Televised Debate Between Mark Green and Michael
Bloomberg on WABC, November 1st
Q. Our first question goes to the issue of qualifications and experience.
What is it about your opponent that you find insufficient for
the office of mayor, Mr. Bloomberg?
MR. BLOOMBERG My opponent has not had any experience in managing a large
organization, in leading a large number of people, in setting large budgets,
in actually doing things. My opponent's experience is as an analyst and as a
public advocate, but when it comes to leading this city he does not have the
experience for a quarter of a million employees and a $40 billion budget.
Q. Mr. Green?
MR. GREEN Of the two of us, I'm the only one who's spent time in the public
sector. My rival hasn't spent one minute in public life. Managing a budget:
I ran an agency of 350 people, $17 million. I put together coalitions to
reduce domestic violence in the workplace, coalitions to get tobacco signs
out of communities that were addicting our children. If creating jobs in the
private sector, which is a great thing, were the criterion, Bill Gates for
mayor, since his company is 25 times larger than that of my rival's. When my
rival wrote in his book, "politics, whatever the cynics may say, is a noble
profession," he was right then, but his contemptuous slogan now, I think, is
Q. Name three things that you can do as mayor to try and ensure that New
Yorkers are as safe as possible.
MR. BLOOMBERG Get out as much information as you can, every single day. The
first thing is to let the public know what's going on. The second thing is
to make sure that our police force, who is working with the federal
government, takes the appropriate steps to ensure our safety. And the third
thing is try to convince people to exercise some common sense, but go about
their normal lives. You can't let the terrorists win. Leave security to the
Q. Mr. Green?
MR. GREEN Beyond as Mayor Giuliani has done, urging people to get on with
their lives as London and Jerusalem do after lesser terrorist attacks:
first, you have to have a deputy commissioner for counter-terrorism at the
N.Y.P.D. and appoint people or consult with people who know what they're
doing. I'm proud that Bill Bratton and Jerry Hauer, Peggy Hamburg, Sandy
Berger - experts on these matters - have been advising me. Second, public
health is public safety. You have to protect the public health function of
the Health Department. So there's disease surveillance, so if there, God
forbid, something happens, hypothetically on a subway, you can immediately
detect it by people going into emergency rooms. Third, you need more points
of departure, P.O.D.'s. So if something bad happens, everybody knows where
to go for vaccines. It's pretty hard to get the vaccine, even if it's
stockpiled, to the people who might need it. . . .
Q. Mr. Bloomberg, you've outlined a plan that would reward teachers with
raises, a plan that forgoes an immediate move to reduce class
size in the public schools. At a time of crisis in public education
over that very issue, how can you defend that?
MR. BLOOMBERG I'm not opposed to reducing class size. I'm just realistic
about how much money we have. If we don't have enough to go around, you have
to set priorities. My No. 1 priority is to protect the existing teachers
that work in the school system. Unfortunately, after two or three years, a
lot of young teachers leave because they just don't get paid enough to live.
So I want to pay those teachers more, reduce the turnover in the classroom,
which is so disruptive. If we absolutely don't have enough teachers, then of
course you hire teachers. Nobody's suggesting that we would have a class
without somebody at the front of the room.
But in terms of reducing class size it is just not a viable option today. We
don't have the classrooms and we don't have the money. First and foremost,
let's make what we have work as well as we can. Get rid of the board of ed,
empower the principals, move disruptive kids out of the classroom and you'll
fix the problem.
Q. Mr. Green?
MR. GREEN I don't know an issue on where we differ more than on education.
And again my rival has shown that he's out of touch and doesn't understand
the neighborhoods and the families of New York. I've visited 50 schools; I
speak to parents and teachers and principals. They want smaller class sizes
and my class size coalition has a lot of ways to do it without big budget
expenditures. We want more computers and technology in the classrooms. He's
five times said we want fewer computers in the classrooms. I was at
Kingsbridge yesterday in the Bronx. They want a school there. My rival has
said communities don't want new schools there.
Finally, we have to pay teachers more, especially in return for more
performance. And in addition I don't want to defund our public schools by
giving vouchers to private schools. On these issues we couldn't be farther
Q. Well, Mr. Bloomberg, you want to respond?
MR. BLOOMBERG Mark, you have a right to your own opinions, but not a right
to your own facts. Nobody is suggesting vouchers. I've clearly said that it
is not something that will work in this city. In terms of computers,
nobody's opposed to computer literacy. Your idea of computer literacy for
all kids by grade six and not worrying about whether they can read or do
math is just wrong- headed.
I would rather have books than computers any time. The basic skills are more
important today than ever before. The problem with the school system is not
that the kids can't type, not that they can't use Word or Microsoft Windows;
the problem is they can't read, they can't write, they can't speak and read
in English, they can't do math. . . .
MS. WILLIAMS We're now going to give each of you an opportunity to ask a
question of each other.
MR. BLOOMBERG Mark, the way the runoff turned out between you and Freddy
Ferrer, isn't it time to say, we're going to conduct - you should conduct a
real investigation of what happened? Isn't it time that you apologize for
the smearing of Freddy Ferrer, saying that he was borderline irresponsible?
Isn't it time to say, enough, that you should not have had or somebody
should not have, in your interest, put out these disgraceful fliers and made
those disgraceful calls? And will you promise right now to stop this
politics of personal destruction that you seem to do every time you get
close in an election?
MR. GREEN This is a man who said two weeks ago he wouldn't raise these
issues because it's racially divisive. So what's despicable is the hypocrisy
you just heard. This is a man who runs six to seven negative ads, which I
haven't whined about. Now he's whining. The end of the story is that I asked
my campaign people twice: Did anybody know about the racially divisive and
motivated literature? No one knew about it. No one's shown it. How can I
apologize for something that we weren't responsible for? Finally, I couldn't
be prouder that Borough President Freddy Ferrer, Bronx County Chairman
Roberto RamĖrez, Assembly member Ruben Diaz Jr., Congressman JosČ Serrano
and his son Council member Serrano, 20 of the leading officials that were
for Freddy Ferrer, including Congressman Rangel in Manhattan, have all
endorsed my campaign. If they put it behind them and they think I'm the
Democrat who could best be the mayor, I find this is a divisive question and
quite off point in terms of what this city really needs, which is to rebuild
the economy and educate our children.
MS. WILLIAMS O.K. Excuse me. Audience if you could, hold your applause
We now have a question from Mr. Green to Mr. Bloomberg.
MR. GREEN You were quoted as saying that sanitation workers have a more
dangerous job than cops and firefighters, quoted as saying communities don't
want schools there, quoted as saying that rape could be prosecuted only if
there was a third-party witness, quoted as saying domestic violence is a
quality-of-life crime, I guess like graffiti. Would you like to now
apologize for or recant any or all of these four very interesting
MR. BLOOMBERG Mark, you've taken them all out of context.
MR. GREEN Are they all accurate?
MR. BLOOMBERG They were certainly said, but out of context. We were talking
about all city workers. Some police and fire have enormously dangerous jobs
as we've seen at the beginning. They're out there on the firing line, they
could get killed. Sanitation workers and other city workers face
environmental risks. The issue is, how do we get everybody home safe to
their families at night? And it was in the context of talking about
compensation for all city workers. When it came time to - the issue of
saying you needed a third-party witness, it was for a five-year-old case
that the judge dismissed. Two years after an event occurred, you do need
some kind of corroborating evidence and the judge said that.
In terms of quality-of-life crimes, the issue is not the label, the issue
is, how do you stop the despicable behavior domestic violence? Don't worry
about labels; worry about the substance. That's what my company has done,
that's what I've done. We're not talkers. We don't have an ideological
position. We're not worried about labels. What we're trying to do is to just
go and do something about domestic violence.
Once again, you're taking these things out of context. And it's the typical
smear when the time gets close.
Q. The next mayor will, of course, have to negotiate new contracts with
police, perhaps with firefighters. But there's a limit on how
much you can pay them. Mr. Green, what kind of approach are you
going to take here?
MR. GREEN I will tell you I have - I'm so proud that for the first time in
20 years, police people, firefighters, 18 uniform service unions have
endorsed a Democrat for mayor. If the cops and the firefighters have put
their trust in me, I will do everything I can to pay them what they deserve.
But it's beyond pay. They won't come here if they're undereducated, if
precinct conditions are bad. So I want a tuition assistance program upfront
so any officer who doesn't yet have four years of college could get it over
the first five years. We have to clean up the precincts. It's both
conditions and pay. And I know about it because I talk to them.
Q. O.K. Pay raises for uniform services workers, Mr. Bloomberg.
MR. BLOOMBERG We have to realize that we don't have a lot of money. We
didn't before and we have an awful lot less now. Clearly we are losing
police officers to other jobs, to other jurisdictions as well. They are
underpaid. And the firefighters, you've seen the tragedy, you've seen the
sacrifice that they made. I think we have to find ways to try to get both of
those groups as much as we can. But we have the same issue where we're
losing teachers. There are lots of city departments where the people are
underpaid and our resources to solve the problem is relatively small. You
have to go and you have to negotiate some ways through pensions and through
pay raises and through changing the job descriptions so that these people do
not find alternatives outside of the work force to be more attractive. But I
don't think that we can possibly pay them in the next year or so what we
really do owe them.