While most headlines have fixated on former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, when it came time for the candidates to sound off, the debate quickly refocused on the political issues that are most pressing to Bronx voters.
WATCH on BronxNet: The forum comprised two sessions—one panel of Republican candidates and one of Democrats. As they fielded questions from three moderators, including Lehman College’s Professor Terrence Cheng, Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, each sought to move the issues they wanted to speak about to the center of the campaign.
Democrat John Liu discussed unemployment and access to credit by small businesses owners. “Let’s make sure people have opportunities,” said Liu, “because in New York City we want to not only reduce the unemployment rate… but reduce disparities that afflict communities of color.”
Anthony Weiner spoke passionately about housing, student debt, and the plight of the working class. “The real source of the problem is young people can’t get ahead because the economic pressure is too great,” he said.
Bill Thompson spoke of a “vicious cycle” where lack of access to credit is compounded with a lack of jobs. “People who lost their job then get bad credit, because they have bad credit they can’t get another job,” he said. “We have to make sure everyone gets access to credit.
Bill de Blasio addressed health care and the rash of closing hospitals in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “I will lead the fight to save hospitals for the working class in this City,” said de Blasio, noting that a dozen have closed and another two in Brooklyn look like they might follow.
During the portion of the debate that featured the Republican candidates, which included John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of Gristede’s, and Joseph Lhota, who has the backing of former mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, the mayoral hopefuls stressed entrepreneurship and New York City’s shrinking middle class.
“We need a program to bring biotech and internet companies to New York,” said Catsimatidis, “in order to create higher-paying jobs instead of low-paying jobs.”
Lhota, who is former chairman of the MTA and sits on CUNY’s Board of Trustees, stressed the role of the next Mayor in the City’s economy. “The most important thing a mayor can do to improve the economy is do everything he can do to diversity the economy,” he said.
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