George McDonald … Republican Social Activist

George McDonald, a Republican candidate for mayor, has spent most of his professional life creating and running The Doe Fund, an innovative social program focused on helping “homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals … break the cycles of homelessness, addiction, and criminal recidivism.”  The Doe Fund is best known for it’s Ready, Willing  & Able program, which puts its “Men in Blue” to work cleaning and maintaining many neighborhoods and business improvement districts while also providing those workers with intensive counseling and development programs.

McDonald has an unorthodox perspective, shaped by nearly 30 years of creating and running a major social services provider on a “free enterprise model” and the premise that “a job is the best social program in America.”  We visited McDonald off the campaign trail, to discuss his experiences and his view of the role of government in providing social services.  Watch.

Mayoral Mashup – Young Republican Edition (Updated)

In our Mayoral Mashups we talk with voters, as well as political and policy leaders, about what they see as the most important issue facing New York City’s next mayor.

For this Mayoral Mashup we spoke with voters at a mayoral candidate forum hosted by the New York Young Republican Club and Maverick PAC, asking one simple question:  What do you see as the most important issue that our next mayor will face upon taking office?  Watch to see what they had to say.

Some of our other Mayoral Mashups are here, here and here.
(Video updated)

Salgado Discusses Giuliani and being “Tough on Crime”

Erick Salgado made a widely noted comment at last night’s debate that he would consider appointing Rudy Giuliani as police commissioner.  While that seems virtually certain to not occur, the comment does illustrate that Salgado, contrary to the prevailing Democratic view, has previously spoken admiringly of Giuliani’s policing policies.

Here is a short clip from Salgado’s campaign kickoff in early April in which he laments that “our police department cannot follow and continue the tough on crime policy of Mayor Giuliani”.

Our full report on Salgado’s campaign kickoff is here.

Republican Public Advocate Candidates?

I asked Manhattan Republican Chairman Dan Isaacs whether there are any Republican candidates for Public Advocate.  Here’s what he had to say.

Even without the party’s recent legal problems, Public Advocate is a tough office for Republicans.  Created in 1994, the office has been held only by Democrats.  In the last general election, the Republican candidate for Public Advocate received about 14% of the vote, and in the two prior elections Republicans did not even have a candidate on the ballot.

That challenge is exponentially tougher with the recent disarray following the Smith/Savino/Halloran/Tabone troubles.  The Bronx County chairman was arrested and resigned.  The Queens Vice Chairman was arrested and resigned, reigniting a long-running factional battle which threatens the Queens Chairman’s hold on his seat.  The Brooklyn Chairman is in a battle with one of the few elected Brooklyn Republicans (with Dan Isaacs engaged on behalf of the Brooklyn chairman).  Staten Island also recently replaced it’s County Chairman.  With those troubles, the county organizations face a challenge in any effort at working together and, whether fair or not, can expect heightened scrutiny and skepticism if they do.

Will there be any Republican candidates?  Will they have any realistic chance of winning or of at least helping the Republican mayoral nominee?  Be sure to check back with us for updates.

9 Candidates, 7 Zillion Debates

Last night, nine candidates participated In a mayoral candidate forum, the most yet of any forum or debate in the 2013 mayoral election.  Those candidates have participated in dozens of forums and debates so far, with the prospect of scores more before September’s primary election day.

We talked with Brian Lehrer, noted radio host and the moderator of three 2013 mayoral forums to date, about why candidates are willing to engage in so many forums and debates.  We also spoke with Republican candidate Joe Lhota about the now-prevalent practice of mixing Democratic and Republican candidates in the same events.

Report From Rockaway #9: Riding The Wave

In our current Report from Rockaway we speak with Kevin Boyle, editor of The Wave Newspaper.

The Wave is Rockaway’s weekly newspaper and it has faced two enormous recent challenges; the business tsunami which has swept through the news business and an actual hurricane which sent a wall of water through The Wave’s office, destroying everything in it, and displaced The Wave’s readers and advertisers.

We discuss how The Wave is dealing with those challenges, as well as The Wave’s role in both reporting the news and acting as a leading community voice as Rockaway works to rebuild.

Mayoral Mashup – The HeyNowJO Edition

In our Mayoral Mashup we talk with voters, as well as political and policy leaders, about what they see as the most important issue facing New York City’s next mayor.

For this Mayoral Mashup we spoke with Council Member Jimmy Oddo at a mayoral candidate forum hosted by the College of Staten Island, and organized by the Staten Island Democratic Committee, asking one simple question:  What do you see as the most important issue that our next mayor will face upon taking office?  Watch to see what Council Member Oddo, a Staten Island Republican, had to say.

More coverage of the candidate forum is here.

John Liu’s Night (Updated)

On the same day that the criminal trial of his former campaign treasurer and a former fundraiser began, John Liu turned in a strong performance at a mayoral candidate forum.  Five Democrats participated in the forum, which was hosted by the Staten Island Democratic Committee.  It was also the day of the Boston Marathon bombing and the forum mood was subdued.

Here are two clips:

In his closing statement, John Liu addressed the campaign finance investigation.  He also managed to get the biggest laughs of the night, with his four rivals joining in.  Watch.

Afterwards, I asked Liu about the proposal, advanced by Christine Quinn, that New York City control the MTA.  Watch what he had to say.

Update:  Here is an additional clip, showing a seemingly carefree Liu working the pre-forum audience.

Mayoral Mashup – City Action Coalition Edition

In our Mayoral Mashup we talk with voters, as well as political and policy leaders, about what they see as the most important issue facing New York City’s next mayor.

For this Mayoral Mashup we spoke with voters attending a mayoral candidate forum at Monroe College, hosted by the City Action Coalition, asking one simple question:  What do you see as the most important issue that our next mayor will face upon taking office?  Watch to see what they had to say.

More coverage from the forum is here and here.

Schumer & Donovan Discuss Flood Insurance and Biggert-Waters

Today I had the opportunity to talk with Senator Chuck Schumer and Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, about the outlook for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and particularly whether they foresee any changes or modifications to the program as currently in effect under the Biggert-Waters Act.  (The primary purpose of their press conference, which also included Rep. Carolyn Maloney,  was to announce additional mortgage forbearance and modification programs for homeowners affected by Sandy.)

The NFIP has been underpriced for many years and, after the large covered losses caused by Hurricane Katrina, it had a program deficit of more than $17 billion in early 2011.  The deficit was addressed in the Biggert-Waters Act, which significantly modified the program.  As The Wave newspaper of Rockaway has been extensively examining (see here and here), those changes in the NFIP, in combination with soon-to-be adopted new FEMA flood maps, will produce dramatically higher flood insurance rates and require many homeowners to purchase flood insurance for the first time.  Such increased insurance rates and coverage requirements will likely have a deep long-term impact on Sandy-damaged areas such as Rockaway.

Senator Schumer accurately pointed out that the increases are to be phased-in over several years.  That’s helpful to homeowners, of course, but it only delays the underlying long term economics; previously underpriced insurance is being brought to actuarial rates and large subsidies are being reduced or eliminated.  Secretary Donovan said that it is the Obama administration’s position that Congress needs to act to “add … a long-term affordability provision” for “lower income and more vulnerable homeowners” to the NFIP.  Any such provisions have yet to be detailed and are, at best, uncertain to occur.  Secretary Donovan also spoke about the importance accurately and promptly preparing the new flood maps.  Senator Schumer added that “we are going to have to examine” affordability.

Here’s the full clip of Senator Schumer and Secretary Donovan discussing the NFIP and Biggert-Waters.  Watch what they had to say.

Democratic Mayoral Candidates Discuss Sandy Recovery

At last night’s mayoral candidate forum at Queens College, four Democratic candidates were asked about the City’s post-Sandy rebuilding plans, how they “would get the job done” and about options for “people whose insurance and FEMA support will not cover the expense of a new home and for whom rebuilding is not an option.”

The candidates, Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu and Bill Thompson, gave empathetic and sometimes informative answers that illustrate the continuing challenges for those rebuilding from Sandy.  Bill de Blasio discussed communication problems restricting recovery efforts and his early efforts at formulating a mold remediation plan, while John Liu discussed FEMA funding and investments by the City pension funds.  All four answers were not really addressing the question posed, however, and reflected the reality that each day other issues and political problems push Sandy recovery further away from center stage for most New Yorkers.  One question among many, in front of an audience with many other concerns, the candidates touched on it briefly and moved on, driven by the need to talk about other things and connect on other issues interesting voters.

New Yorkers who continue to rebuild would be wise to work to foster a sustained discussion by the candidates, as our next mayor’s level of knowledge, interest and engagement will be a deeply influential force on the long term recovery.

We’ve posted the full question and all four answers.  Although it runs about 10 minutes, if you are interested in the continuing Sandy recovery, it’s worth watching.

Christine Quinn and Erick Salgado did not attend this candidate forum.  You can see our report on Christine Quinn’s discussion of Governor Cuomo’s proposed homeowner buyout plan here.

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