NYC: In many forums, mayoral hopefuls have honed messages

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Spin Cycle

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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 hed first suggested at ABNY six months earlier such revenues to fund pre-K programs and after-hours programs in middle schools.

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Liu attacked the Housing Authoritys 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 theres no witch. As to the defendants, he said, I think theyre 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 hed 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 dont 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 citys first living-wage law over mayoral veto while he was a councilman from Bay Ridge in 1996. I dont 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.

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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 Bloombergs $120 million effort. We came close, he said. As for schools, he said, this focus on teaching to the test doesnt work. And test scores revealed in 2010 revealed that children arent 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 isnt the solution to the housing crisis. Responding to a question from one participant, Thompson also attacked the current performance of the citys 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 NYPDs frisk tactics. He said he supports an inspector general within the department. In his windup, Thompson noted last years 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 hes 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. Im 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 shed drop out of the race. If I werent running, he said, Id vote for John Liu. He said hed 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 citys Danton, or Robespierre. Id tax the hell out of Wall Street, Columbia and NYU, he said.

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