Four Gubernatorial Candidates Square Off In Debate, Cuomo Is A No Show

ALBANY – Four of the five balloted candidates for New York Governor exchanged ideas and visions in a debate at Saint Rose College’s Carl Touhey Forum Thursday afternoon, but incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to take part.
Republican Marc Molinaro, Libertarian Larry Sharpe, Howie Hawkins of the Green Party and Stephanie Miner of the Serve America Party took center stage without the man they are all trying to unseat in Tuesday’s election. The League of Women Voters invited all five candidates.
The debate hostess discussed freedom and elections, saying, “Showing up matters.”
During the opening, Sharpe asked, “I’m sorry, who’s missing?”
People, especially younger residents, are leaving the state in droves, the candidates said.
“Young people, a million of them really, have left the state since Gov. Cuomo took office and that’s because the cost of living is too high and the jobs, a lot of them, are crappy,” Hawkins said. “So we’ve got to raise wages, we’ve got to invest in the infrastructure that everybody uses, and the public services that everybody uses, fully fund the public schools, go to 100 percent clean energy by 2030, that will create hundreds of thousands of good jobs  in manufacturing and construction.”
He called for improving mass transit upstate and rebuilding the New York City subway system. He also called for single-payer health care, state revenue sharing with communities and no unfunded mandates.
Minor lamented that there are two separate states in New York.
“We see that we have two different states here, all of the economic development, 89 percent, is happening downstate,” Miner said . “We have economic development programs that have been completely flawed and have not produced any sort of return on investments.”
She said to do away with the programs and upgrade infrastructure, including broadband.
Sharpe said all the talk about investing is code for taxes.
“You’re going to hear, a lot, the word invest. Every time you hear the word invest what you should hear is more of your taxes. Every time you hear invest it means taxes,” Sharpe said. “You want to make the poorer communities be resilient to gentrification, its called ownership and its called supporting small business.”
He said the state needs to stop bribing big businesses to come to New York and support small business.
He promoted a simplified tax system, simplified workers comp and embracing new ideas like block chain, bit coin, hemp and cannabis. Asked what new programs he would bring in to help keep people in New York, Sharpe responded, “You know I’m a Libertarian, right?”
Molinaro said the problem in Upstate New York is a lack of respect from the state government.
“First, Upstate New York needs to be shown the respect of state government it hasn’t gotten for the last eight years and what that means is to make  upstate New York more affordable,” Molinaro said. “We start by property tax relief, significant property tax relief.” That, he said, requires the state to pay for the burdens it places on local communities.
He also pushed for upgrading infrastructure and making sure educational outcomes meet economic needs.
He also said he would end Regional Development programs, which do not show results.
“We have seen there has been no benefit from them, no data benefit of all and yet we’ve seen that they are mired in corruption. We need to stop picking winners and losers,” Molinaro said.
“You heard it, invest, invest, invest, every time you hear invest, it means more taxes,” Sharpe responded. “What I want to do is get rid of the RDC, they are a bad idea, they are literally a petri dish for corruption.”
Molinaro also called for the end of the RDC model.
He called for home rule on development and said the state needs to partner with communities to help them develop plans and zoning that fits what they want for their futures.
“It’s important to use state government to provide professional support to help communities to develop economic development programs and the zoning to support it,” he said.
Hawkins agreed, saying every region of the state got money for development and most of the projects were not done.
Sharpe said giving the MTA more money is a terrible idea, saying “they suck.” He said the MTA needs to clean itself up and could use its lines at night to haul freight, adding revenue.
He also pushed his idea of leasing naming rights for bridges and other infrastructure.
“There’s an RFK Bridge, why isn’t that a Google Bridge,” he said.
Molinaro said current development programs at the state level are “more focused on announcements than outcomes.”
Hawkins said money should be dispersed based on need, not politics.
He called for a higher tax rate on the wealthiest New Yorkers.
Molinaro said infrastructure needs can be addressed in part by ending “the corrupt pay to play system that has led to more indictments than jobs.”
He said the state highway system went from 90 percent in good repair to 40 percent in good repair the last eight years.
“They don’t know how to invest in infrastructure and keep infrastructure updated,” he said.
Sharpe challenged the two-party system as being systemic to failure.
“You have a state that’s been run by, basically the Democratic Party, for at least the last eight years and you’ve noticed nothing but failure. You’ve watched Republicans watch this for the last eight years and have no actual plans. We’re supposed to have new plans. I didn’t hear any of it.”
He said waste reduction, as suggested by other candidates “never works.”
Asked about the Me Too movement, Hawkins said Albany remains unscathed by the attack on sexual assault in government.
“The law that was passed earlier this year needs to include legislators, they tend to exempt themselves from laws,” he noted.
He called for reopening the Moreland commission and having more independent oversight.
Miner called sunlight on the issue the best disinfectant.
“The system is so closed it has not allowed hearings to be held to allow sunlight,” she said.
Punishing is not enough, Sharpe cautioned.
“We can’t just punish. The goal should be to stop the behavior and if you want to stop it you have to shine a light on it,” he said. “We cant just focus on punishing because if you focus on punishing, people go to jail and the behavior keeps on happening.”
Molinaro said he would never let his daughter intern in Albany because of the shadow cast there.
“Albany is a cess pool of bad behavior and powerful men have allowed it to continue without anyone holding anyone accountable,” he said.
The law must be enforced and due process maintained, he said.
No one, including gays and transgender people should be discriminated against, Miner said, adding her community dealt with same-sex marriage long before the state did.
“I hate the idea of second classes. Trans people are as good or as bad as everyone else,” Sharpe said.
Laws alone won’t end discrimination against anyone, he said, adding a culture change is vital.
“Law alone is not enough. We have to change the culture so there is no need for this law,” he said.
Molinaro said all people deserve the protection of the Constitution and laws of New York State and vowed to litigate if the federal government were to ever scale back on equality for gays and transgenders.
Hawkins said culture change, which is needed, starts with the Governor.
As in any New York debate, gun laws were also discussed.
Sharpe said there is no need for so-called red flag laws.
“They force teachers and medical personal to become a secret state police,” he said, adding people would not seek needed mental health help if they think it will endanger their gun ownership.
Molinaro said the key is expanding and improving mental health care in the state.
Hawkins said poverty and inequality drive violence and social inequality causes more veterans to die from suicide than from war.
He called for “reasonable gun legislation.”
Miner supports red flag laws as long as due process is guaranteed.
She said the state is divided into two camps on the gun issue, neither of which will talk with the other.
Molinaro was asked about an ammunition data base and said people are choosing violence to express themselves because of generational poverty.
The data base is not a priority for Hawkins, who said poverty is the root cause of the problem.
Miner agreed, saying the way the Safe Act was enacted was a disservice to taxpayers.
“I don’t think the ammo data base is a priority.”
Sharpe accused his opponents of dodging the gun control question.
“I get two Safe Act questions in a row,” he said. “I get why you guys dodge it, I don’t get why you dodged it twice,” he said, pointing at Molinaro, who replied, “I answered both questions.”
The Safe Act made millions of lawful gun owners criminals overnight, Sharpe said, adding that the ammo data base helped create a black market for ammunition.
As for local reliance on property taxes, Hawkins called for more home rule and demanded the state pay for mandates. He said state revenue sharing has dropped from eight percent to less than one percent and suggested local governments be allowed to create an income tax to offset property taxes.
Miner blamed the heavy property tax burden on Medicaid funding and said the state should take it over but require local communities to use the savings to lower property taxes.
She also said nonprofit groups should help pay for fire and law enforcement services and snow removal.
“Shared services, if you are utilizing our most expensive services than you should be paying for it,” she said.
Sharpe said voters should be allowed to approve or deny property tax hikes on the ballot each year, not legislators.
Molinaro also said to have the state fund Medicare and legally require property taxes to be lowered through the local savings.
He said local economies cannot afford to add a local income tax.
All four candidates questioned Cuomo’s free college tuition program.
“I think Andrew Cuomo’s  free college tuition program is emblematic of his approach to government. It was great optics, a great press release and a great event but when you look at who is able to take advantage of it, just a bare number of people are able to do that,” Miner said.
Sharpe said the plan is a disaster and needs to be done away with.
“So now we’re making crappy college free,” Sharpe said, adding many people waste their time going to college.
Molinaro agreed Cuomo is “high on optics and low on return.” He said the costs of college need to be reigned in and private colleges need to lower tuition or not get any state money.
Cuomo, “talks to the left and governs to the right,” Hawkins said. He said there are too many administrators and not enough tenure-track teachers.
“Education is not just about getting a job, it’s about being more of a free person,” he said.
Sharpe repeated his call to end standardized testing for younger students and said the system favors those who can afford tutors for their children.
“The first year of college is 13th grade. It’s all remedial because kids aren’t ready for it,” he said.
Common Core is hurting teachers’ ability to teach and student’s interest in learning, Molinaro said, calling for increased local decision making for school districts.
Eight years ago, candidate Cuomo said New York had two educational systems, one for the wealthy and one for the poor, Miner said.
“Eight years later we still have that,” she said.
Molinaro said he supports charter schools and public schools, especially in areas abandoned by the state.
Hawkins said no to more charter schools.
“I oppose any more charter schools. These are private schools, they’re no more public than Lockheed Martin,” he said.
Pitting charter schools, parochial schools and public schools against each other benefits no one, Miner said. She said each type of school meets specific student needs.
“Just allow local districts to do what they want but with transparency,” Sharpe said. “Let teachers teach. I assume I don’t know better, I assume that Albany doesn’t know better.”
Asked how to get more young people to vote, Hawkins said movements need to engage people on issues they care about.
“We need to build movements that get people engaged in issues that concern them,” he said. “We don’t listen to young people. When we said don’t trust anyone over 30 it made a lot of sense looking back,” Hawkins said.
Miner said it is difficult to vote in New York and said there are several options to make it easier.
Reaching out to younger and disenfranchised voters is all Sharpe has done, he said, adding he used social media and other ways more popular with younger voters to attract them to his message.
“In 2016 they didn’t see Trump coming and in 2018 they won’t see me coming and the result will be the same,” he said.
Engage young people to let them know they have power, Molinaro said. Have one primary date, not two, he added.

1 Comment

  1. A common sense candidate with common sense answers. I’m voting for Larry Sharpe on election day.

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