Transcript of First 2005 General Election Mayoral Debate by Gotham Gazette Staff, Oct 31, 2005 TwitterTranscript of First 2005 General Election Mayoral Debate On October 30, 2005, Michael Blomberg and Fernando Ferrer participated in a live mayoral debate. It was moderated by Bill Ritter of WABC News. Questions were asked by reporters - Dave Evans of WABC News, Errol Louis of the Daily News, and Denisse Oller of Univision. The following is a transcript of the debate. For a transcript of the November 1 debate, click here CAMPAIGN SPENDING Dave Evans: Mr. Bloomberg, a lot has been made over the last couple of days that you have spent about $64 million of your own money on this campaign. I would predict that you will probably go over $100 million this year in spending. If you have done such a good job as you claim, why the need to spend so much money. Michael Bloomberg: First I want to say thank you for having me and thank you to the sponsors. Let me get to the question. I am trying to get my message out to every community in this city. It costs a lot of money. I don't have a big Democratic machine behind me. The city is five to one Democratic. I am trying to have a good record. I am trying to tell everyone exactly what we have done. And I am trying to focus on what we still have to do. This city has gone in the right direction. But I believe that we can do an awful lot more. Explaining the facts to the people takes time, it takes organization, and it takes a lot of TV time. Dave Evans: As a follow up, turn to 2001, in an interview with New York Magazine, you said talking about $30 million at that time and this is the quote. You said, "At some point you start to look obscene. There is a limited amount of ad time that you can buy. It becomes dysfunctional. You begin to annoy people with your ads." The question is: Are you buggin people? Bloomberg: I don't think there is any evidence. I think people look at our ads, there is a positive message. Every ad I have tried to be substantive and tell people what we've done and what the potential for this city is. And how together we can take this city forward. Dave Evans: Mr. Ferrer? Fernando Ferrer: Look, Mr. Bloomberg is a wealthy man and he certainly has a right to spend his money any way he wishes. But that doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it right to distort debate in this city. It doesn't make it right to destroy the platform from which you make good public policy. $100 million buys a great deal of television and radio ads, but here is something you won't hear on a Mike Bloomberg ad: we have a 50 percent drop out rate. Another thing you won't hear in a Mike Bloomberg ad: one out of five New Yorkers today lives in poverty. Another thing you won't here in a Mike Bloomberg ad: vetoed three bills that would have made it easier for the hungry to get food stamps, a federal program. Those are things you won't hear in those ads Mike Bloomberg ad. Dave Evans: But you have had trouble raising your own money. What does that say about you and your candidacy? Ferrer: You know, if this were a normal race, if I were overspent and outspent by a huge sum of money, what I am raising would be considered good news for a Democratic nominee, or any nominee. But these aren't normal times. Look, I don't begrudge anyone spending his own money on this race. It was earned honestly and I congratulate Mike Bloomberg on that. However, it does distort debate. It does destroy the platform from which you discuss important public policy issues. And in fact, up until now, I have been the Democratic nominee for seven weeks and this is our first debate. It's too bad. ATLANTIC YARDS PROJECT IN BROOKLYN Bill Ritter: Next question from Errol Louis for Mr. Ferrer. Errol Louis: Mr. Ferrer, in the first few weeks of his administration, Mr. Bloomberg undid many of the initiatives of his predecessor. If you are elected mayor, which if any initiatives of the Bloomberg administration would you plan to undo? Ferrer: Well, there is one important one that I will undo and that is Atlantic Yards. I will call a halt to that project and reevaluate it. As we are beginning to scratch under the surface of a Nets arena and the construction of thousands of units of housing, the original promise was 50 percent affordability. Now we are finding secret memos emerging that talk about condemning businesses that are already ongoing and then building 2,800 to 2,600 units of luxury housing. Those are things, I think, that deserve full view and a full review of the people who live there. Now I supported and I felt strongly about the power aspects of the 50 percent affordability, the community benefits agreement that would bring small businesses and community people into the full life of that project. But I object to the lack of transparency. I object to the backroom deals. I object to the things we are beginning to see emerge about a project that is becoming the twin brother of the West Side boondoggle. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: Well, I couldn't disagree more and I think Al Sharpton who has supported my opponent said it very well, this is about jobs for people in that community. This is about housing for people in that community. This is a project that has had as much scrutiny as anything, community boards, scrutiny from the newspaper boards, and scrutiny from every single state agency that is involved. This is the right kind of project for this city, builds houses, creates jobs, helps the spirit of Brooklyn, and takes a place that has been vacant for decades, 50 years or more, and does something with it that will help this city. JOBS Denisse Oller: Mr. Bloomberg, blacks and Hispanics workers have among the highest unemployment rates in the city. According to the Community Service Society, more than 10 percent of blacks and 8 percent of Hispanics are out of work. How specifically would you help these groups find jobs? Bloomberg: The first thing is to recognize that is a fact and it probably comes out of the poor education. Unfortunately our school system failed these people. But the question is what can we do for them today. When I came into office, the city was hemorrhaging jobs, it was right after 9/11. It took a year to stabilize it. But in the last two years, more than 150,000 New Yorkers have jobs today than did then. But we have to open up the unions and I have a historic agreement with the unions to make sure they take people from the entire community. I went to the Carpenters Apprentice Program a couple weeks ago, 40 percent of the people had to be people of color. We have minority and women owned business programs to make sure that small businesses no matter owns them have a chance to get city business. Small businesses employ half of the people in this city. We have to go and make sure that every job is open to everybody. And we have been doing that. It is economic development. That is what we need. The more jobs, the more economic opportunity. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: I certainly would not have confused an economic development program with globetrotting for the Olympics. That is not an economic development program. And I certainly wouldn't confuse putting people to work who have been chronically unemployed with going for multi-billion dollar deals like the West Side stadium, like the Nets arena. There is a better way to put people to work and that is small business. Mike Bloomberg is right about small business, but wrong about his approach. In fact, in the last four years, the number of minority owned businesses who have had access to doing business with this city are no better than his predecessor Rudy Giuliani. I would do better. OLYMPICS, WEST SIDE STADIUM, GROUND ZERO Bill Ritter: Continuing along this economic development theme, Dave Evans for Mr. Ferrer. Dave Evans: Along that line, for small businesses, we've seen a significant drop in the wages earned by low income and middle income new Yorkers, and as Iâ€ve just mentioned you've talked a lot about small businesses. But what's your effort to get big industry, who pay a lot of money, say a Citibank or a Chase, what's your effort to get those kind of businesses to New York City? Ferrer: Well, it's important that we focus on the vital things: rebuilding the centerpiece of an economic engine that served the centerpiece of lower Manhattan â€“ and the rest of this city â€“ well. Rebuilding Ground Zero. And unfortunately we've been spending time as a city and state obsessing over the Olympics, or building a billion dollar football stadium for the Jets on the west side of Manhattan, but forgetting about the important work and the important commitment of restoring to Ground Zero the economic capacity we need to generate jobs that support jobs in lower Manhattan and the rest of this city. That's the most important work we can be doing, and it should have been done in the last four years. Dave Evans: Do you think at all that the city and the state has paid too much money, for example, to keep Goldman Saks at Ground Zero? Ferrer: Well, I'm really glad you asked about Goldman Saks. There isn't a better illustration of the two New Yorks than that deal. Let me give you the picture. In the Bronx, [a woman] lives in a hovel. If she's late on her rent one month, she's out on the street. But she's been waiting two years for the city to force her landlord to make repairs. By contrast, we can't do enough to get Goldman Saks from Midtown back to lower Manhattan, with a king's ransom of $1.7 billion in tax abatements. That's the example I'm talking about. Bill Ritter: Mr. Mayor you have the liberty of answering two questions here, so go ahead. Bloomberg: Do I have double the time? Bill Ritter: You'll have a little extra. Bloomberg: Number one, the Olympics would have brought 100,000 plus jobs and 12 billion dollars of economic activity and tourism for decades. It is a big economic thing, and that's why every city wants the Olympics and it's a shame we didn't get it. The west side, yes we didn't get the stadium, but we rezoned the whole west side, we're extending the number 7 lines. That's going to bring a 100-plus thousand jobs, and housing, an enormous amount of housing on the west side. Those are good things for the city. And in terms of Goldman Saks, Goldman has a brand new building that they spent $1 billion plus right across the river on. They could have moved over there any day. We gave the minimum we had to do to keep them in the city. If there's any administration that has not been willing to not give willy nilly tax breaks to companies it's our administration. We've given virtually none. This is the one case where we thought they could have moved â€“ it might have been in their economic interest to move â€“ and we wanted to get those jobs here. The monies that we gave them, we will get back very quickly, because the economic activity that they will create in lower Manhattan really makes a big difference. Bill Ritter: Your response to the west side stadium criticism? Bloomberg: The west side stadium I thought would have been great for the city. I don't care so much about the ten football games. I cared about another expansion to the convention center, I cared about a place for 75,000 new Yorkers to get together all year round. And we would have had an outsider come in and spend the $1 billion; the city would have spent only $300 million, and we would have gotten our money back. But we need those kinds of things, and it's a shame we didn't get it. But we're doing plenty of other things at the same time and the West Side is going ahead regardless. TAXES Bill Ritter: Thank you, gentlemen. Errol Louis for Mr. Bloomberg. Errol Louis: Mr. Bloomberg, as mayor you've raised property taxes over 18 percent, you've raised fees, you've raised fines. With a four billion budget gap looming, should voters expect to see more of the same if you're reelected? Bloomberg: No, I think they can expect to see a continued focus on doing more with less. But because we made those decisions â€“ and it wasn't popular to go, I came into office and didn't want to raise taxes, said I wasn't going to, but we had an emergency, I had to do it so we could keep cops and firefighters and teachers. And I think while those were not politically popular decisions they turned out to be the right decisions. Today the economy is growing. And I would think for the next fiscal year, starting next July 1, if we focus on doing a little more with less, with the expansion of the economy we would get through that year without any tax increases or fee increases. In fact, I've been trying to reduce fees, uh, taxes. We have that $400 rebate, we got an early end to the sales tax on clothing of $110 or less, I've said we should sunset the personal income tax surcharge on time as scheduled. The city's economy is getting better, and we have the highest credit rating this city has ever had in history. So the outside observers â€“ the financial experts â€“ say we're going in the right direction. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: I think the people who are paying the increased fees, ticket blitzes, increased taxes, would say something different. They want a modicum of tax relief, to be able to afford to live in the homes that they've lived in for years. That's why I'll cut their taxes. That's why I'll also provide 167,000 affordable homes and apartments. Those fees, those fines, those penalties are doing little to help middle class and working class people be able to live in their own neighborhoods, to be able to live decently in this city. To be able to pass on dreams and hope and opportunity to their children, to their families. Errol Louis: If you had been faced with the same budget deficit four years ago, what would you have done differently? Ferrer: Ah, well let's review that. Mike Bloomberg did promise no new taxes. Again, in his inauguration speech in January 2002, and waited for a year while George Pataki was safely reelected in order to grapple with some of the most vexing budget problems. Yeah, I would have implemented a hiring freeze immediately. I would have begun to make the economies we needed to make, so that the burden of taxes and fines and fees and penalties that were raised in the beginning of 2003 would not have been so severe. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg, we'll give you 30 seconds to respond to that if you want. Bloomberg: Well, we did put in a hiring freeze right away; we did try to economize right away. We borrowed money rather than raised taxes for the first year, because the economy was threatened, and people thought companies were going to leave this city. People were scared, and they didn't know whether we had a future, and you could not have raised taxes then. But I faced an emergency, and it wasn't popular, but I went I did what I want â€“ what we had to do. I'll also point out, that if I read â€“ watch the ads Freddie has proposed $12 billion in extra spending and $6 billion in tax increases already, and he isn't even elected. FIREHOUSES Denisee Oller: Mr. Bloomberg, you just mentioned firehouses. If reelected, will you assure us you will not close anymore? Bloomberg: I can assure yo that we will look at the numbers. The only basis for where we site firehouses, where we site police precincts, is what the chiefs say they need to do the job. Deaths by fire are down to a level not seen since 1919. That's the real test. Yes response time is up, half a second because we closed some fire houses, but we have a bigger fire department today than we had back before 9/11. We have expanded the fire department because in the tragedy of 9/11 we lost so much experience, and we needed more firefighters. We opened one firehouse because response time had grown to six or seven minutes. The neighborhoods, incidentally, where we did close firehouses still remain below the average in this city. Were getting good protection. Denisse Oller: Mr. Ferrer, you've been critical of the closings, as mayor, will you reopen them? Ferrer: 4 of them immediately. On of them in Williamsburg, which by the way, is growing, not shrinking. Look, I have some experience with this. Mike mentioned my record as borough president. Well, Mike you may recall that as borough president I took the city to court to keep engine 41 open. Some might say, "Why did engine 41 need to be reopened?" Well they lost six men in the attacks on the World Trade Center. "Yeah, but we're good enough to sacrifice six men, they're good enough to protect New Yorkers." Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg, any response to that? Bloomberg: No there's no response. We can't have a firehouse on every corner of the city. You've got to go and look. As our population moves, you've got to constantly reevaluate where to put our resources. An awful lot of firehouses were sited a hundred years ago when horses pulled the fire engines. It's a different world... Everyday it's a different world, and we've got to constantly look at the threats, look at our resources and redeploy as we retrain and enhance our services. AFFORDABLE HOUSING Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer, we both know how expensive it is to live in the city, and you've both come up with extensive housing plans over the last couple of weeks. But neither of your plans really addresses the fact that thousands and thousands and thousands of rent stabilized apartments will be coming off of the rolls over the next few years. So, how is this plan progress? Mr. Ferrer. Ferrer: Sure it is. At least mine does. This man's talking about being in the blast of the housing boom you're talking about. Mike, I don't know what city you're living in, but not his city. Not in the one where he is, and a decent amount of others, are looking for a decent place to live at a rent or price that they can afford. It's simple, we've got to build and maintain the affordability of tens of thousands of units in this city to try to catch up with the enormous housing need. Mike Bloomberg promised 68,000 units of housing. So far he's only delivered a third of it. And then, we're beginning to focus on a failure to deliver, and he's promised even more. Now I'm glad, Mike, you're program is beginning to catch up to my plan, but the simple fact is housing is too important a factor to the lives of New Yorkers. I've seen the difference a decent affordable place makes in the life of a family that didn't have one before. In the life of a neighborhood in the life of a city. I want to make it every one of the five boroughs in New York. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: What's happening in this city is that because crime is coming down, because schools are getting better, the quality of life is better, more and more people want to live here. We have record population and the housing supply certainly has not kept up. You have to do a number of things. One, build affordable housing. Made a commitment to 86,000 units. We're way ahead of schedule. Completed before we said we would. And been financed with capital monies generally. Have a plan to go and get private monies, which is the only way we're going to get a lot more housing coming in in the next four years. I think we can double the number. What we've got to get is private capital to come in. And that comes from rezoning, making this a place where people want to invest, have confidence in the future. At the same time we've got to make sure people have jobs so that they can pay the rent. That means opening up all the jobs in this city to everybody. That means improving the educational process. That means making sure small businesses can stay in this city, and don't get pushed out by the residential real estate market, and can keep those jobs. HEATING OIL COSTS Bill Ritter: Let's continue with this theme on rent with Errol and a question for Mr. Bloomberg. Errol Louis: Mr. Bloomberg, rents have already gone up because of higher property taxes and renters are going to get slammed again because of higher energy costs. Homeowners can get brakes occasionally, but is there a program that you would want to use to give direct relief to renters? Bloomberg: What yo can do is you can help. We have programs for example: SCRIE [Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption] to help the elderly not have their rent go up. We have been keeping hard to keep Mitchell-Llama housing in Mitchell-Llama so that prices to go to market rate. There's a whole variety of things we could do. Unfortunately there's nothing we can do about the price of heating oil. That's something beyond our control. But what we can do is all of the other things. We can make sure that people who are struggling to make ends meet get a chance to get everything they can. Whether it's getting health benefits, public insurance - which we have a million more people today than four years ago. We can make sure they get a chance to use the Earned Income Tax Credit - the federal one, or the city one we put in. We can make sure they get paid the minimum wage, which I put supported a State increase. Make sure that the unions are open to everybody so they can get jobs. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: Too many New Yorkers are struggling under the burden of increased property taxes that Mike Bloomberg increased. Look, I'm gonna cut their taxes. Cut their taxes by $973 a year, permanently. Not on a year to year basis. And I'm also gonna offer tax help for people that live in regulated housing who are struggling under that same burden. $295 dollars a year. And a way to pay for it as well, that puts forward an idea that says that we have to have equity and affordability in every neighborhood in this city. Look, that we saw on the screen a moment ago in East Harlem, trying to find a decent place to live at a price that he can afford. Well, he just looks like he was caught in the housing boom that Mike Bloomberg talks about. But there is no housing boom, and he's proof of it. HOMELESSNESS Bill Ritter: Denise for Ferrer. Denisse Oller: Mr. Ferrer, let's talk about the homeless. Some 32,000 New Yorkers sleep in shelters each night - an increase of six percent since the last city elections. Years ago in a program in a program by Mayor Koch, he set aside ten percent of all city funded apartments to the homeless. If you were mayor, would you make that commitment as well? Ten percent. Ferrer: I know about that because I worked with Mayor Koch in my borough to create affordable housing, permanent housing, for homeless families and individuals. I'm proud of that record of achievement because it made a difference in the lives of families, especially in the lives of children. We have to have that same kind of commitment. Homelessness has risen six percent in the last four years. That means we are not building enough housing, not providing enough options for them. A woman that I talked about a moment ago who lives in this slum property in the Bronx. She's late on her rent for a month, she's in the homeless shelter. We've got to do more for families like that. We've got to do more for families in our homeless shelters. And the thing I'm talking about is building enough affordable for them to live decently to be able to give their kids big dreams. Denisse Oller: So would you make a commitment of ten percent? Ferrer: Absolutely. Bill Ritter: Okay, Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: When I came into office, the homeless population was skyrocketing, partially because of 9/11, partially because of a national economic downturn which hurt this city very badly. We stabilized it, it is now coming down. We've had put over 90,000 homeless into permanent housing. When the Section-8 vouchers stopped coming from Washington we created our own voucher program which has been successful. In the process of ripping down the old intake unit in the Bronx, which was a disgrace where people were sleeping on the floor, we are building a new one. I think Linda Gibb [Commissioner, Department of Homeless Services] has done a spectacular job at addressing the issue. And most of our focus is now on preventing homelessness, rather than just worrying about how you take care of people. I might also point out we just closed the largest city this city had, Carlton House in Queens, because the homeless population is starting to go down. We're going in the right direction. We have a long way to go, make no doubt about it. There are certainly people who need help, that's where they need supportive housing and those kinds of things. Denisse Oller: Would you commit to the ten percent? Bloomberg: I'd have to take a look at it. You can't just go and commit ten percent of anything. You've got to take a look everyday. Linda is very successful in preventing homelessness. That's where our resources should be devoted, rather than saying the government is going to subsidise everybody. Denisse Oller: That goes to my next question to Mr. Ferrer. Most candidates try to avoid proposing new taxes, but you specifically proposed at least two taxes to fund education and affordable housing. How will being known as the candidate of new taxes help you win the election? Ferrer: First of all the tax I propose is a reclassification of the real property tax on vacant property that is being used as a commercial asset, a land bank to speculate on. Yes, I want make affordable housing a reality on those sites. And I want to discourage land banking and land speculation. That reclassification in the tax isn't about gaining revenue; it's about creating affordable housing. In case anyone hasn't noticed we are in the middle of an incredible housing crisis in this city. And let's talk about my school investment plan. It asks the global investment community to invest pennies in our schools because for two and a half years, we have had the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision, $23 billion owed to our schools. And you can't put zero on the table and expect something back, because that has been the result for the last two and a half years. We put zero on the table and zero has come back for our kids. Our kids and their parents can't wait another year for progress in our schools at all grades. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: If you raise the stock transfer tax you will drive thousands of jobs out of this city. I don't think anyone questions that. In terms of not getting CFE money, what we have done is not wait for CFE money. I hope the courts will rule the way the city has argued they should rule and the state gives us the money. In the meantime, we've added $2.5 billion to the school budget. We've raised the capital budget to build new schools to $13.5 billion. When the state didn't come through with the money, the city stepped up and gave their share. We've given the teachers a 33 percent raise in the last four years. We are not waiting for CFE money. We have to educate the kids today and fight for the CFE money, which we have been doing. SECURITY AND SUBWAY SAFETY Dave Evans: Mr. Bloomberg, for two and a half years, up until just recently, about $600 million in security money earmarked for the MTA security went unspent. The former head of security at the MTA said your appointees were "wimps on security." Why didn't you lead the charge to use that money now? Bloomberg: I didn't hear him say that. I think it's true that the MTA did not go ahead and press for cameras and other technology that they could use. Fortunately now they have finally given Lockheed a contract to do that. But remember, the city provides the day in and day out security on the subway platforms. And we have gone ahead, if you look you see bag searches in some stations. You see more police than you have seen before. There are a lot of police there that you don't see, undercover; that guy sitting next to you on the train or that woman could very well be an undercover detective. We have gone ahead and increased the security. And I think in all fairness to the MTA if you look you will see that they finally got the message. And now you will see a lot more MTA employees on the platforms, in the subway. Every time I take the subway everyday, there is a noticeably greater presence. A lot of things in this city were designed without thought for security, like bridges and tunnels, that the MTA has been studying and has been working on. Dave Evans: We just saw recently a couple of crossed wires and a fuse box through the whole system into havoc, it begs the question: are we safe? Bloomberg: Some of things are - has the MTA been investing in the infrastructure for the last two decades to make this a modern, safe, reliable? - and the answer is clearly no. I have said until the MTA addresses those issues we should not consider fare increases. And my members voted against the fare increases. The point is we have to look forward and see what we can do now. Whether the MTA did a good job or didn't do a good job isn't the point. The question is are they doing it today and is the city providing the level of security they need, and yes. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: Well before the MTA came to their senses on the need to spend that money, it was $390 million that remained unspent, I put forward a mass transit security plan. We have to have a mass transit system that is safe, reliable, and affordable. The simple fact is I wouldn't have called Mayor Bloomberg's four appointees wimps; I would called them potted plants because for several years they have been sitting there while the MTA has declined and failed to spend that money until just recently. The MTA then bungles it. We have to put forward an effective and ongoing deterrent to anyone who wants to do harm to New Yorkers. Millions of New Yorkers use our mass transit system daily. That is why I called for very specific things: getting a thousand cops out from behind the desk and putting them on patrol; cutting edge communication; explosive detection equipment; surveillance equipment; and surveillance training for the MTA workers below ground and above ground. Only putting those things, put together will create an effective and ongoing deterrent to keep all New Yorkers safe and our mass transit system safe and secure. EMERGENCY MANAGMENT Bill Ritter: Errol Louis for Mr. Ferrer. Errol Louis: Mr. Ferrer, I want to ask you about the battle of the badges: the confusion and miscommunication that sometimes takes place during emergencies. Mr. Bloomberg has made clear that when it comes to these conflicts the NYPD is in charge during emergencies. Do agree with that approach? Would you have a different agency in charge? Ferrer: No, I do not. When I was a young councilman, I saw a physical manifestation of the battle of the badges: the late Commissioner Ben Ward with then Fire Commissioner Joe Bruno, who is now the head of emergency management in this city. In 2001, the voters of this city decided, and I think correctly, to empower the office of emergency management by creating a commissioner. No mayor, at any time, can predict when and where an emergency or catastrophe will occur. But we have to be ready for it. We have to be in the position to settle all disputes on the ground and to coordinate all responders to keep New Yorkers safe and to preserve life and safety. That is why I would have a commissioner of emergency management, who reports directly to me, who settles all of these disputes right on the ground. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: We do have a commissioner of emergency management, Joe Bruno, who does report to the mayor and he does have a lot of authority. But when you go to an event, that happens hundreds of times a week, the police and the fire get there and they work together. They know who has responsibility for each thing. The senior people in both agencies train all of the time together. The people who drive the trucks and put out the fires and arrest the bad guys train together all of the time, they train together in tabletops and they train together out in the field. And they do a spectacular job. They are the reason this city keeps getting better. Crime keeps coming down; deaths by fire keep coming down. And we have reputation nationally of having the best police department and the best fire department in terms of training, communication and coordination, and spirit of any place in this country â€“ and arguably of any place in the world. I am very proud of the job they do and they do it every day. POLICE AND GUNS Errol Louis: To get off the coordination problem for just a minute, we have 3,000 fewer police officers on the street now then when you took office. Crime is down, but there has been a 10 percent increase in shootings. Is the fewer number of police related to that increase? Bloomberg: I don't think it's related. We don't have the money to have a cop on every corner, a firehouse in every neighborhood. We have to make choices. Take a look at what has happened in the last four years. Overall crime down 20 percent. Domestic violence crime down 38 percent. Crime in the subways down 15 percent. Hate crimes down 45 percent. Yes, shootings are up. There are too many guns on the street and we have to go and get the guns off of the street. We have a record number of gun arrests. We are devoting our resources to trying to do that, but we need the federal government's help to do that. I don't think we got any help from the borough president, when he was borough president. As a matter of fact, he is out campaigning with Howard Dean who is eight times endorsed by the NRA. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: Let's talk about Mike Bloomberg's support of the party and the president, whose policies have hurt this city. Bloomberg: Not on this policy, I didn't. Ferrer: You know you have supported right wing politicians, including the chairman of your own campaign, Mike, who voted for that disgraceful piece of legislation. Bloomberg: I couldn't agree more, Freddy. I disagree with them. Ferrer: You gave them money, Mike. You can't have it both ways. You can't disclaim responsibilities for the policies you politically and financially support. Bloomberg: I am going to go and fight for this city, Freddy. And I can't have everybody in Washington vote for everything I'd like. I wish they would, but they don't. Ferrer: You don't have to support them, Mike. And you know what you could do this city a big favor sometimes by putting your checkbook away. Bloomberg: Ok. Ferrer: Ok. EDUCATION AND TEST SCORES Bill Ritter: Education has been a huge issue in this campaign. Mr. Bloomberg, we all know that reading and math test scores are up significantly in the city, but they are also statewide, and they are also in parochial school. The criticism has been â€“ as you have heard again and again â€“ that maybe the kids aren't smarter, maybe the tests are easier. Given that criticism, do you think that after the tests are given that we, the public, should have the chance to look at them. Bloomberg: The tests are provided by an outside service, all the professionals say they have not gotten easier. I think what is happening is that the teachers are doing a better job. If you take a look at what we did in the third grade, where we've ended social promotion, we identified which kids needed more help, we gave them that help during the summer. And how did they do in the fourth grade? In the fourth grade the kids we gave special help to did better than the kids didn't need the extra help. That's why we ended social promotion in the fifth grade; sixth grade teachers say they've never seen a more prepared class coming in. Seventh grade is happening this time. We are going in the right direction. The teachers, who are the ones who deliver the service, are excited. We have fewer resignations than we've had in a long time. We have more people coming from around the country that want to join this system. We're doing it right and we have to stay the course. Bill Ritter: But my question is would you be in favor of letting the public see those tests. Bloomberg: Sure, I didn't realize they weren't. Why shouldn't you? The test, unfortunately, are something we are stuck with. But if testing is can you read or can you do the math we're going to do the test. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: The answer to your question is yes. Look, I don't think you'll to find an educator in this city who is unqualifiedly happy about the simple fact that test scores are rising in the fourth grade. It's a reflection of one day on one test. But let's look far beyond that. Here's another thing you won't see in a Mike Bloomberg ad. You won't see 50 percent of our kids entering high school and dropping out without a diploma, without a job, without a future. I'll end that dropout crisis. We've got to end that. Look, I'm not running to be the mayor of the fourth grade. I'm running to be the mayor of all the grades. Look, I commend Mike Bloomberg for taking control of the school system. Now you got to take responsibility for all 1.1 million kids. Nothing good will happen in their lives until the mayor says "they're my children, and I'll take their education personally." Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg, do you have a response? Bloomberg: Let's take a look at the numbers. You have a right to your opinions, Freddie, but not to your own facts here. In the Bronx the graduation rate in four years has gone from 40 percent to 52 percent. In the city as a whole, after decades of doing nothing, it has gone from 50 to 54. But what do those numbers mean? Take a look: 16 percent drop out in the first four years, 54 percent graduate. That's 70 percent. What happens to the other 30 percent? Some go to other schools, some go to the army, and a lot of them graduate after five, six or seven years. Not every child can get through in four years. The total number of people that never get an education is distressingly too high, and we have to work a lot harder at it. But it's not 50 percent. Ferrer: Mike, I am citing facts. They're facts cited by your own chancellor a year ago on Channel 4. Bloomberg: Okay. MAYORAL CONTROL OF SCHOOLS Bill Ritter: Let's continue on this education theme with Errol Louis. Errol Louis: Mr. Ferrer, you're commending the mayor for getting control of the schools, but when you ran in 2001 you opposed any change to the makeup of the board of education, and called mayoral control a “facile political gimmick.” As mayor would you give up control of the schools? Ferrer: Let me tell you something. I will not. But what I was warning about turned out to be true. The panel for educational policy, where all the important decisions about educational policy in a $14 billion educational budget are made in some back office, and are all decided in a half-hour of very easy debate. Parents are shut out of that process; communities are shut out of that process. And we're talking about the future of our kids â€“ and $14 billion budget â€“ no one should be shut out of that process. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: It's a $15.5 billion project with a $13.5 instruction budget, and nobody's shut out, and mayoral control means mayoral control. And the mayor is being held responsible and I've said if I don't do a good job don't vote for me. At least the public finally has somebody to blame or somebody to give the credit to. In the past nobody did anything. For decades â€“ and for decades while my opponent had somebody on the old board of education â€“ nothing changed. All we did was focused on a patronage-laden system that didn't care about the kids, and promoted them just to push them through. We've changed that today. There's accountability. You have to learn and you have to behave and we are going to make sure that our children leave this system with the skills they need to participate in the great American dream. Ferrer: Mike, I want to agree with you about one thing. I did have someone on the board of education and was involved in that patronage-laden thing... Bloomberg: And she works for me now. Ferrer: And now she's one of your trusted advisors. Bloomberg: That's right, but she doesn't run my educational policy. Ferrer: Thank goodness. Bill Ritter: Thank you gentleman. Denisse. Denise Oller: Mr. Bloomberg. The focus of your educational policy has been on the younger students. While high school graduation rates have improved slightly since you became mayor, rates are still very low especially among minorities. Why the lack of focus on high school students? Bloomberg: It's not a lack of focus, but it's more visible when you work on the elementary and middle school kids who haven't in the past gotten the skills to do high school work. We have a bunch of high school kids today many of whom were left behind before, weren't given the skills they need. So what do we do? We're breaking up the big schools into small schools with themes to make it interesting for kids. We're adding a vocational component to make it relevant. Not every kid's going to go to college. You don't tell teenagers what to do. You've got to get them to come in and to want to participate. We have programs to get kids who have dropped out of school to come back into school, get a GED. When they got out into the real world and realized they can't get a job without an education, we're trying to tempt them back. And that's what we're going to continue to do. Twofold: the kids get the skills they need as they come up thought the ranks into high school; but at the meantime those in high school make it relevant, interesting, and try to help the teachers as much as we can to keep them there. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: That's a wonderful city. I just wonder, Mike, what city you're living in. Middle school students are already starting to think about dropping out, because we're losing them there. Fifty percent of kids are dropping out according to your own chancellor. I'm not running to be the mayor the fourth grade reading tests; I'm running to be the mayor of all of them. We can't leave any of them behind. I won't. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg, you have a response? Bloomberg: Nothing. GROUND ZERO Bill Ritter: Thank you gentlemen. Moving on to Ground Zero. Question from Dave Evans. Dave Evans: Mr. Ferrer, I want to start with you seem to have some contradictory ideas about what should happen at Ground Zero. Four years ago while campaigning you said you would like to see the square footage that was lost in the attacks rebuilt, spread across the five boroughs. Then earlier this year â€“ I think in the spring â€“ you said you liked the idea that Donald Trump came up with of rebuilding the Twin Towers. Which one is it? Ferrer: What I said was while we're trying to clean up the site we've got to build office space all around the city to keep these businesses from leaving the city, from walking out the door. And then turn our attention to Ground Zero so we bring them back and recreate the economic engine that supported lower Manhattan and the rest of this city. I still believe that today. I believe that our most important work is â€¦ building a fitting memorial to the hundreds of New Yorkers who perished trying to save so many others, and to the 3,000 New Yorkers â€“ innocent New Yorkers â€“ who lost their lives in that terror attack. And then we've got to set about rebuilding the economic engine. For four years we've wasted time. For four years we've chased Olympic dreams and sweetheart deals for West Side stadiums. Now it's time to rebuild that economic engine for all of New York. Dave Evans: Do you think Giuliani could have done this? Ferrer: That's not the point, Dave. I'm running for mayor so I can do it. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: Look, you have to do these things simultaneously whether it's building projects up in the Bronx that will create jobs and housing or on the other end of the city on Staten Island that will create jobs and housing, or all through Queens or Brooklyn, or other parts of Manhattan. You have to do all of that â€“ there are different markets here. Downtown, we haven't wasted four years. We went through a very public process, we picked a great design by Michael Arad. Now we have a group of citizens who are trying to raise the money privately to pay for it; it's going to cost half a billion dollars or more by most estimates. In the meantime, we've got to take a look at building office space down there, retail space, residential space. And the market is constantly changing. We've got to make sure we change as it does. Bill Ritter: Let's continue that theme with Errol Louis. Errol Louis: Mr. Bloomberg, you've only recently begun to become more vocal and assert leadership over the development at Ground Zero. How do you respond to critics who say you should have been using your bully pulpit all along to further the process rather than focusing on, say, the West Side and the Olympics? Bloomberg: We were not just focusing on the West Side. We were focused on a lot of things. And we were part of the process for the last four years. Take a look at what's happened downtown. River to river development â€“ parks; open space; redoing infrastructure; all the transportation things â€“ there's a new ferry terminal, a new subway terminal, the Fulton Street terminal's going ahead; the Freedom Tower's about to start going; Number Seven's been built. We're doing a lot of things, and we have been doing those things. What I said the other day was the market's changing, we're having difficulty in renting some of the commercial space. I think we should take a look and see, make sure that the other buildings which we haven't started yet â€“ after the Freedom Tower, after number seven, after the memorial, keeping the same grand scheme, the original design â€“ what should go in those buildings. And I think you have to be constantly willing to look and see whether things change. If you go back and remember when the World Trade Center was built it took 13 years to fill that 10 million square feet of space. And I want to make sure the market is there before we build more office space. In the meantime, since 9/11 there have been over 9 million housing units built downtown. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: I think the last thing we need down there are multimillion-dollar condos that are built with city assistance. Let's get real about Ground Zero. Let's get real about the things we need to do down there. It's not multimillion-dollar condos that are needed. We need to rebuild office space; we need to rebuild the centerpiece of an economic engine. And frankly while Mike Bloomberg is now interested in it â€“ and I'm glad he is, I'm glad for the sake of all of New York â€“ the problem is for the last four years he hasn't filled four vacancies on the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation that would have ensured full city participation in that debate, and in that project. Bill Ritter: Mr. Bloomberg? Bloomberg: We did have those places filled, the LMDC has basically made all of the decisions that they are part of. Now it's up to the developer, and the Port Authority, and the MTA. We have some vacancies â€“ some people did quit recently â€“ I don't think that it's fair for me to go out and appoint them with the presumption that I'm going to get reelected. I think we should wait until after November 8, at which point I will fill them. But they were there, and they were a part of it, and I was in favor of what we've done so far. Now the question is are we doing it right? Constantly re-ask. Bill Ritter: The LMDC is the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, of course. Denise, question for Mr. Ferrer. DIALLO SHOOTING Denise Oller: Mr. Ferrer, you've said that you spoke carelessly about the Diallo shooting when you said it was not a crime. Given the sensitivity of the case, can you ensure us that as mayor you can be trusted to not speak so carelessly about matters on such gravity? Ferrer: I'm a human being, and I made a mistake speaking carelessly. But that didn't mean that I didn't believe anything other than the shooting of an innocent man in the lobby of his own apartment building â€“ which was the result of failures, as I said later in that question, failures of recruitment, training and supervision â€“ should never have happened, it was a stain on this city. We've got to make sure that every day of every week of every year we build a policy department that actually does inspire the trust and confidence and support of every New Yorker. That's why I got myself arrested in protest of that in 1999. That's why in 2001 I called for the firing of those police officers. That's why I drafted the language that ultimately became this city's first anti-racial profiling legislation. I still feel strongly about it today. Bloomberg: I have nothing to add other than I think our police department if you take a look at it is very diverse, it reflects the community. They have an enviable record over the last four years of bringing people together. One of the things that I'm most proud of is that we've brought crime down while improving police community relations throughout this entire city. I think they've done a great job, and sadly we're always going to have some bad people. We've brought down hate crimes by 45 percent but that's still too many. REPUBLICANS AND GEORGE W. BUSH Bill Ritter: Switching topics. Dave Evans? Dave Evans: Mr. Bloomberg, you said four years ago that as a Republican you'd be able to get a lot out of our Republican governor, our Republican president. But some would look and say that we haven't received our fair share out of Washington and Albany. What went wrong? Bloomberg: Well, I don't know that we will ever be happy no matter how much we get. The truth is that New York got $21 billion promised by the president, and mostly delivered by congress. Senators Schumer and Clinton and the congressional delegation and I have worked very hard. Just the other day, Schumer and Clinton with some help from me, we managed to avoid some cuts. The federal government has been cutting back. The state government we've done much better. Even over the governor's veto, I fought against the governor when he didn't agree with us. I fight with him when he does and against us when he doesn't. My responsibility is to the people of New York City. And while this city still sends $12 billion or so more to the state government than we get back, $12 billion or so more to the federal government than we get back, in the end we are the economic engine for both the state and the federal government and for the country, and we've got to keep convincing them of that. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer? Ferrer: I'm running for mayor to do battle, against a Democrat of my own party or Mike Bloomberg's party, a governor of my own party, or of Mike Bloomberg's party, for the benefit of 8.1 million people in this city. Any time an elected official â€“ a mayor â€“ loses sight of who you work for, that's the beginning of trouble. The kind of trouble that shows itself in the federal government cutting, for example Section 8 certificates and Section 202 programs for the elderly and handicapped in this city; the federal government cutting transportation, education, health care funding and homeland security funding, denying us what we need on the basis of risk. No, I don't think, Mike, that your being a Republican, that the checkbook has actually helped New York. Bloomberg: Let me just point out that with a lot of help from Schumer, and Clinton, and the president that finally congress did decide to give most of the homeland security money based on risk, and this state and this city will do very well compared to others based on that. Ferrer: Well, the president should at least have re-paid the compliment you gave him by saying he's done good for the city. Look, I'm a Democrat. I'm proud of the work that I did with Bill Clinton, and the support that I've got for him. You're proud of George Bush? Bloomberg: George Bush is president of the United States. I agree with him on some things, I disagree with him on others. I represent the people of this city. When I've disagreed with the president I've been very vocal; when I agree with the president I've been very vocal. We're going to go ahead and do what's right for this city. You know, La Guardia said there's no Republican or Democratic way to pick up the garbage, which may be the reason I got the endorsement of the sanitation union, I don't know. I think that that's actually the case. There is we have to have a bipartisan approach. You can't go out and yell at people and then expect them to help you. You've got to work with everybody, they're not going to give you everything you want, and some people will vote with you sometime and you still need them later one. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer, how would you have done this differently? Ferrer: Well, first of all I wouldn't have supported lavishly â€“ I couldn't have supported lavishly â€“ the president and the party whose policies that have been so bad for this city. But let's take one policy that has been bad for this city: the war in Iraq. Mike Bloomberg said it's not a local issue. Mike, I don't know what city you're living in again, but not in this city, where the war in Iraq has not only taken 37 innocent lives of soldiers of New York City families, but has also taken the needed billions we need to build firehouses here instead of in Baghdad, to build good schools, and hospitals and libraries. PET PEEVES Bill Ritter: Okay, we are running out of time. Before we get to closing arguments, we do have a quick, short question and answer. Twenty seconds each for you and Mr. Bloomberg. New Yorkers love to complain. What's your pet peeve about this city? Mr. Mayor? Bloomberg: My pet peeve about the city is everybody wants to have more services, nobody wants to pay for them, me included, but I think that New Yorkers know that we're doing the right thing by maintaining the services even through tough times. Bill Ritter: Mr. Ferrer, your pet peeve? Ferrer: Ticket blitzes. When the meter goes to the red flag, there seems to be somebody lurking around the corner with something that scans your windshield and they can find out how many parking tickets you might owe, but they can't keep track of the number of kids who are dropping out of high school. CLOSING STATMENTS Bill Ritter: Each candidate will now have one minute for closing statements. Bloomberg: I came to this city with nothing but some dreams. And I was honored by the people of New York to lead this city for the last four years. When I came into office, smoke was still coming out of the World Trade Center. They were tough times. People were scared, nobody knew what the future was going to hold, but we made tough decisions. They weren't popular, but I think they show that they were the right decisions. I'm independent. I'm not beholden to anybody. I've always tried to do what is right for this city. And I'm proud of what we've accomplished. We've brought crime down. We've improved test scores. We've made life expectancy in this city longer than the country as a whole. We've reduced deaths by fire and pedestrian deaths. We've gone and built housing in record numbers. We've brought jobs here. The economy is going. And people are getting along better than they have in an awful long time. Is there more to do? Absolutely. And that is why I want another four years. It's the most wonderful city in the world and we are all lucky to be here. Thank you. Ferrer: This morning you heard two very different visions of New York. Mike Bloomberg thinks everything is going just great in this town, and for some, it is. But for millions of others, it isn't. There are two New York's. I know that well because I've lived in both. I grew up on a tough corner in the South Bronx and the only thing that brought me from that corner to this podium as the nominee of my party running for mayor of my city, is the bridge of hope and opportunity that I crossed. I am running for mayor so that millions of others can cross over that same bridge that I did. Now Mike Bloomberg says everything is going just fine in our schools, but half of the kids who enter, don't graduate. I'll end the dropout crisis. Mike Bloomberg says there is a housing boom, but the middle class is getting crushed by property taxes that he raised. I'll cut their taxes and provide 167,000 homes and apartments. Mike Bloomberg admits that there are two New York's, but he hasn't done anything about them. Instead, he spent most of his time going after a sweetheart deal for a West Side football stadium, but forgot the fact that one out of five New Yorkers live in poverty. I'll do something about that. That is why I am running for mayor. Thank you. Â Tweet Editor's Choice Everything Dot NYC Council 2.0: Rules Reform Outlines Next Steps in Open Data Overdue & Over Budget, Capital Projects Roll On Comments Comment(s) The comments section is provided as a free service to our readers. Gotham Gazette's editors reserve the right to delete any comments. Some reasons why comments might get deleted: inappropriate or offensive content, off-topic remarks or spam.