A Democratic mayoral candidates forum in Brooklyn became a domestic dispute between two hizzoner hopefuls from the borough.
Public Advocate and Park Slope resident Bill DeBlasio and former Bay Ridge City Councilman Sal Albanese clashed repeatedly at the April 3 debate at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, with Albanese slamming DeBlasio starting with his opening remarks.
After DeBlasio expressed his opposition to member items — discretionary funds the city gives councilmembers to dole out to organizations in their districts — in the wake of the Smith-Halloran scandal, Albanese attacked his rival as a Johnny-come-lately to a cause that he had championed in City Hall back in 1998, and pointed out that the Public Advocate had accepted and handed out member items when he was a city councilman.
“In the Council, it was nothing but member items for you,” Albanese alleged. “But now that a political opportunity has emerged, thanks again, Bill, for stepping up.”
DeBlasio protested, accusing Albanese of distorting his record and ignoring his 2010 proposal to create more transparent rules for member items.
“That’s not accurate,” DeBlasio retorted.
DeBlasio in turn blasted Albanese’s call for non-partisan elections — which would abolish Republican and Democratic primaries and replace them with a single general primary where anyone able to get enough petition signatures could get their name on the ballot — pointing out that Mayor Bloomberg had long sought such a reform and arguing that it would turn city politics into a game of pay-to-play.
“It would flood the system with money. I’m proud to have led the fight against non-partisan elections,” DeBlasio said.
But Albanese defended the idea, noting that many other cities have adopted non-partisan elections as a way to break up machine politics.
“It would weaken these old political clubs,” Albanese claimed.
Albanese also repeatedly called attention to DeBlasio’s campaign finances, noting that the Public Advocate had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from real estate interests — in stark contrast to Albanese’s pledge not to take donations from corporations or developers. The Dyker Heights resident even suggested that DeBlasio might have an ulterior motive for opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, and for calling for the city and its contractors to do the clean-up instead.
“Bill is pushing for private developers to do this,” Albanese said. “You’ve received an awful lot of contributions from developers to be objective about the merit of that.”
DeBlasio — who argued that the city and private sector would get the job done faster than the feds — by then had grown weary of Albanese’s constant jabs.
“Sal, you’ve got one note,” the Public Advocate said.
“It’s an important note,” Albanese shot back.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma
©2013 Community News Group
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