New York, NY —
It was a raucous atmosphere at El Museo del Barrio last night, for the first mayoral debate. The issue of term limits was front-and-center from the start. Mayor Bloomberg was barely through the first sentence of his opening statement when he was interrupted by a protester.
BLOOMBERG: Sponsering this debate... TALEN: what are you doing here? we voted for term limits! MODERATOR: hold on one second please Mr. Mayor.
REPORTER: The protester, Green Party candidate Reverend Billy Talen, was escorted out but not arrested.
Bloomberg's opponent Bill Thompson went on to hammer the mayor on his decision to push through an extension of term limits after promising not to. He said the mayor had lied to the voters, and violated their will. Bloomberg said the extension gives voters more choice, and if they're that opposed to it, they can throw him out on Election Day.
But if voters do re-elect Bloomberg WNYC's Brian Lehrer got this promise out of him:
LEHRER: Will you promise tonight not to run for a 4th term? BLOOMBERG: Yes
REPORTER: The two candidates expressed differences over the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy, which Thompson said needs to be used as a tool when a specific person is suspected of a crime.
THOMPSON: What stop-and-frisk is being used now, or being misused for now, is to stop almost everybody. And as we see almost 90 percent of those stopped and frisked have done nothing wrong. And almost 90 percent of those people are African-American and Latino.
REPORTER: But Bloomberg declined to criticize the practice, pointing instead to his record on crime.
BLOOMBERG: We're gonna set another record this year for low crime. But at the same time my other goal was to improve community-police relations. And I think one of the things I'm most proud of is that we've accomplished both at exactly the same time.
REPORTER: The two also spent a lot of debate time sparring over who is best suited to manage the city's public schools. Mayor Bloomberg says since his winning of Mayoral control from Albany, the city schools have improved dramatically. The two-term incumbent offered statistics that show a marked drop in school crime and improved graduation rates.
Thompson countered that three-quarters of the city's high school graduates who go on to community colleges need basic skill remediation, because they failed their initial placement tests.
The two will debate again on October 27th. The election is November 3rd.