The Reverend Al. Sharpton (pictured above left) hosted the city’s first mayoral debate at his National Action Network headquarters Tuesday evening. Five Democratic mayoral hopefuls went back and forth on issues important to New Yorkers, such as closing schools and unemployment among communities of color.
One point of contention among the candidates arose when Sharpton asked if they would mandate residency for N.Y.C. police officers (Currently, many officers live outside of the city). Candidates Christine Quinn (pictured far right), the City Council speaker; and Comptroller John Liu (pictured left of Quinn), agreed on instituting a residency requirement for officers.
Public Advocate Bill De Blasio (pictured behind Liu) said no.
The other candidates, former Comptroller Bill Thompson (pictured left of Liu) and former City Councilman Sal Albanese (pictured left behind Thompson), were split on the issue. Thompson noted that he would like to implement such a mandate, but said that the cost of living in the city is already at an all-time high. Albanese agreed with that sentiment.
Sharpton used the opportunity as a segue into a discussion of the NYPD’s conduct and the department’s higher ups. When he asked the candidates if they would retain Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the debate reached a heated point.
“I have no jobs to offer to him or anyone else,” Quinn responded when asked. But that wasn’t a complete dismissal of the controversial commissioner. She noted that the city “would be lucky” if he stayed. This elicited strong boos from the crowd, leading her to share a possible compromise: “If I’m mayor, the police commissioner will work for me and that includes a mandate to end the unconstitutional stop, question and frisk.”
Watch the candidates discuss whether they would keep or fire Ray Kelly:
Albanese also received a hostile reaction when he cited Kelly as one of the best police commissioners in the nation. In contrast, Liu, De Blasio, and Thompson’s responses were seen more favorably. Liu said that he wouldn’t just stop at changing the commissioner; he would break the “glass ceiling” at the department. De Blasio agreed with Liu, saying that “change” was needed at the department.
Thompson received the loudest applause on the issue when he bluntly stated that “I’m going to bring my own team. I’m not keeping other people’s people,” according to Capital.
Sharpton’s final question of the night was about where the candidates disagreed most with Mayor Mike Bloomberg. De Blasio attacked Bloomberg’s choice to overturn a referendum to run for a third term; Liu attacked his administration’s lack of color; Thompson mentioned education, saying that we’re seeing young person after young person lost,” under Bloomberg’s watch; Quinn cited Bloomberg’s handling of the homeless and “how much higher unemployment is in people-of-color communities.”
None of the Republican candidates were present at the debate, which lasted 90 minutes.