By now the audience had swelled to about 150 people.
The next question was to candidate Thompkins on the scatter site homeless policy currently in place. Thompkins answered that legal aid needs more money to fight for the homeless, to build temporary housing for the homeless in empty lots and brown fields. Rebuttal Agosto- need to change the policy at Dept. of Homeless, and blamed Bloomberg, Batista- Need to support local organizations that provide services, Rivera- Developers that build are not from the area and don't care, Torres- City policy "brain Dead" for paying $3,000.00 to house families, Alvarez- some landlords are slumlords who take in and then evict people.
A question to candidate Agosto on mayoral control, better educational outcomes, and high stakes testing was answered by candidate Agosto that there needs to be a change in culture at the Department of Education, smaller class size, and more interaction & early intervention. Rebuttal Alvarez- Stop 100% mayoral control, currently have a dictator, Teachers see what is going on, Batista- after taking bar exam knows about high stakes testing and the council needs to be involved, Rivera- more parental involvement, Thompkins- need to create more partnerships with community organizations, and cut class size, Torres- excluding parents reduces students to a scan card.
A question to candidate Alvarez about the lack of Phys-ed in schools was answered by candidate Alvarez that the space needs to be available parking lots & playground areas need to be used used, and need more sports in the schools. Rebuttal Agosto- partner with local businesses, explorers, and the PAL, Batista- look to support new parks and play streets, Rivera- look at new creative ideas such as dancing - "think outside the box", Thompkins hire more teachers, and bring back competitive sports.
A question to candidate Batista on "Stop N Frisk" and the Inspector General position was answered by candidate Batista that she is against stop n frisk and in favor of the inspector general position, but crime needs to be targeted where it is happening. Rebuttal Rivera- Mentioned that Comptrollers office had town hall meetings citywide, that he was the only candidate to attend them, Thompkins- Said she is on the 46th pct. council, and Legal Aid lawyer that a balance needs to be kept & cops need tools, Agosto- 100% against stop n frisk, and he is a member of the 49th Pct. council, Alvarez- when he grew up prostitutes were on the corner and it was a rough area, Torres- does not understand the controversy around the inspector general position.
A question to candidate Rivera about making bodega owners our friends not our enemies was answered by candidate Rivera that he met with 500 bodega owners and got to know them. Rebuttal Thompkins- regulations need to be fair & not fine them to much, Batista- bodegas are a necessity some extend credit, live in the community, pay taxes, and provide jobs, Alvarez- Worked with bodega owners before when some were robbed to get cameras in, Agosto- would set up council of small business and bodega owners,
As the question period ended next came closing statements by the candidates. Candidate Torres said that he believes in human rights, economic fairness, and sustainability. Candidate Thompkins said that housing, fresh foods, and schools are important such as getting other choices in the bodega than sugary sodas. A need is to move from poverty to prosperity. Candidate Rivera repeated that when he was fighting for the community at town hall meetings none of the other candidates were there with him. Candidate Batista said that the 15th district is in crisis in all categories, and said that the district has the lowest voter turnout. Candidate Alvarez said that he is running because he has lived in the district his whole life, has been fighting for the community, and he knows how to do it. Last was candidate Agosto who stood up to say that the 15th district is #1 in everything. He has 30 years of community work with others, but now he wants to work for the voters and not someone else, Adding that better schools, housing, and many other things are needed in the 15th district. The forum then ended with the hostess thanking everyone for coming.
My take on this forum- It appeared to be an even forum with no clear winner or loser except for the seventh candidate who did not show up. As for the strengths or weakness that I saw candidate Kenny Agosto wanted to be first to answer every question, gave what was the best closing statement not only by standing up in front of the other candidates, being very passionate, but also very believable in an era when politicians are not trusted. Candidate Alvarez, I expected more from him being the chief of staff to the current councilman for the past 12 years. Candidate Alvarez I felt should have been talking of the experiences of his office, and much more that has been done in the district than he mentioned. Candidate Raquel Batista was very good in her presentation and answers, but I have to believe that being in her ninth month of a pregnancy that she (as it looked to me) had to be very uncomfortable sitting on the stage for over two hours. Candidate Joel R. Rivera seemed to me to try to steam roll over the other candidates by repeating more than twice that he was the only one who attended town hall meeting that the other candidates did not. The voters will have to decide if the aggressiveness of candidate Rivera is good or bad for the district. Candidate Thompkins gave some good answers, but to me showed that she may need more than just a few years of living in a community before running for office. Candidate Torres began the debate well, gave good answers to many of the questions, but towards the end of the forum he seemed to lose interest and had no rebuttal on the last two questions that were asked which was also seen some what in his closing statement.You can click on the photos below to enlarge them.
Left - The six candidates from left to right - Kenny Agosto, Albert Alvarez, Raquel Batista, Joel R. Rivera, Cynthia Thompkins, and Ritchie Torres.
Right - Candidate Raquel Batista answering a question with candidates Alvarez and Rivera also in the photo.
Left - Candidate Cynthia Thompkins standing between candidates Rivera and Torres.
Right - Candidate Kenny Agosto as he stands up to give his closing statement.