Last night there was a debate between the three candidates Andrew Cohen, Cheryl Keeling, and Cliff Stanton in the 11th council race in the Bedford Park area of the district. Moderator Alex Kratz opened up by saying that candidate Cheryl Keeling had been ruled off the ballot by the ballot by the Board of Elections after being challenged by the Stanton camp, but because she was appealing the decision in the courts that she would be in the debate. Kratz also said that there would be opening statements by each candidate, questions by him mixed in with audience questions, and then closing statements by each candidate. During the question and answer round each candidate would be given a chance to answer, with the original candidate answering to be given time to rebut the other answers. That happened only twice.
Candidate Keeling was first up and spoke of her mother a world record holder in the 60 meter run at various ages over 85, brought her mother up to where she was standing in front of the candidates table, and said that she could be trusted. Candidate Andrew Cohen spoke of his position on Community Board #8, friends of Van Cortlandt Park, family life, his endorsement by almost every local elected official and union, and closed by saying that he would be a full time councilman. Candidate Stanton said that he was the local kid in the race, raised in Kingsbridge, graduated from Bronx Science High School, was Chief of Staff to a councilman (however not naming who), was a successful small businessman, and recruited a new middle school.
The first question was "What will be the first piece of legislation you pass in the city council. Cohen spoke of the Living Wage battle, Stanton said he already submitted legislation, and Keeling wants to put music, art, and competition back into the public schools. About the different neighborhoods of the district Keeling was first, and said that she spoke Spanish, that the district was diverse, and named some of the different ethnicity's. Cohen mentioned other ethnic cultures, that he has been from corner to corner of the district, and the main problem is Quality of Life issues from the people. Stanton now said that he grew up in Van Cortlandt Village played little league in Kingsbridge, and his kids go to school in Riverdale. He said that he started a senior transportation program adding, because of his mothers problems.
As to where the district office would be Stanton said that possibly a mobile office, but had no answer as to where he would have a district office. Cohen said that the current council office is 20 years in the same location, but is not easily accessible by public transportation. Somewhere in Kingsbridge maybe on Broadway he said. Keeling said her first office would be on a major corridor, and her second shared with a business.
To the question of allocating monies to schools Keeling wants more art, music, and dance. Cohen spoke of being Youth chair on CB 8 noting after school programs as a priority. Stanton said that items like smart boards and I Pads are nice, but not the right tools. As PA President he said PS 24 raised record funds to help supplement the school.
How to get more discretionary funding? Cohen has assembled a strong coalition to help him in city hall to help him get more funding he said. Stanton said that he is not running for Secretary of State. He said that he would be fighting for the community. Keeling said that she learned from a former councilman (not naming who), and that she would do it the way it was done when she was growing up by protesting.
On the subject of District 10 schools Stanton said when he went to PS 95 it was a good school. but now it is a troubled school. Keeling said that all schools should be equal, and she moved to Riverdale for the good schools. Cohen said that schools are a mixed bag which he wants to advocate for, but the school system has been under a dictatorship the last 12 years.
About mayoral control of the public schools, Cohen said it has given the mayor to much control. Stanton said the change is in ourselves, as good parental involvement will make the school successful. Keeling spoke of a movement by parents to take back the schools.
As far as the businesses wanted by each Keeling said the malls are coming and we need other stores. She spoke of over regulation and the need to take care of the businesses. Cohen bemoaned the lack of variety in local shopping. A possible Business Improvement District for Webster Avenue, and better restaurants and stores. Stanton said "We just can't wish things to happen".
On the DOE Fund new supportive housing on Webster Avenue all three candidates opposed the project. On park funding all three agreed that more city money is needed, but Stanton asked Cohen "What have you done as a member of the Friends of Van Cortlandt Park"? Cohen replied that he cleared trails in the park. and has redone the mission statement of The Friends.
On a question of work hours as a councilman both Cohen and Stanton said that they would be full time councilmen. Cohen then said to Stanton "If you say you are going to be a full time councilman what about your business"?
On public safety Cohen said crime is heavy in pockets of Norwood, Perry Avenue as an example, adding that the level of police officers is declining, and the district and city need more police officers. Keeling said that teenagers need jobs to keep them off the streets. Stanton bashed Stop N Frisk mentioning a man who had been through it, and to a follow up question said that he was stopped while driving on his block for talking on a cell phone and given a ticket. Stanton then said that he had a blue tooth connection. Cohen mentioned that 700,000 people have been stopped and Frisked some more than once, and it was unconstitutional. Keeling said that only one percent resulted in an arrest for the original stop.
To the decline of Bronx students at Bronx Science High School Stanton said that he graduated from the school in1981when kids came from the local area. He said now there are buses lined up to take kids home to Queens, saying that standards do not need to be lowered to accept more Bronx students, but make Bronx schools better. Cohen said to offer more support to students such as prep classes so the student would be ready and do better on the entrance exam to Bronx Science. Keeling downplayed test prep saying that the student needed to be prepared for the courses.
As to why the Bronx is always being dumped on Keeling said that the 15th Congressional District is the poorest in the country. On affordable housing that she had spoke to six voters in one house, but said they were not from the 11th council district, which brought chuckles and laughter from Mr. Stanton. Cohen said to be careful what you wish for, and that people may get priced out of affordable housing. Stanton said there is a long way to go, change is needed on all levels, not to shot ourselves in the foot.
To homeless families Stanton said he left a meeting where he heard much of what does not work and very little of what does work not giving any examples. Keeling said people are being evicted to raise prices to make it unaffordable housing. Cohen said that there are 50,000 New Yorkers and 20,000 children who are living in shelters, there needs to be homeless prevention, and the number of homeless has increased under Mayor Bloomberg.
When asked about the choice for the Putnam Trail Keeling said not paving, Cohen said Crushed Stone, and Stanton said pave it. Council committees to be on Stanton Land Use, Finance, Education, and Transportation. Cohen Land use, Health, Education. Keeling Land use.
When asked to answer yes to the importance of Section 8 housing, summer youth, day cae, ESL, and after school programs and how to pay for more, Stanton said all yes, leave it up to the Finance Committee. adding to cut down on outsourcing. Cohen also said yes to all adding that economic growth and policies that will generate the growth to pay for the needed services. Keeling said head start slots are needed as some have been cut due to Washington.
About co-location of charter schools Keeling said that she was not in favor of it. Cohen said that there are two issues one of multiple schools in one building with the added cost of the administrations, and the other of placing charter schools in public schools. He said that he was against co location in public schools. Stanton said that he also is not in favor of co location in public schools adding that is why his charter school is located in a free standing building. He said that charter schools are public schools.
Closing statements Cohen went over some of what he said including the endorsements he has gotten. Keeling spoke of her eighteen months with a Jewish family and the experience she received from it back in the 1960's era. Stanton said to compare the candidates and their records. Of the endorsements he said look at where it comes from, and then attacked the Ben Franklin Democratic Club for paying for endorsements for candidate Cohen. Cohen then stated that Stanton was the one who had to pay for an endorsement as reported.
The debate was then over, but there were questions as to why certain questions were not asked such as one person who said he gave in a question that was not asked. He wanted to know more of this contribution taken by candidate Stanton from the owner of Scores and another strip club, and what it meant.
Left - The three candidates before the debate as candidates Cohen and Stanton seem to be on friendly terms.
Right - Candidate Cheryl Keeling during her opening statement.
Left- Candidate Andrew Cohen giving his opening statement.
Right - Candidate Cliff Stanton.
Left - Stanton attacks Cohen mid-way through the debate about his volunteer work for The Friends of Van Cortlandt Park.
Right - During his closing statement Stanton attacks the Ben Franklin Democratic Club for paying for endorsements for Andrew Cohen. Cohen answers "It is you Cliff Stanton that has paid for your endorsement".