New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Comptroller William Thompson sparred in their second and final debate for the city's top office just ahead of the November 3 election.
The televised event was held at the television studios of WABC-TV on the Upper West Side. On the streets just outside, there were hundreds of supporters for both candidates. Topics addressed included taxes, education, and the influence of money in politics.
Mayor Bloomberg took Thompson to task on $5 billion in proposed new expenses, which he said would have to be funded with “job-killing taxes.” Bloomberg said it wasn’t clear whom Thompson wanted to tax to pay for more services. Thompson defended himself by saying that he “would not” raise taxes.
Thompson also attacked Bloomberg by saying that the Mayor had made New York a difficult place to live for the middle class. He charged the Mayor with raising taxes, boosting water fees and allowing an unacceptable amount of money to be raised from parking tickets while helping land developers and financial businesses.
Thompson said Bloomberg had failed to “close the affordability gap” in New York.
“This city is going in the wrong direction,” he said.
Bloomberg replied that Thompson had been in charge of the city’s finances for the last seven years as Comptroller while also lauding the city’s policies as prudent. Bloomberg charged Thompson with wanting to disavow his previous statements.
Bloomberg, as he did in the first debate, continued to attack Thompson’s record as president of the city’s now defunct Board of Education.
Thompson defended his time on the Board, mentioning a recently published article which quoted educators that mostly praised his work in bringing people together.
Bloomberg said voters decided to change the city’s educational power structure after becoming frustrated with the way it was done under Thompson in the 1990s. Schools are now run by the Mayor’s office.
Moderators of the debate also asked Thompson if he would give back campaign contributions from investment firms that mange money in the city’s pensions. Thompson had received more than $500,000 in contributions.
While Thompson denied any wrongdoing, Bloomberg would not drop the issue.
“Why don’t you give back the money?” Bloomberg remarked. “It looks terrible, even if it’s not, and most people would think it is.”
To end the debate, each candidate was asked to rate the other’s performance in their respective offices with a grade.
Thompson said he was being kind in giving Bloomberg a “D-minus.” Bloomberg didn’t give a grade but called Thompson “a reasonably good comptroller.” He noted, however, that he didn’t believe his opponent was right for the Mayor’s position.