NEW YORK—Republican mayoral nominee Joe Lhota laid out his vision for a New York City under his administration on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in a 30-minute speech to business and political leaders in Midtown, Manhattan.
Lhota, who has spent much of the time since his primary night victory unpacking his plan, gave a summation of the three points he considers most important, as well as drew distinctions between himself and Democratic rival Bill de Blasio.
Often pegged as a person with a dry sense of humor, Lhota opened the breakfast with a joke.
“Hello. My name is Joe Lhota, and I am a fiscal conservative,” Lhota said, to laughs from the room.
The comment was a passive dig at de Blasio, who spoke to much of the same crowd last Friday, causing a stir when he labeled himself a “fiscal conservative.” De Blasio has campaigned on being a “progressive,” making the comment a clear departure from his campaign message.
Lhota spoke about the “war on poverty,” which he says has actually created more poverty, because the help provided offered no way out of the safety net created by the government.
“It’s called the safety “net” for a reason—it’s a net—it keeps you from hitting the bottom—but you can also get caught in it,” said Lhota.
His three-fold approach to solving problems includes more, and better paying jobs, better education, and making the city safe and affordable.
Focus on Jobs
Lhota has spent much of his campaign focusing on job creation—his answer to income inequality. Lhota said he would like to nurture the high tech industry, and jump start the high-tech manufacturing, biotech, and life sciences industries.
He praised the startups in the city that have flourished. Many of them are in the high tech industries. He said if elected, he would do all he could to ensure government got out of the way to help them grow.
“We must unlock their potential by getting the government out of their way so that that they can continue to create good paying jobs that not only lift people into the middle class, but put them on a path to a career,” Lhota said.
Training for the new jobs his plan would create, which will require a higher skills level, will be critical, Lhota said. He called education “one of the most important civil rights issues of our generation.”
Charter Schools Support
Lhota drew stark differences between himself and rival de Blasio on the issue of charter schools and school closures, issues that have been polarizing for parents.
Lhota planned to march with his wife and daughter in a massive rally across the Brooklyn Bridge in support of charter schools later in the day. He wants to see the programs expanded and more resources made available to them. De Blasio has said he would not support the expansion of charter schools.
De Blasio said in an education speech at Hunter College in August he was not against charter schools, however, he believes fixing the failing public schools is needed to ensure no student is left behind. Lhota reiterated on Tuesday he would like to see all schools prosper under his administration.
“If you oppose charter schools, and the programs and other choices available for minorities and inner city children, and children of immigrants, you cannot call yourself a progressive,” Lhota said.
On the issue of school closures, something de Blasio has been a huge opponent of (he said he would use it only as a last resort), Lhota said he would have no problem closing failing schools.
“I believe it is immoral to keep failing schools open,” Lhota said.
In what has been a little talked about item in his education policy, Lhota said he will offer free online courses and remedial education to those whom the New York Public School system failed. He did not specify how these people would be identified or which college would provide the education.
Tough On Crime
While both candidates agree crime and safety are key to the city’s long term success, they adamantly disagree on how to go about it.
Lhota has repeatedly bashed two City Council bills which reform the practice of stop and frisk, as well as Judge Scheindlin’s ruling that the NYPD practice is unconstitutionally biased. He has also praised current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s work (and said he would ask him back), despite the long-time commissioner being the face of a practice that has become a lightning rod for racial inequality.
Stop and frisk grabbed headlines all summer, and the city has supported candidates who have offered drastic changes to the NYPD, such as de Blasio and Bill Thompson in the Democratic primary. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who also said she would keep Kelly, lost badly in the Democratic primary (although not solely on the issue of policing).
The ABNY breakfast was much smaller than de Blasio’s, and even in the smaller venue there were empty seats, drawing a parallel to the stark difference in polling positions where Lhota is down 50 points in the most recent Quinnipiac University poll.
But Lhota, as his personality has shown through his years in city government, is not one to back down from a fight. Despite pitching policy ideas for weeks, de Blasio has not hit Lhota for anything other than being a Republican. The Democrat, who has been chided in recent weeks for hiding from the public and press, refused a challenge by Lhota for weekly debates.
“If he wants to go toe to toe on inequality, about affordability, about understanding how to make ends meet, I welcome it,” Lhota said. “I’ve lived it, and I’m the only candidate in this race with the experience to fix it.”
The candidates’ first debate will be on CBS on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.