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Queens Chronicle

Dem mayoral debate on schools and safety

Underdogs talk issues at Queens College in Christine Quinn’s absence

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:32 am, Thu Apr 25, 2013.

Four of the Democratic hopefuls for mayor gathered at Queens College on Tuesday to talk about education, public safety and other issues.

Former Councilman Sal Albanese, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu and 2009 Democratic nominee Bill Thompson attended the event, which was co-moderated by journalist Errol Louis and Michael Krasner, a political science professor at the school.

On the matter of the NYPD, Thompson reiterated his call to replace Commissioner Ray Kelly, who he said has been the architect of what he says is the massive abuse of the department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

“When used correctly, stop and frisk is a useful tool,” Thompson said. “But 90 percent of the people being stopped are young black and Hispanic men.” He also said the nearly 700 percent increase in searches since Mayor Bloomberg took office has not resulted in a proportionate increase in weapons seized.

Liu said stop and frisk must be ended, saying it leads to a breakdown in trust, and therefore communication, between the police and the community.

“It actually makes the city less safe,” he said.

De Blasio called for an inspector general position to oversee police department conduct, saying that existing measures such as the Civilian Complaint Review Board have been largely defunded.

But Albanese accused de Blasio of playing “public safety theater.”

“The City Council already has subpoena power over the Police Department,” he said. “I don’t remember you calling for that when you were on the Council, Bill.”

Albanese said his public safety plan calls for 3,800 more officers and increased training.

Asked about economic development, de Blasio said his most important initiative would also be his top education priority — a massive expansion of preschool funded by a tax increase on top city earners which he says would make children better prepared for school when older.

Thompson said Bloomberg has failed in his effort to run the schools as a business, including a series of chancellors from the business world.

“I would put an educator in charge of education,” Thompson said. “[Chancellor] Dennis Walcott is a good friend. But he’s not an educator.”

All four would like to make the city college system more available and affordable to city high school graduates.

Conspicuous by her absence was Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) whose place card was removed just prior to the debate. Quinn made a major speech on mass transit earlier in the day, and her campaign could not be reached for comment.

A Marist College poll published on Wednesday said Quinn led the current field of Democrats with 30 percent of those responding supporting her. The remainder of the field was de Blasio at 15 percent, Thompson with 14, Liu at 11 and Albanese at 2. Undecided came in at 26 percent.

The same poll said if former Congressman Anthony Weiner got in the race, Quinn would lead him by a margin of 26 to 15 percent. Thompson and de Blasio at 11 percent would fall behind Liu with 12.

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