NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – CBS2 is holding in-depth conversations with the 2021 New York City mayoral candidates.
We are asking each of them the same questions, so you can compare.
The order was chosen at random.
Here’s Marcia Kramer’s interview with Democrat Kathryn Garcia.
Marcia Kramer: From ending gun violence to recovery from the pandemic, the next mayor of New York City will have a lot on their plate. We’re speaking with each candidate in an in depth conversation to see where they stand. We’re asking each candidate the same questions, so you can compare. Joining me now is Kathryn Garcia. Kathryn, thank you very much for joining me today.
Kathryn Garcia: Thank you so much for having me.
Kramer: So the first question is this. Should you get elected mayor, what are your top three priorities on day one?
Garcia: Thank you for that question. My top three priorities is to get this economy back up and running, to support our small businesses. But we can’t do that if we don’t get fundamental city services right. Making sure people feel safe. Making sure kids are going back to school, making sure we’re keeping the city clean. We have to make this a more affordable, more livable city. That’s my approach first day.
Kramer: But how do you do that? How do you get all these city services that have been hurt by the pandemic to come back?
Garcia: Marcia, this is a management challenge. I understand how to make city services work effectively, how to make sure that we are delivering meals, that we are picking up the garbage, that we are delivering water. This is what I do. This is what I’ve done for the last 14 years. And I know that I can walk in that door and make real change right off the bat.
Kramer: So I wonder how you square reducing the size of the police budget, which the city has already done, with the need to keep the city safe and to deal with gun violence?
Garcia: We have seen a shocking spike in crime over the last few months, not only are shootings up, but also anti-Asian hate crimes. We need to have an effective police force which includes funding the full number of police officers that we need. We have to have police officers on patrol protecting people, but at the same time respecting everyone regardless of the color of their skin. We can get that done. I have put out a plan for doing that. Whether or not that’s raising the age to 25, ensuring more training, but also really transparent discipline. But we have to have community policing, it works. It will rebuild trust with communities and it will fight crime.
Kramer: Do you think that the budget cuts exacerbated the violence?
Garcia: The budget cuts, I think, came at the absolute wrong time for the city. We need our fundamental foundational core services to be there. I lived through the ’70s and ’80s. I know what it was like to not be able to get on a subway after dark, to have memorized a car service number just in case. So we cannot allow ourselves to slide backwards. Because when we get safety right, when we get cleanliness right, when we make sure kids are getting back in school, that’s how we get to come back, and do art, and culture, and get our businesses back up and running. Go back to our offices. If that’s not in place, we can’t get the rest of it done.
Kramer: So would you cut the NYPD budget if you got elected?
Garcia: My intention is not to cut the NYPD budget.
Kramer: So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that her prerequisite for endorsing a candidate is they have to agree to cut the budget of the NYPD by $3 billion. Do you want her endorsement?
Garcia: Well, I would of course want everyone’s endorsement on my platform, but it doesn’t sound as if I will receive it.
Kramer: So you’re not willing to cut the budget by $3 billion?
Garcia: I have no intention of cutting the NYPD budget by $3 billion.
Kramer: So the police commissioner argues that bail reform has to be changed so that the judges can find a way to make sure that people who are accused of violent crimes are put behind bars or are given bail. I wonder if you agree with his assessment?
Garcia: I truly do believe that everyone should be innocent until proven guilty. But when we have someone who is a danger to others, particularly what we’ve seen of late, then judges should have discretion. But that should be true regardless of whether or not it’s cash bail or no cash bail.
Kramer: Well, do you think bail reform went too far and should be scaled back?
Garcia: There has already been changes in bail reform that I think were important changes. And I believe that for very low level encounters with police that are nonviolent, that, you know, clearly, we do not need cash bail. The kid who had had, who had, I think accused of stealing a backpack who ended up spending two years in Rikers, that is not criminal justice. That is really a need for reform there. We have to divert people out of the criminal justice system wherever we can, and do things like use the Red Hook courts as a model.
Kramer: Well, what about some of these Asian hate crimes that have been so terrible?
Garcia: The Asian hate crimes has just been astonishing, how quickly it has gone up. We need more reporting. We have to stand up with everyone, whether or not that’s at a rally or a march or vigil. We need to make sure we are doing education on the curriculum and all of the work that Asian Americans have done in this city. But we do have to ensure that we are going after folks who committed it to the full extent of the law.
Kramer: So should they be in a situation where they’re not released on bail? Or should or they, you know, just released without bail? Do you think that the judge should have discretion to set bail in those cases?
Garcia: The judge should have, the judges have discretion. When you have hate crime occurring, we have to fully fund the hate crime unit. So that we are getting at the root causes. But we’ve also seen that some of these have been perpetrated by people who have mental health issues. They need services, they need the help that we know as a wealthy society we can give them. Get them into supportive housing, and get them off the street and get them stabilized.
Kramer: Kathryn, the number of homeless New Yorkers is out of control. Do you have – what would you do? And do you think homeless shelters should be put in residential neighborhoods where there’s intense opposition?
Garcia: We have seen a spike in homelessness across this city. We have to change the conversation from shelter as the answer to homes as an answer. And we know for folks who are street homeless, they often have underlying mental health or substance abuse issues. We also know that supportive housing works. We are too wealthy a city to have people live on the streets. And for people who are in family shelters, we have to get them into apartments. If we actually just increase the voucher to something close to what rent actually is, we’d save money. They’d have a permanent home. Those families would do better, those kids would do better in school, their parents would be able to do better in their career. Housing heals. So when I’m mayor, it’s about finding permanent homes for families and for people who are single, so that we actually solve the problem.
In terms of siting shelters, that’s not my approach. My approach is finding permanent housing for people so that they actually can thrive and do well in this city.
Kramer: Where do you think you could build those permanent homes?
Garcia: Well, for some things, we will rely on the private market with the vouchers. Landlords would be paid through the voucher system so that it would be everywhere. And people could choose where they want to live. That’s really important to give folks agency over what they want their future to be.
Kramer: So what effect do you think the pandemic will have on the enthusiasm, I guess is the best word, of the landlords to accept these vouchers? In the past some of them haven’t wanted to accept vouchers. Do you think that the pandemic has changed their attitude?
Garcia: When you have a guaranteed form of rent getting paid to you, and you have vacancies? That is basic economics. It will make it more attractive. It’s supply and demand.
Kramer: And since there’s a lot of supply right now, you figure they’re more willing to do it?
Garcia: I do.
Kramer: So Kathryn, people who send their kids to charter schools really love them. I wonder what your position on charter schools is, but also, how would you deal with private Jewish parochial schools that some people say they often don’t provide the secular education that’s needed?
Garcia: Every child in the city of New York needs a strong education. Jobs in the city of New York, over 60%, you need a post secondary credential. We have to be giving the best to every child. I am, you know, a child of the public school system. I believe strongly in public schools. But I also understand that charters are educating 100,000 kids plus now. They are part of the ecosystem of New York City’s educational system. I believe that I can work with them moving forward. So I know that they are oftentimes places where we can see experimentation in education. And when we think about anything around parochial schools, we need to see every kid educated to the highest standard. And when I’m mayor I will work with those schools to ensure that that happens.
Kramer: And what about the Jewish parochial schools?
Garcia: Absolutely, as well as all of the yeshivas.
Kramer: How do you feel about the fact that some of them have not been providing adequate secular education? Would you make them do it?
Garcia: We have to make sure every kid gets access to adequate secular education. I know from having worked with those communities that the best way to do it is in partnership with their trusted messengers. That’s how you get effective change.
Kramer: What measures would you put in place to ensure there’s no sexual harassment in a Garcia administration?
Garcia: The fact that we are even still having a conversation around sexual harassment, post the Me Too movement. We can have zero tolerance for that. In my administration, we will fully fund and ensure that there is adequate investigative powers should there be any allegations. But we also will create the culture that just doesn’t allow it to happen, where people are judged by the work that they do, and feel that they can come forward. If there’s any behavior that is undermining, you know, you need to make sure people are trained, but you need to make sure that there is just respect.
Kramer: But is there any special thing that you think, any message you would send to your entire staff of some 300,000 city employees to make sure that they realize that there’s zero tolerance?
Garcia: Oh, there’s zero tolerance. Like, you will get fired. Like, this is not something that’s going to happen in this administration. And to be quite honest with you, Marcia, when you see women in leadership positions, you really don’t see it happening.
Kramer: So you think the fact that I need to ask you this question, you think the fact that if it was a woman running the city, that that would put a damper on sexual harassment incidents?
Garcia: I do. The leader matters.
Kramer: Who would you choose, or who would who would you ask your supporters to choose, in second place with ranked choice voting?
Garcia: Oh, I have not picked a number two. And I still have time to do that. And I probably wouldn’t be in this race if I had a strong number two.
Kramer: So we’ve come to the part of our show that we would like to call “in one word.” So you only get one word. So the first question is, what do you consider your best leadership quality – in one word?
Kramer: In one word, friends and family would describe you as?
Kramer: What’s your favorite comfort food?
Kramer: Name a unique skill or talent?
Garcia: A unique skill or talent? Hmm. Well, sometimes I think I can paint.
Kramer: Painting. Wow. And lastly, you like to do this when faced with a difficult situation?
Garcia: Dig into the numbers.
Kramer: Kathryn Garcia, thank you so very much for joining us today.
Garcia: Thank you so much for having me, Marcia. I’m thrilled to be here.
You can watch our New York City mayoral debate with leading contenders on CBSN New York and on CBS2 hosted by Kramer and Maurice Dubois on Thursday, June 10 at 7 p.m.