. And we've got to fix our subways so that our blood pressure doesn't go through the roof. If you give me the chance to be that mayor, I promise you I'll work every day to transform this city into a better place.

Q. Thank you, Mr. Miller. Ms. Fields, you have the last word tonight.

FIELDS. Indeed we have some real challenges in this city. Not only affordable housing, jobs, the need to provide quality education for all of our children, but also to provide opportunities for seniors to grow old with dignity and independence. We need a mayor who cares. We need a mayor who will bring the right kind of experience and background in order to address these challenges on behalf of the people of the City of New York. My experience is as a civil rights activist, community leader, social worker and elected official. I will bring all of those experiences to work on behalf of the people of the City of New York. I will make this the best city in which to raise a child, to live, to work and to grow old with dignity and independence. It matters on Tuesday, the 13th. Come out, vote. It is your obligation, it is your responsibility because this city needs to move in a different direction.

Q. Ms. Fields, thank you. And on that note, that will end tonight's Democratic mayoral debate - the last debate between these candidates before next Tuesday's primary election. We do hope sincerely, and this is the goal, that we have shed some light on this very important election. Is it important to the candidates? Of course it is. It's very important of course also to the eight million people who live in New York City. If you'd like more information on the primary election on Tuesday you can call the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, 212-725-3541 on your screen right there. You could also go to their Web site, www.lwvnyc.org.

We'd also like to thank the candidates for being articulate and for sticking to the time limits: Fernando Ferrer, Anthony Weiner, Gifford Miller and C. Virginia Fields. Thank you for tonight's debate and for an interesting campaign and your time devoted to it.

Good to be with you.

Q. And our panel, thank you our panel: Denisse Oller from Univision, Errol Lewis from The Daily News and my colleague from Eyewitness News, our political reporter, Dave Evans.

I'm Bill Ritter. And for all of us here tonight, for all of us here at Channel 7, thank you for watching. We hope you've been informed. Please, remember to vote next Tuesday. Good evening.

 


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