The Mayoral debate

December 15, 2010 11:28:16 AM PST
It's been described as the second most powerful and second toughest job in the country. Mayor of New York.

With a budget of about $60 billion, there are only a couple of government entities that are bigger - the federal budget, and the state budgets of New York and California.

Right now that budget is drenched in red ink, New Yorkers are officially unemployed with a frighteningly high rate of 10.3%, and the prospects for a rapid recovery are nil.

The race for who will be the next Mayor of New York will be decided in one week. Tonight, the two men who want the job go head-to-head for the second and final time. WABC TV is hosting the debate at our studios at 7 p.m. I'll be moderating, and we invite you to watch either on Ch. 7 or at our website, 7online.com (CLICK HERE TO BOOKMARK IT!).

It's a fascinating race, between incumbent Mike Bloomberg (officially an Independent, but running on the Republican ticket as well) and Democrat Bill Thompson. Bloomberg, the richest man in New York, went around the voters (who twice made their preference for term limits clear) to get a shot at a third term. That issue is one of the biggest raps against the Mayor. The other is that during his two terms - which include the worst recession in decades, the Mayor's personal net worth has reportedly quadrupled, to more than $17 billion. Not that there's anything wrong with that - good for him. But the criticism from many is that the Mayor simply can't relate to the economic plight and problems of most New Yorkers. Will that and the term limits issue affect the election?

As for Mr. Thompson, the City Comptroller, he is the Democrat in a race where his party outnumbers Republicans six-to-one in registration in the City. And yet he's had a difficult time getting support - and especially enthusiastic support - from fellow top Democrats. Even the President's endorsement was tepid, and included praise for Mr. Bloomberg.

The polls show Mr. Bloomberg ahead by at least 16 points. He's outspent Mr. Thompson by a bigger margin: $85 million (Bloomberg's own money) to about $6 million.

But the Mayor's campaign doesn't appear comfortable with that lead in the polls, and some worry his support is relatively weak. The goal is to get out the vote; a low turnout could trim that lead significantly. We will see. I hope you can watch the debate tonight at 7, and we'll have reaction, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer takes a disturbing look at fatigue in the cockpit. The issue was raised last week when the two pilots on a Northwest flight from San Diego to Minneapolis overflew the airport by 150 miles. At first, investigators thought he pilots had fallen asleep, and they might have. The pilots deny that - insisting that they were, just as pathetically, distracted by looking at crew work schedules on their personal laptops.

But fatigue remains a top concern among pilots, who, Hoffer has discovered, regularly fly un-rested.

And finally, the haters came out today in New Jersey. A group that unabashedly hates Jews and gays, basically shut down the largest high school in the state today - Elizabeth High. How did they shut it down? By vowing to have a picket line at dismissal time. The on-line "letter" they wrote to students and staff at the high school is so vile I will not reprint the words. The school, worried about these bigots, raised the white flag and sent the kids home at 12:30 to avoid any problems. Good for safety, perhaps, but it gave this whacko group from Kansas a victory of sorts.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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