Thursday night the Ben Franklin Democratic Club held a mayoral forum to hear from the Democratic candidates in advance of a planned endorsement vote to be taken on Tuesday May 28th. The club members may choose to endorse one of the now seven Democratic candidates running or may choose not to endorse any of them. In 2005 the Ben Franklin Club endorsed Anthony Weiner, while in 2009 they endorsed Bill Thompson. As for current endorsements in the Bronx, The Bronx County Democratic Organization has endorsed Bill Thompson as has Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. State Senator Gustavo Rivera has endorsed Christine Quinn, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda has endorsed Bill DeBlasio, and Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. has endorsed Erick Salgado.
BFDC President Ellen Feld opened the Forum by saying that it would not be a debate, but that each candidate would speak for 6 minutes, and then have 7 minutes to answer questions from the audience. She mentioned that the club has already endorsed Scott Stringer for City Controller, Ruben Diaz Jr. for Bronx BP, and Andrew Cohen in the 11th City Council race.
Current Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio was first up, and praised the BFDC for being a leader in the world of political clubs. De Blasio then sounded like Freddy Ferrer (when he ran mayor in 2005) by talking of a tale of two New York cities. He said that the outer boroughs have been forgotten by the current mayor, and continued to hammer Bloomberg on other items such as Living Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Stop & Frisk. DeBlasio said that he wants to build 200,000 units of affordable housing and return City Hall to the Democrats. To a question on education DeBlasio called the mayor a dictator, and that he wants to tax the wealthy to pay for additional school programs. After DeBlasio finished current 11th district councilman G. Oliver Koppell was introduced and addressed the audience.
Former City Councilman Sal Albanese was next up saying that he is the only candidate not taking corporate money, he has 11 years experience as a teacher, poverty is the main issue why many children do not do well in school, he wants to have pediatric wellness centers, and create more jobs. Upon questioning Albanese said that education will be his top priority, as well as affordable housing, and senior programs.
Long shot candidate Rev. Erick Salgado was next up saying that he was born in the Bronx, but grew up in Puerto Rico. He said that he is the only Latino in the primary, and that 15 years ago he opened up the first of 3 churches in Bensonhurst. There was only one question about education where Salgado gave the standard answer of better local control of the schools. He added that he wants to rent out schools to non-profits when they are not being used. Anthony Weiner then came into the room to a throng of camera people following him.
Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson was next up. Thompson spoke of his experience as President of the Board of Education saying that more progress was made back in 1999 under Rudy Crew (an educator) was chancellor then a prosecutor (without naming Joel Klein). Thompson went on to slam the mayor and City Council (without mentioning council Speaker Quinn) for changing the term limit law in 2008. He closed by saying that he would be a mayor of all New York City. On a question of education and city worker contracts Thompson said under him there was a Chancellors District that reduced class size and added revenue to failing schools to turn them around. He added that of the 76 announced new schools created by the mayor that only 2 were really new, and the others were only failed schools that were closed. On the subject of city worker contracts Thompson said that he wants to open up the books to see where there is revenue, stop outsourcing jobs, and that to many contracts are expiring due to Mayor Bloomberg not wanting to negotiate with the unions. He closed by thanking the BFDC for their endorsement in 2009 when he came close to winning, and that in 2013 with the clubs help he can win.
Next up was former congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner opened up about his grandparents who lived on Waldo Avenue. Weiner then went into how his parents settled in Queens, and that in 2005 the BFDC had endorsed him. He added that the city is now worse off then in 2005. Weiner said that he has ideas to make schools better, and how the city with its vast health related resources can improve health care of the people. Weiner then said that he was sorry for what he had done in the past, the city needs to elect a Democrat, and that he do it in 2013. On a question of mass transit cuts, Weiner said that areas such as Riverdale should have ferry service. In mentioning the high cost of the 2nd Avenue subway line, he said that there could have been ferry service every 5 minutes. He spoke about the lack of mass transit options to get to the airports, and said that he would like to see ferry service to LaGuardia Airport.
Next up was current City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn said that she has been speaker of the council for over 7 years, and that she has prevented layoffs, kept fire houses open, and helped tenants. She said that she would like to see 40,000 new units of affordable housing be built, and is proud of the legislation that she has passed. Quinn said that New York can remain the safest city under her as mayor, but belives that there is to much Stop and Frisk currently. On a question of changing the term limit law, Quinn said that in 2008 Councilman Koppell (who had left by then) and thers had supported changing the law to give voters a choice. To a question of a Times article that she is overbearing, Quinn answered that she is tough, pushy, and fights every day for the city. Quinn then ended by saying that she is "One Pushy Broad".
Current City Comptroller John Liu was scheduled to be the last speaker. It was said that he was detained in traffic and could not make it in time to attend.
Left - Current Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio at the podium.
Right - Former councilman Sal Albanese at the podium as BFDC President Ellen Feld is seated.
Right - Former congressman Anthony Weiner waiting his turn to speak. On the right is 11th City Council candidate Cheryl Kelling standing, and what appears to be a Weiner supporter next to him.
Right - Bill Thompson at the podium.
Left - Christene Quinn at the podium as BFDC President asks for a question from the audience.
Right - A question for Ms. Quinn.