ouncilmembers Melinda Katz, John Liu and David Weprin, all of Queens, and Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), were grilled by reporters from Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of The Brooklyn Paper, in a debate held in conjunction with Brooklyn Independent Television on the BCAT TV Network.
It’s certainly worth your while. The debate was fast-paced, and, while mostly genial, there was a little back-and-forth between Weprin and Yassky.
All four candidates focused their attention on examining the books of the Department of Education — a new oversight responsibility given to the comptroller when the state legislature reauthorized mayoral control of schools earlier this month.
And all four said they favor collective bargaining with unions over reducing pension benefits for new employees in order to rein in the budget.
The candidates differed on their reactions to Mayor Bloomberg’s ongoing program offering one-way tickets for the homeless to cities where family or friends were willing to take them in.
“Isn’t the question why we have so many homeless people in the city of New York?” Katz said, noting the city needed a comprehensive plan to create more jobs and a dedicated program to keep people facing foreclosure in their homes.
Liu opposed the plan, calling it “ill-conceived” and warning there was no clear way to measure its success.
“I’m willing to bet that, a year from now, this program will be discontinued,” he said.
Weprin was ambivalent.
“It’s something we should be looking at, but I’m not committed to it,” he said. “It’s not something I would make a priority.”
Yassky was more enthusiastic.
“It may well be cost-effective,” he said. “We have a large homeless population. It’s our job to get them settled.”
The candidates also differed on how to reform the city’s discretionary funding process. Three members urged more transparency in the dispensation of member items, while Yassky called for the practice to be abolished.
The candidates agreed that if no-bid contracts were abolished in discretionary spending, a cost threshold should be set, below which community groups like Little League clubs could still receive annual funding without competing in a public request for proposals.
Katz asked Liu how he felt about federal stimulus money being used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for pay raises.
“The flow of these funds, it should not be used to plug the deficit,” he said.
Weprin challenged Yassky’s commitment to the office, pointing out the councilman’s previous bids for Brooklyn district attorney and Congress.
“How do we know you’re not going to change your mind?” Weprin said.
Yassky touted his accomplishments in the Council, including helping file a lawsuit against ExxonMobil for the Greenpoint oil spill and supporting tenants’ rights.
“I’m running with a record that tells New Yorkers that I will use every tool in the comptroller’s office,” he said.
Other debates in the Community Newspaper Group/Brooklyn Independent Television series are archived at BoroPolitics.com.
Democratic primary election. Polls open at 6 am and close at 9 pm. For information about your polling site, call (866) 868-3692 (VOTE-NYC).
©2009 Community News Group
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