Avella and Thompson Face Off in First NYC Mayoral Debate

By Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp
Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.
August 27, 2009 Updated: August 27, 2009

NEW YORK—Mayoral hopefuls Councilman Tony Avella and City Comptroller Bill Thompson faced off in the first official New York City mayoral debate on Wednesday.

The debate program was administered by the Campaign Finance Board.

Questions ranged from Sep. 11 Memorial’s status to the MTA fares and education. A large segment of the questions was asked to both candidates, with an optional rebuttal to the other’s response. There was also a speedy “yes or no” answer segment.

The closing statements of the two candidates outlined their reasons for running for the mayor of New York. Avella gave his stance to “end political corruption in the city government.” The councilman has taken strong stances on several issues and says if elected, “the change will be huge.”

Thompson pointed out that, “For the last eight years we’ve had a Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who is focused on Wall Street, the developers, and the wealthy.” He added that “Working together … we can put real change in City Hall.”

Preliminary elections are scheduled for Sept. 15 with the general elections soon after on Nov. 3. According to a recent Quinnipiac Poll, as of Aug. 26, Thompson is leading Avella 45 to 10 percent, with another 38 percent still undecided.

Both candidates are contenders of incumbent Michael Bloomberg. The same poll shows that Bloomberg is ahead of Thompson 50 to 35 percent.

Bloomberg is also leading Avella in the polls, at 55 to 28 percent.


Q: In New York schools, there has been an increase in tests do you accept this method, and could you do better?

Avella: In addition to teaching to the test, we have dumbed down the test … we are not educating kids, we are just teaching them how to answer a question. That has to stop.

It’s not just about the test. It’s about all the other things that go into the classroom.

Thompson: New York City has become about standardized testing.

I don’t think it should be just about standardized testing … a focus on literacy would help in our school system.

Q: How should the city respond to the Swine Flu threat?

Avella: There is no such thing as underestimating a situation like this … I don’t think the city did enough.

The difference in this situation is how it can be counteracted and how easily it can be transmitted … the city blew it last time.

Thompson:
Mike Bloomberg’s response to the H1N1 virus was dismal.

It was a disaster. This time around we have to make sure parents have up-to-date information. We can’t hide things. The Bloomberg administration cannot do that again.

Q: Stop and Frisk is still being done by the NYPD. Are you critical of the current policy, and will you promise to reduce those numbers?

Avella: I’m gong to promote a deputy mayor for human rights … I’d like to have a deputy mayor looking at these issues across the board and reporting to me each and every day.

I think the way to do it is to have a real conversation with the new police commissioner … there has to be a much more cooperative relationship.

Thompson: Over 600,000 Stop and Frisk [cases] in New York … 88 percent of the people who were stopped, there’s nothing wrong… I would continue Stop and Frisk.

It’s a police tool. It has to be managed better.

Q: Would you be willing to use city resources to make sure New Yorkers and undocumented immigrants are covered with health care?

Avella: Absolutely … it makes sense to provide benefits to them.

Preventive care is the key … everyone in this city, regardless of their [legal] status, citizens or not, deserve coverage.

Thompson: I’ve been an advocate for increasing primary care.

We don’t have to wait until people get sick and wind up in an emergency room… we shouldn’t be turning people away in need of health care.

Q: (To Thompson) You raised $5.4 million for your campaign. How will you beat Bloomberg who is estimated to spend $100 million?

Thompson: You can’t beat him dollar to dollar … we’re reaching out across the city of New York.

How do you win this election … with people. People beat money.

People in New York City are sending the message back to Michael Bloomberg that their votes won’t be bought.

Q: (To Avella) Your campaign has raised just over $275,000 … does that mean that New Yorkers are not behind you?

Avella: I’m not selling my soul to raise money for my campaign.

I haven’t taken money from the real estate industry like my opponents have … look at the campaign finances.

Q: What would you do differently than Mayor Bloomberg to make sure the [9/11] site develops quickly?

Avella: It is a national disgrace that we have nothing going on at that site.

The mayor of the City of New York, from day one should have taken a leading role on this … the mayor should say to the city and the government that we’re taking the property [using eminent domain.]

Thompson: I think the fact that there is nothing going on at Ground Zero is a national disgrace … I think the mayor should have assumed leadership and gotten something done at Ground Zero.

Bring those parties who have involvement in this to the table and force them to move forward.

Q: Do you fear New York City will lose its international clout amid the financial crisis and with a focus on small business?

Avella: There’s no planning in the city. Bloomberg is not doing planning. He’s reacting to the real estate industry … it comes down, again, to money. It’s not about money. It should be the people in this city.

The way to deal with it is to deal with small businesses … let’s strengthen small businesses.

Thompson: We need to create more focus and help small businesses grow in the city.

“s Wall Street going to bounce back? Yes … we need to diversify the economy of this city … we need to diversify and grow small businesses in the city.

Q: For affordable housing, using dollar figures, can you describe a specific range … families who most need subsidized housing in the short term?

Avella: When we do a project, in a particular neighborhood, the income level should be based on the income of the people in that neighborhood … $61,000 isn’t affordable to the people who need it.

Thompson: I don’t think we can limit and just say this is the range we need … It’s hard to say this is the limit, this is the range.

What we have to do is start making choices that are new and equitable.

Q: Does Mayor Bloomberg, at the end of the day, deserve any credit for funding his own campaign?

Avella: No … you cannot tell me that he didn’t use the position of mayor to fund his own financial wealth.

Thompson: Spending an excess of $100 or $200 million … no. You don’t get credit for that.

Q: Do you attribute increased homelessness in NYC to sagging economy or Bloomberg’s administration?

Avella:
[Bloomberg] has cut the budget for homeless services.

I don’t think they’ve actually implemented any plan when it comes to homelessness … you can go down any street in New York and see these individuals.

Thompson:
Mike Bloomberg, who said he is reducing homelessness by two-thirds, has failed miserably … we’ve seen a rise in homelessness and foreclosure.”

I wouldn’t start charging homeless families rent as this administration has been doing … don’t lock them into a life of eternity in a homeless facility.

Q: (MTA) Do you think $2.50 a ride is a fair price?

Avella: Of course not.

Thompson: Is it a fair price? No.

Yes or No

Do you have a Metro Card?

Avella: Yes
Thompson: No


Have you ever been arrested?

Avella: No
Thompson: No

Excluding marijuana, have you ever tried an illegal drug?

Avella: No
Thompson: No


Have you ever smoked marijuana?

Avella: No
Thompson: Yes

Has Mike Bloomberg been a better mayor than Rudy Giuliani?

Avella: Yes
Thompson: Yes

Should New York City name a subway station or a street after Michael Jackson?

Avella: Yes
Thompson: Yes

In New York City, have you ever received a parking ticket?

Avella: Yes
Thompson: Yes

Have you been to the new Yankee stadium?

Avella: No
Thompson: No

Have you ever voted for someone who is not a democrat?

Avella: Yes
Thompson: No

Joshua Philipp is an award-winning investigative reporter with The Epoch Times and host of EpochTV's "Crossroads" program. He is a recognized expert on unrestricted warfare, asymmetrical hybrid warfare, subversion, and historical perspectives on today’s issues. His 10-plus years of research and investigations on the Chinese Communist Party, subversion, and related topics give him unique insight into the global threat and political landscape.