Categorized | Politics

Who Won the Mayoral Debate?

by Mamta Badkar

In the first of two televised debates between the mayoral contenders, Democratic candidate William Thompson hammered away at Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg´s violation of term limits.

Thompson, who has served as the city´s comptroller for the last eight years, and has been the primary target of Bloomberg´s outsized $65 million campaign, accused the mayor of trying to “rewrite history.” Bloomberg in turn, insisted that he was giving New Yorkers more of a choice, but sheepishly answered “yes,” when panelist Brian Lehrer asked if he promised not to run for a fourth term.

The candidates were given the opportunity to face-off during an aggressive cross-examination by each other and by local journalists from the New York Daily News, WNYC-radio, Noticias del  Mundo, and NY1 television. Thompson questioned what he suggested was the mayor´s ideological promiscuity by reminding him that he had switched parties to suit his convenience. Bloomberg questioned Thompson´s rationale for firing Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner since 2002.

Bloomberg who has spent his last two terms championing public education, reiterated the importance of setting a fair wage for teachers, while accusing Thompson, the former Director of the Board of Education of ineptitude. “You don´t get a medal for rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Bloomberg, referring to Thompson´s 5 years as president of the former Board of Education from 1996 to 2001.

Thompson took credit for bringing schools under mayoral control and criticized Bloomberg´s failure to involve parents, to provide clear financial information to parents or to draft a curriculum for kids that allows for critical thinking.

Often considered insulated by his philanthropy and accused of “pay-to- endorse” politics, Bloomberg said he was proud of the money he had donated to charity. He deflected attention onto Thompson accusing him of allowing bad investments in city pension funds in exchange for support.

Thompson riled by constant attacks on his reputation and integrity lashed out, “Mike you know better than that. You should be ashamed. And stop it!”

Thompson reminded voters of Manhattan´s vacant luxury buildings and rising taxes, cost of utilities and rent, which had pushed middle-income families out of the city and promised to take-up rezoning if he were to be elected mayor.

“People who make the city great can´t live here,” said Thompson. While Bloomberg reasoned that land-use changes had evolved to sustain livability while creating new economies and industry.

The hour-long verbal joust also touched on the rise in stop-and-frisks by the police under Bloomberg´s administration. Bloomberg believed that it kept crime down during the recession but was countered by Thompson who thought it had racial overtones and was overused.

The debate extended to the merits of state control in matters of public health. Bloomberg´s “nanny state” has received both flak and credit for its ban on trans fats and smoking in public places. “Nobody makes you not buy the Big Mac,” said Bloomberg and added “But at least people have that information.” Thompson didn´t argue with the ban but said his focus would be on bridging health disparities among communities.

The lightning round moderated by the evening´s host and NY1 reporter Dominic Carter, required monosyllabic responses to serious and playful questions, which ranged from American troops in Afghanistan to manicures and pedicures, and temporarily offset the seriousness of the evening while familiarizing voters with their candidates.

Ultimately, the debate boiled down to Bloomberg´s undemocratic decision to push term limits which only yesterday lost him the endorsement of 9000 members of the law enforcement union. His arguments however well reasoned, seemed undercut by his intransigence.

“The people of New York City aren´t for sale,” said Thompson, “November 3rd will be our referendum for term limits.”

Leave a Reply