Spin Cycle

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NYC: In many forums, mayoral hopefuls have honed messages

In one New York City mayoral forum after another, the Democratic primary candidates practice their messages. By now there is a reliable shape to each pitch. On Wednesday night, the candidates delivered their full packages in 15-minute allotments, back to back, at the Three Parks Independent Democratic Club, which bills itself as the “voice of upper West Side progressives.”

Comptroller John Liu had told the Association for a Better New York earlier in the day that he was advocating higher, more progressive taxing to affect those making $500,000 per year or more. He said “a lot of people in that room felt personally impacted.” When his turn came, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio reminded the audience that he’d first suggested at ABNY six months earlier such revenues to fund pre-K programs and after-hours programs in middle schools.

Liu attacked the Housing Authority’s sitting on capital funds for repairs. He denounced mass police frisks and racial and religious profiling. He reiterated his critique of the federal probe that has two defendants on trial involving alleged straw donations to his campaign. He called a four-year probe and wiretapping his phone “a witch hunt, but there’s no witch.” As to the defendants, he said, “I think they’re gonna be fine” as will he and the city. He went after co-location of charter schools and public schools. He said he generally opposes divestiture as a political tactic for pension money he administers except for gun makers.

Bill de Blasio said he’d be the first mayor in a long time with a child in the public schools. He said Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that “public school parents don’t matter.” Moreover, he said, “the system is praying to a false idol of standardized testing.” He said, “we need a mayor who is a comfortable, secure, full progressive.” He said the mayor should once again be a spokesman for urban America. He took two shots at the New York Post for its positions that opposing stop-and-frisk means tolerating higher crime, and that it would be damaging to the economy to end horse carriage rides which he called inhumane. As for income disparity, he said “the status quo is not sustainable.” He said he had opposed extending term limits for Bloomberg.

Sal Albanese emphasized that he takes no contributions from developers or lobbyists because he wishes to decide issues on the merits. The city needs to do more about developing jobs and improving schools, he said, and pointed to his successful sponsorship of the city’s first living-wage law over mayoral veto while he was a councilman from Bay Ridge in 1996. “I don’t believe in high-stakes testing,” he said, and “charter schools are not a panacea.” Under his administration, he said, “the chancellor will be an educator.” Council stipends for committee chairs should end, he said, because they put those chairmen at the mercy of the speaker on issues.

Former comptroller Bill Thompson, also former president of the now-defunct city Board of Education, said he “stood up and fought for New Yorkers” in 2009 when he ran a $9 million campaign against Bloomberg’s $120 million effort. “We came close,” he said. As for schools, he said, “this focus on teaching to the test doesn’t work.” And test scores revealed in 2010 revealed that “children aren’t doing better,” he said. His most successful laugh line at the forum was a knock on a Bloomberg proposal: “Building apartments the size of this table isn’t the solution” to the housing crisis. Responding to a question from one participant, Thompson also attacked the current performance of the city’s Building Department. In a shot at rival Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who didn't attend, Thompson called it “an incredible contradiction” to express support for keeping Ray Kelly as commissioner while supposedly critical of the NYPD’s frisk tactics. He said he supports an inspector general within the department. In his windup, Thompson noted last year’s re-election of President Barack Obama and said “The mayor of the City of New York has more impact on our daily lives than the president of the United States does.”

Candidate Erick Salgado said immigrants in the city “are treated in a new way of modern slavery” in that they are workers without citizenship and rights. Salgado supports a “valid ID card” for all immigrants, including the otherwise undocumented and beefing up the Police Department, where cops should be better trained to be culturally and religiously attuned to city residents.

Randy Credico, playing last to a thinned-out audience, called himself a “McGovern Democrat” and cited his activism against the Rockefeller drug laws. He said he’s a pot smoker but not a cocaine user. He rolled out impressions of Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Bloomberg and even Johnny Carson on whose show he once appeared doing a standup act. “I’m praying for the soul of the Democratic Party.” He denounced Obama over the Patriot Act, drone strikes, and use of the 1917 Espionage Act. “Andrew Cuomo,” he said, “is too far to the right.”  And he added, “if you want to see another four years of Bloomberg, vote for Quinn,” predicting after the presentation to some Three Parks members that she’d drop out of the race. “If I weren’t running,” he said, “I’d vote for John Liu.” He said he’d name a city park after Bradley Manning, make Julian Assange communications director, Cornel West chancellor of schools and Frank Serpico the police commissioner.

“The city needs a radical change,” he said. He hailed Three Parks as like the Jacobin Club of 1789 France and said he could be the city’s Danton, or Robespierre. “I’d tax the hell out of Wall Street, Columbia and NYU,” he said.

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