Republican Joe Lhota was the highest-profile candidate in a series of three mayoral debates taped on Aug. 15 for Queens Public Television.
And he touched a couple of political third rails in lambasting Democratic mayoral frontrunners, attacking them on everything from the economy and tax increases to crime, and specifically their stated support for a federal judge’s ruling last week against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy.
“This city has come a long way, and we can’t reverse field,” Lhota said in response to the first question on his qualifications. “The gains we’ve made over the last 20 years are extremely fragile.”
Lhota was paired with rival Republican George McDonald.
Lhota later on referred to comparisons some have made to New York City and Detroit — which recently filed for bankruptcy, had greatly reduced pubic services and has entire neighborhoods that are now ghost towns.
“Elections have consequences,” Lhota said. “Retroactive pay [on expired city labor contracts] can put us one step closer to Detroit. Handcuffing the police department as the City Council wants to do will put us one step closer. Raising taxes in the city where they are so high right now will put us one step closer.”
He also believes federal Judge Shira Scheindlin had “preconceived notions” when she took on the stop-and-frisk case that Mayor Bloomberg vowed to appeal.
McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, which provides transitional jobs and training for adults coming out of prison, stressed his record for creating jobs.
He largely agreed with Lhota on the areas of stop and frisk, keeping taxes down and nurturing small business. Supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, considered to be Lhota’s only serious competition, was not present, though station personnel said he had RSVPd to his invitation.
Catsimatidis was not the only major candidate to decline, with former Councilman Sal Albanese of Brooklyn and the Rev. Erick Salgado, a Staten Island resident who is pastor of a Brooklyn church, being the only Democrats on the Sept. 10 Democratic Primary ballot to attend.
Tech entrepreneur Jack Hidary, who will be running on the Jobs and Education line, had a segment for independent and minor-party candidates with hosts Clifford Jacobs and Roslyn Nieves all to himself.
Albanese cited his record as writing the first living wage bill in the Council’s history. Albanese also believes that the way to deal with the stop-and-frisk controversy is through better training for police officers; the hiring of more officers, and the legalization of marijuana.
Salgado said stop and frisk has to go, calling it simple racial profiling. He also took exception to Albanese’s stand on marijuana.
“Marijuana practically was legal in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said. “And those were not such good times. You don’t eliminate something that is illegal by making it legal.”
Albanese said, however, that the cost in terms of police resources and manpower — as well as the toll on individuals and families where criminal records can result from small amounts — are counterproductive.
Hidary, a Brooklyn native, founded the company EarthWeb, and stressed his own abilities for job creation and economic growth.
“Everyone in my family started a small business,” Hidary said. “The price of admission to our family dinners is owning a small business.”
Since taking his company public, Hidary has been working for 15 years to help small businesses — including many founded by immigrants — to get the start-up capital they need.
“Things like loans for micro entrepreneurs who very often are turned down by banks,” he said. “They create jobs.”
He also said the city can expand on Mayor Bloomberg’s high-tech hub initiatives to attract capital and jobs from around the world.
A centerpiece of Hidary’s plan would be the creation of 30 community centers throughout the five boroughs where among other things, low-income residents could get access to basic and preventive healthcare as well as recreation, daycare and senior cervices.
On crime he would like to see the city update its CompStat technology. He also said the city should adopt ShotSpotter technology, which uses sensors tuned to pick up the sounds of gunshots.
“If a gun is fired, the police know in about three seconds,” he said. “It can triangulate the position, and tell the direction the shot was fired from.”
All the candidates said the city should be more proactive in assisting illegal immigrants with basic services. McDonald and Lhota differed on a major aspect: that of giving people who are here and in need of services some type of identification.
McDonald said driver’s licenses are a tried and true identification form. Lhota, however, said the city has the ability to institute and issue its own ID cards that also would serve as bank or debit cards, thus enabling vital access to the banking world.
And, he said, it could be used by any city resident, not just illegal aliens.
“I want you to have one too, George,” Lhota said.