NYC mayoral candidates discuss civil justice priorities

The Next Mayor's Access to Justice Agenda: The Candidates in Conversation with Bill Ritter on Justice System Priorities will stream live right here on Thursday, March 18 at 12 p.m.

Video Transcript

MATTHEW DILLER: Welcome. I want to welcome you on behalf of Fordham Law School, our Access to Justice Initiative, the National Center for Access to Justice, and our co-sponsors, the Feerick Center for Social Justice, the Stein Center for Law and Ethics, and FLAVR, Fordham Law Advocates for Voting Rights. It's my great honor to welcome the candidates for mayor to this conversation about access to justice in New York City.

Fordham Law school's motto is, in the service of others. And we have focused our collective efforts and energy on working toward the ideal of equal justice for all, which means ensuring that our legal system is accessible to those who've been historically shut out and underserved.

In the year since the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City, we've witnessed severe consequences for New Yorkers, from threatened evictions to increased debt, increases in intimate partner violence, impacts on mental health, emotional strain, and overburdened courts. These issues present major challenges to our community and to the most vulnerable among us. When members of our community cannot rely on the justice system to protect their most basic rights, they suffer harms and lose faith in public institutions. This forum is an extraordinary opportunity to hear directly from the candidates how they plan to restore trust in the justice system and ensure equal justice under law for all New Yorkers.

I'd like to thank WABC for broadcasting today's event and thank Bill Ritter for moderating. It's a pleasure to collaborate with you, Bill, on this important project. And thank you all for joining us today. I look forward to the conversation.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Dean. My honor to be here. Hi, everyone. And welcome to this, this candidates forum for what used to be called-- and I think it's arguably still is-- the second most powerful job, most important job, elected official job in this country, the mayor of New York. We're now in the process of beginning to search for the 110th mayor of the biggest city in the country.

I'm Bill Ritter, Channel 7 Eyewitness News. And what an honor it is to be here today to begin the discussion that will culminate in November with the election of a new mayor. Welcome to this forum. We have some of the leading contenders so far in the Democratic primary race for the next mayor.

The next mayor, the 110th mayor, whoever she or he is, will face more challenges, perhaps, than any other incoming mayor in the history of this city. I think that's arguably the case, certainly including, I say, after 9/11. So many people out of work. So many people have left this city, hundreds of thousands. So many businesses, as we know walking the streets-- easy to see it-- have shut down. So many people who can't afford their rents or their mortgages. So many who can't feed their families. So many people who can't pay their bills and are in deep debt. And we know so many are homeless, so many more than ever before. A pandemic full of real big problems and a recession that will, to put it charitably, take some time to recover from.

Eight years ago, when he ran for mayor, Mayor de Blasio said he wanted to reverse this tale of two cities that exists in New York City, the haves and the have nots. There is now, alas, a bigger gap than ever before. Yes, we have tough times ahead. But also ahead we have times of hope and banding together to solve these issues and try to make life better for all New Yorkers, just like New York has done before, just like the city has done before. Our hope today is to try to shine a bright light on the ideas and hopes that you, the candidates, are all proposing and that you who are watching here as voters all have to live with. Because the truth is, while we were all different in so many ways, that which unites us is greater than our differences. And in fact, we are, in fact, all in this together.

This conversation with mayoral candidates-- and you'll see them on the screen. We're expecting some more-- is presented by the A2J Initiative at Fordham Law School, hosted and headed by Dean Mathew Diller, who introduced me, retired Chief Judge of New York Jonathan Lippman, now a counsel to Latham & Watkins, and David Udell, founder and executive director of the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham. That is one of the sponsors from Fordham, along with others-- Feerick Center for Social Justice, Stein Center for Law and Ethics, and the Fordham Law Advocates for Voter Rights, a student group.

We are focusing especially today, given the audience, on the concept of civil justice. And I'm going to ask some questions that are tangentially related to that. But we want to focus on civil justice. How do we tackle the human problems of what the city now faces? And how can the legal system help solve the problems I outlined just a few moments ago?

I know you all have platforms on criminal justice, but we do want to focus in this event on civil justice. They are, of course, connected in so many ways. We know that. But they're also separate. No shortage of issues to talk about when we wrap up at the time of 1:30. I wish it were 2:30 or 3:00. We could talk for a while.

The format, here it is. Each of you will have a one minute opening remark about why you're running for mayor. A producer of mine here, Cheryl Meaney, is keeping track-- tabs on the time. And we'll try to keep you to that format. We're not going to cut your mic off if you go off two seconds before-- earlier or later, I should add. And tell us why you're running for mayor in this.

We'll then have questions and discussions. We have Cheryl also timekeeping on that to keep your answers to 45 seconds, if you would. It's a conversation. Raise your hand. I'll try to call on you. I look and see who's here. And I'll try to keep that in mind and keep it all well balanced. It could go on for several minutes, but we have a lot of issues to attend to.

Raise your hands to get my attention. That'll be all right. I want to keep it balanced and civil. We also want to make this an open conversation and a good healthy exchange of ideas. We are all in this together. And then at the end we want to leave time for a one minute closing statement from each of you.

So with that as prologue, I'm going to stop my yapping and let the candidates begin. I have never done a Zoom debate. I have done Zoom events. I know we all suffer from a little bit of Zoom fatigue, but this is the way the people of New York are going to be able to get your views. And we welcome you for doing this.

We're going to welcome the candidates. They are now in alphabetical order different, because we have, as I understand it-- how many candidates do we have? Can I take a look at this? Let me see. I don't have everybody there. I could use someone's help to see the view a little bit more. Gallery View. OK, very good.

So Shaun Donovan is here. Andrew Yang-- in alphabetical order, let me go like that. Andrew Yang, Dianne Morales. You wave your hands. Say hi. Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, Ray McGuire, Scott Stringer, and the aforementioned Shaun Donovan. And Mr. Yang and Mr. Donovan, thank you. Welcome. I didn't get a chance to greet you earlier.

So we're going to go first with-- in alphabetical order, starting with your first name first. So that's going to go first. And then we're going to reverse it for the closing arguments. So let's start with Mr. Andrew Yang. You have one minute, sir.

ANDREW YANG: Thank you. Thank you, Bill. This was seldom the case growing up, because it was always alphabetical by last name. And I was always last. So I really appreciate this approach.

I'm running to be mayor of the greatest city in the world because we are badly wounded right now, and I believe I can help accelerate our recovery. And Bill talked about some of the damage. But we've lost 27,000 lives, 600,000 jobs, 82% of commuters, 60 million tourists, 70% of subway ridership. Thousands of small businesses have closed or are closing. These are not political problems if you look at them. But politics has held us back, and politics has the potential to impede our recovery.

I'm running for mayor because not only can I get our city agencies working better, but I can also activate resources in the philanthropic sector, the corporate sector, even the tech sector to speed up our recovery, so that New York City resembles the city that we know and love.

BILL RITTER: OK. Mr. Yang, thank you very much. Next up in alphabetical order from the first name, Dianne Morales. Ms. Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: Thank you very much, Bill. You know, I launched my campaign for mayor of New York City with a vision of bringing New Yorkers together, centering dignity, care, and solidarity for all. The steady divestment from our communities has deepened inequity and injustice long before COVID-19, but the health pandemic compounded those pre-existing pandemics of racism and poverty.

We must recognize that our struggles are interconnected. The recent wave of violence towards our Asian community should not be seen as isolated, but as one that offends all of our humanity. Our collective safety and dignity are contingent on how we see each other's individual humanity and in how we respond to the true threats to our safety.

I have dedicated my entire life to rooting out the social conditions that lead to violence and injustice. As mayor of New York, I will bring those direct and executive experiences to bear on creating a new New York City that can truly live up to the rhetoric of becoming the greatest city in the world--

BILL RITTER: All right--

DIANNE MORALES: --for everyone.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Morales. Appreciate that. Borough President from Brooklyn, Eric Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Thank you, Bill. Again, my name is Eric Adams, and I'm running for the city of New York position as mayor, because I know this city, and the city knows me. I wore a bulletproof vest for 22 years and protected the children and families of the city. And the topic we're going to cover today is at the heart of it. The fact that you don't have access to the legal agencies and procedures that take place in this city really hold you back.

It is too expensive to be poor in this city. And government adds to the cost of being poor. It did not start with COVID-19. It existed long before that. That is the society I grew up in, the lack of access to governmental services and resources. As mayor of the city of New York, I'm going to align our city agencies and ensure we have an equitable distribution of resources in real time. I look forward to this conversation.

BILL RITTER: All right. Thank you, Mr. Adams. Next up, Kathryn Garcia.

KATHRYN GARCIA: Hi, I'm Kathryn Garcia. I'm running for mayor to lead the best city in the world to a better tomorrow. And I'm ready on day one, because I have dedicated my life to serving New York City residents. I have run our biggest agencies. I have many billion dollar budgets and tens of thousands of city employees to deliver for you.

But we know the city is hurting. We know that we need to bring back our economy, that we need to keep our streets safe, that we need to keep our city clean and healthy in our parks. But we also have to make sure that we have deep economic support for families. And that means free child care. That means broadband for everyone. We know that New York City is the greatest city on Earth, and we are going to come back strong. But it also has to be a livable city.

I grew up in a family of five in Brooklyn. My parents were civil servants. And they were able to raise all five of us. That's nearly impossible today. I want to make this a more livable city for everyone in New York.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Garcia. Maya Wiley.

MAYA WILEY: Thank you, Bill. It's wonderful to be with all of you. And let me say, I felt called into this race. As a child of civil rights activists as the father was at the forefront of the economic justice movement, I sat at the feet of Black women who received welfare checks and were not treated with dignity, even though they weren't working through no fault of their own and heard the stories of their humiliation at the hands of a judge who did not agree with their civil disobedience.

I became a civil rights lawyer, a racial justice advocate. But as the person in this race who is running having done change-making work from the ACLU to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund-- but also I have been in that hot kitchen we call City Hall at the top in the senior cabinet. And what I will tell you is what we have to do is recognize that in this crisis, we had a crisis of affordability before COVID, that it is busted wide open. And calling us together is both calling city agencies to partner with one another, but also to partner with our people. And that's why I'm running for mayor, and that's what I will do.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Appreciate it. Ray McGuire.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Hi, I'm Ray McGuire. And I'm running for-- I'm running for mayor, because I have the experience. I have the lived experience. I have the leadership experience, having managed budgets that are often bigger than most state budgets. I am an outsider. I have a track record of having produced results and a vision that is necessary for this city to move forward. The lived experiences, the experience that I've had in business, and the relationships that I've been able to develop is the leadership that's necessary to meet the crisis of this moment, crisis in the COVID, crisis in the economy, crisis in religious and racial hatred, and crisis in the climate.

We need to make certain-- and I have the track record of doing just this-- that the best days of New York City are ahead of us and not behind us. We need that kind of leadership today that is unfiltered and unfettered, that is in nobody's pocket. We need to move forward collectively as one New York.

BILL RITTER: Mr. McGuire, thank you. City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

SCOTT STRINGER: Thank you, Bill. And thank you, Fordham, for hosting. Look, right now, this city is facing three crises at the same time. We're facing an economic crisis. We're facing a social justice crisis. And we're definitely facing a real health crisis.

We see the rash of eight anti-Asian hate crimes. We see the health disparities in so many of our communities of color. And we see a grassroots movement taking to the streets to demand racial justice.

I believe the most important job the next mayor would be to tackle the inequality that's laid bare by this pandemic. In other words, we can't open the economy the same way we closed it. And I want to use my real government experience, both my Albany experience, my experience as a community-based planner, as borough president, and as the city's chief fiscal officer managing a $240 billion pension fund and $100 million budget that audited every city agency, held the de Blasio administration accountable, but also offered actionable plans to build our city back.

I have a housing agenda, a climate change agenda, a social justice agenda, an education agenda, and it's all laid out for the people to debate and think about as you pick your next mayor.

BILL RITTER: Mr. Stringer, thank you very much. Finally, Shaun Donovan. Mr. Donovan.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Thank you, Bill. Thank you to Dean Diller. Thank you to all the sponsors today. And a special thank you to Judge Lippman for your incredible leadership in closing Rikers and reforming our criminal justice system.

I believe I'm the only candidate in this race that combines deep, deep experience in crisis, the big, bold ideas to move our city forward, and experience in government at all levels that can turn those ideas into reality in the lives of New Yorkers. I became a public servant, because I grew up in this city in a different time of crisis. I saw homelessness exploding on our streets, saw neighborhoods burning to the ground. And it lit a fire in me to go to work on behalf of this city that I love.

I came back after school, started rebuilding those very same neighborhoods. And that began a career on the forefront of rebuilding from crisis after crisis. Whether it was leading housing in the city in the wake of 9/11, becoming housing secretary for President Obama in the midst of the worst housing crisis of our lifetimes, or leading this city back after Sandy, I'm the only candidate with the experience not just to repair and rebuild this city, but to reimagine it as a city that works for everyone.

BILL RITTER: All right, Mr. Donovan. Thank you. And thank you to all the candidates for taking the time and for making your case in a smart and brief way. I appreciate it. I think the viewers do too. Let's get to some of the issues. As I said, I want to deal with civic and civil justice, civil justice, compared to so much criminal justice. Because there's plenty of time to do that. But I want to talk about the elephant in the room who is not in the room, and that is the most powerful public official in all of New York. And this deals with civil justice to some degree, but we have some logistical questions to ask of you.

Allegations of sexual harassment and even groping and creating a toxic workplace, all of them made against New York Governor Cuomo. The attorney general, we know, is now investigating. Federal government's now investigating for not disclosing the death numbers in the nursing homes during the height of the pandemic. The governor insists he is not resigning. Polls show that most New Yorkers do not want him to resign, but to finish out his term.

So it raises the question if any of you-- one of you will be elected mayor, perhaps. What is going to happen? How will you deal with the governor in this situation for one more year, and if it's your-- if you're elected, your first year in office? I'm going to go down, since we started with Andrew Yang at first, by alphabetical order in the first name. And we're going to go with the next name, which is a D, Dianne Morales. Dianne. And you have 45 seconds. And I'll try to interrupt peacefully.

DIANNE MORALES: OK, great. So you know, I've got to say, as both a survivor and the mother of a survivor, that this is a very serious situation. And I was the first one among us to call for his impeachment. I think he needs to be held accountable for what we now know is a series of toxic behaviors.

That being said, as mayor of New York City I have already made very clear that I will not hesitate to stand up to our governor, not hesitate to advocate for what it is that our city deserves and for justice, and to work with the newly elected state supermajority in order to ensure that he is held accountable, including the attorney general. I think he needs to be held responsible for his behaviors.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you. Eric Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Thank you. And the allegations are horrific. They must be investigated thoroughly. I believe in the system of justice. And I believe we have an amazing attorney general. We have a process that's in place in the senate and the assembly. And I think that we should allow our judicial process to ensure we have a thorough investigation and with the trust of the people to come with the necessary outcome. And if it comes out that those allegations are true, then the necessary impeachment actions should take place. But we do have a process. Let's follow that process.

BILL RITTER: OK, Kathryn Garcia. And I want to interject a question that I'm having from the two first panelists who talked. And that is, how will it affect your working relationship if he is in office for the next year?

KATHRYN GARCIA: Right. And thank you for that question. Obviously, the allegations are horrific. And for those of us who have been through it or have daughters who are of the age that we're talking about, it's pretty horrifying.

But at the end of the day, when I am mayor of New York City, I will forge a relationship with whoever is in power to make sure that we are getting what we need in New York City, and more specifically that we are getting our fair share of Medicaid funding. We are getting our fair share of school funding, which hasn't been true during this entire governorship. We know that this city needs to be at the table, not only with the governor, but with the senate and the assembly. And I'll have a strategy to get that done.

BILL RITTER: OK, thank you, Ms. Garcia. Ms. Wiley, same question to you.

MAYA WILEY: Look, I will have open communications with the governor and with our state delegation-- our city delegation to Albany, to partner on delivering for our people. Nothing will stand between me and delivering both housing, funding for schools, health care, the things that makes this city livable and improves our quality of life.

And here's the thing. It also won't stop me from calling abuse of power abuse of power. I am a civil rights lawyer and advocate. And I know and believe in the system working. Yes, the investigation must go forward. I'm glad we all fought for an independent one, as I did and others did. And it's good that it's independent. That's very different, though, from asking for a resignation from someone who has a demonstrated abuse of power pattern of behavior. And that's what these sexual allegations are. And we should call it what it is.

BILL RITTER: All right, Ms. Wiley, thank you. Ray McGuire, you come from the business world, big corporation, where there are very strict rules about this that you don't have to go through all the legal-- some of the legal and political ramifications that we're seeing right now with the governor.

RAY MCGUIRE: Well, you know, I come from the business world, but I also come from, you know, the neighborhood. So I would like you to make sure that that's included, which comes down to making certain that, as you started out, equal justice under the law. We have a process underway, which we reference in the center of our justice system as due process.

And so I am-- I am, along with my other group here, I think the allegations are serious. And they're horrific allegations. We have two or three processes today that are underway. Let's follow the processes and see what the outcome is. And I'm prepared to respond and be supportive of all the outcomes.

When it comes to the relationship, listen, it's very important for us to go and advocate. And I will advocate on behalf of all New Yorkers.

BILL RITTER: OK, thank you.

RAY MCGUIRE: Federal stimulus package has given dollars to the state. I want to make sure that I go forward and fight for every single dollar that's necessary in order for New York City to run and run effectively.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you, Mr. McGuire. Mr. Stringer.

SCOTT STRINGER: Well, first I want to say to the brave women who have come forward, thank you. And I believe New York has your back. I do think it's time for the governor to resign. And I've been very clear about that.

And you know, when we think about this Albany-city relationship, we do have to have a reset. The truth is the mayor has stumbled and bumbled in Albany. And the governor has taken advantage of that. I think it's time that we have a mayor who has real Albany experience. When I was in the state assembly, I was considered one of the most progressive, but also the most independent member. And I was able to pass a lot of legislation that helped New York City.

And right now the people who are standing up for people and who are making a difference, Senator Alessandra Biaggi, Senator Jessica Ramos, Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, these are the young progressive legislators. They're supporting me for mayor because we're going to do big things together and set a new course for the city in Albany.

BILL RITTER: All right, Mr. Stringer, thank you. Mr. Donovan.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Thank you, Bill. Enough is enough. I believe the brave, courageous women who have come forward. And it is time for the governor to step down. He can no longer effectively lead this state, given these credible allegations. And it is time for him to resign.

On the question of working with the state and also the federal government, there's no one in this race that has the experience I do being able to deliver for New Yorkers. Whether it was the property tax reform that I got as housing commissioner that increased affordable housing in the city, the landmark deal to bring more resources to end homelessness in this city, or the collaboration I built at the federal level to rebuild this city after Sandy, again and again, I've shown I know how to get New Yorkers the help they need.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you, Shaun Donovan. Andrew Yang. You got to unmute, Mr. Yang.

ANDREW YANG: Thank you, Bill. Sorry about that. I want to make sure--

BILL RITTER: We'll start your time again.

ANDREW YANG: The job of mayor of New York City is to deliver for the people. And we've seen what's happening right now when you have a dysfunctional relationship between City Hall and Albany. We have been unable to solve many of the problems we see around us. Supportive housing, mental health resources, everything has been bottlenecked because the mayor and the governor have not been on the same page.

If your job is to deliver for the people of New York City you have to make sure-- there is no choice. You have to have the right kind of working relationship with the governor, with the legislators in Albany. And I believe I'm going to be incredibly well-positioned to help build on these relationships, in part because our interests are one and the same. New York City is the economic engine of the state. It's actually the economic engine of the entire country. And the only reason we have seen this dysfunction is because of politicians who have put their own interests ahead of the people's.

BILL RITTER: All right, Mr. Yang. Thank you very much. And thank you to all the participants for keeping your answers succinct. I want to move to the real struggles of New Yorkers. Because rebuilding this city is going to be your biggest challenge and the biggest challenge for all of us. And whoever is going to be mayor, the people are going to be rooting for him or her, because we are in this together. So let's move to those, because we know the problems people have without jobs, and often not able to-- during this recession, to pay their rent or other bills, and are now in deep debt or facing eviction, or in the worst case, homeless.

Vaccines may be helping end this pandemic, although we're slowly increasing it. We're seeing that. But we're seeing also surges in at least 12 states. And some of the experts are saying we had better prepare for another surge in the rest of the country. So tough times are ahead. But the recession is going to take longer than the vaccines will. And the effects, economic and emotional, eviction to spewing hate at fellow New Yorkers, we are seeing it all the time.

Issue number one. On May 1, the eviction moratorium ends. What's your position on keeping the moratorium? When should that end? And what happens to rents that are in arrears, tenants who need a lawyer in housing court, a program launched by Mayor de Blasio? Would you keep that? And what about the many landlords who just simply cannot afford to forget past due rents? I want to start with Eric Adams. Mr. Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Yeah, Bill, a couple of things. To get our city up and operating, there are three things we must do. Number one, must get COVID under control. And that includes an expanded program around vaccinations. Number two, we must get public safety under control. That's the prerequisite to prosperity, particularly gun violence. Reinstitute the anti-crime unit as the anti-gun unit.

And second, we must extend the eviction moratorium. But we have to take care of those small property owner landlords. People often forget them. Let's use the stimulus dollars to make them whole as we protect the rights of tenants at the same time. And let's increase tenant protection by expanding those who need legal representation.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you, Mr. Adams. Kathryn Garcia?

KATHRYN GARCIA: Yes, this is going to be an incredibly challenging time for New York City. And we know that there have been no jobs for a very long time, for a year now, for many people. And nothing is affordable if you don't have a job.

So reopening our economy is the first critical step and making sure that the vaccine is widely distributed to everyone. And I was really positive about what Biden said recently. But I know that we are going to have to come together as New Yorkers to make real change. And that means that landlords and tenants and banks and government work out how we are going to do this and use that federal stimulus money to relieve the burdens on tenants going forward. We should extend the moratorium to give us time to work through that.

But I also believe that no tenant should be going to court without an attorney. And we should be funding that thoroughly.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you very much. Ms. Wiley, you said you were called into this race. What's your call going to be about the moratorium which expires rent-- the eviction moratorium expires on May 1.

MAYA WILEY: Well, so let's talk about [? Deepa ?] [? Ghey, ?] who was an essential worker, because he was stocking shelves in grocery stores. Lost his job and had to choose between rent. And he also lost his wife. And he needed to send her body back to Senegal.

This is what we're talking about when we're talking about the eviction moratorium. And I'm proud to have been the first candidate in this race who said, look, as a change maker, I know that we need the moratorium, because homelessness is an eviction crisis. We had an affordability crisis before COVID.

But what we need to do now is make sure that I would take the $251 million in stimulus funds in order to shore up homeowners, small landlords, so that they can pay the mortgage, hold onto the wealth they're building in exchange for not evicting their tenants. And that will also include some tax abatement. But also I would increase to 400% the eligibility for free civil legal services. It brought evictions down 84% for folks who had a free civil lawyer. Thank you, Judge Lippman. Thank you, Council Member Mark Levine. That's something we have to expand upon. And I will do that as mayor.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Mr. McGuire?

RAY MCGUIRE: Yeah, this challenge that you've outlined is twofold. It is making certain that when the eviction moratorium lapses that we make sure that we continue it. We also need to make sure that we give the landlords the same kind of rights. So that means we're going to have to go through some kind of negotiation. Because if the landlords suffer, the tenants will ultimately suffer. The landlord have-- landlords have businesses. And the tenants need to stay in their homes. So we need to make certain that we look at this across the entire spectrum.

The other thing that is so important here-- it's about jobs. We have no social justice if we don't have economic justice. And my plan calls for the creation of 500,000 jobs-- go big, go small, go forward-- especially for those small businesses who are the lifeblood of this city. They're responsible for 50% of the New Yorkers who work. We need to inject capital, take care of those small businesses, many of whom are small property owners. We need to take care of them as well.

This city doesn't survive-- we don't move forward unless we revive this economy. 500,000 jobs, making sure that we focus on getting New Yorkers back to work, so that we can all make certain that the future is the future that we want with everyone working, so that we don't have to face these challenges.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Mr. McGuire. Scott Stringer, you see-- you know the finances of New York City. You're the comptroller. How bad a shape are we in? And can we afford this?

SCOTT STRINGER: Well, we can't afford not to help the people who, through no fault of their own, are one step away from homelessness due to a voluntary shutdown of our entire economy. Even before the pandemic, 500,000 people were one step away from homelessness. So here's what I believe we have to do. And you talked about Albany, well, we have to support the new Salazar bill-- two legislators who are supporting me for mayor. They have a bill to cancel rent.

What they basically would do would be to create a small landlord hardship fund and make sure that we have basic requirements. And we would also create a fund to help small landlords who are also in trouble, because we're going to have to align the banks, small landlords, and the tenants to access what I think we're going to need is $2.2 billion of families and landlords. So that stimulus package must be used to cancel rent, help landlords with mortgages, and get this right.

We also have to recognize that we need universal right to counsel, but also we've got to help undocumented New Yorkers who are excluded from this public support. This is going to be a holistic, complicated approach to get this done.

BILL RITTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Stringer. Estimated half a million undocumented immigrants living in New York City, a crucial part of the economy, no matter what you think of the immigration policies of the country. Mr. Donovan, how do we pay for this? Mr. Stringer talked about it a little bit. How do we pay for all this? Is that COVID bill enough to cover this?

SHAUN DONOVAN: So Bill, last summer I was asked to testify in front of Congress about this issue because of my expertise. And I called before any other candidate to extend the moratorium. And I was deeply involved in crafting the solution that is now available to us through the COVID relief packages, nearly $50 billion of rental assistance. It was designed based on a program I created in the wake of the Great Recession that very effectively kept people in their homes.

So what we need to do is extend the moratorium until the pandemic is behind us, and there has been time to get that nearly $50 billion into the hands of residents in New York City to keep them in their homes. The other thing we need to do is invest not just in expanding the right to counsel city-wide, but also funding housing counseling to make sure that we're helping residents, undocumented folks, whatever language they speak, wherever they live, stay in their homes.

BILL RITTER: OK, thank you, Mr. Donovan. Mr. Yang.

ANDREW YANG: We should be crystal clear on this for everyone, Bill. No one should lose their home during a pandemic. This is particularly true because we have a homelessness crisis. And the last thing you want to do during a crisis is make it worse.

So we should extend the moratorium on evictions indefinitely until the pandemic and the recovery are behind us. We should expand the right to counsel to the extent that those suits exist. But I'm happy to say, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, we are getting billions of dollars in aid to help bridge the gap between tenants and landlords.

And the way it has to happen is really based upon the landlord. Because if the tenants have an eviction moratorium, then the landlord is still paying mortgage payments, still paying property taxes. That's where the help has to be applied to make sure that these problems don't fester and end up wrecking the recovery.

BILL RITTER: OK, thank you. Ms. Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: Thank you. So the first thing I'll say is that we can't start talking about economic recovery until we talk about saving the lives of the Black and Brown people who we know have been disproportionately impacted by all of this and would be the ones that would be forced to reopen our economy. That being said, it is absolutely critical that we extend the moratorium for renters and for small homeowners as well. I think we need to provide mortgage protection to the folks who we know are also relying on their homes, their real estate, in order to do any wealth building.

So those folks need to be protected. Those extensions need to happen. And also we need to expand the right to legal counsel to everyone that is impacted by this.

BILL RITTER: OK. You all seem to be fairly on the same page on this. I thank you for the articulate answers and the brevity of it, because we've got to get a lot of information in and out to the potential voters in the city. And I appreciate it from all of you. You've clearly studied the issues.

I want to continue on this question of people not having money and trying to solve the problem of the haves and the have nots and a tale of two cities. Because the next issue involves, how do we really get into the weeds and the nitty gritty of solving the debt problem for so many New Yorkers that goes beyond just rent? They are accumulating debt. We see that. If you don't have a job-- you know, we thought-- the last administration, federally, said the economy was doing so well. We had more Blacks employed, more Hispanics employed, than ever before. And we saw how weak the economy really was when all of a sudden the pandemic hit. A recession hit. And people were, you know, out in the streets by missing one or two paychecks. It was a fragile strong economy we had.

So anyway, we are likely to see in the city a tsunami of debt-related lawsuits that will, first, clog our courts and make life for many people into total chaos. A moratorium on debt, as controversial as that is, has been proposed by some. Who pays the creditors, some of whom may be small businesses who have struggled, as we know. So many businesses have closed. And how can New York City help deal with consumer debt? Legal counsel for those in deep financial tapioca, you've all-- many of you have already said they should be free to people who are in debt and find themselves getting sued. What happens?

I want to increase the time to a minute, because I think we want to give a little more time. I know it sounds ludicrous, just 15 seconds. But it does add up. And I appreciate your thinking about all-- so let's start, if I could remember who we-- ended with Morales. We're going to start now next with-- Adams started question two. Kathryn Garcia, you start question number three. Sorry, I'm taking all these notes to myself. Kathryn, if you could start. It's a lot to take in. You have a minute starting right now.

KATHRYN GARCIA: Thank you. And it is-- we know that pre-COVID, even in a strong economy, that people were only ever one paycheck away from the possibility of eviction or a medical crisis. Because their incomes and their ability to create wealth really was not there.

Going forward, as we think about how we are going to support families coming out of COVID, coming out of what has been a pandemic, is to ensure that they have a right to counsel with debt, to make sure that they are not being sued, particularly by hospitals for debt that they may have accumulated because they were sick. That makes no sense at all. The city has to step in and be supportive of people, so that we can actually rise together and ensure that we have a strong comeback that is fair and equal across the city.

BILL RITTER: A moratorium on debt? Would you favor that?

KATHRYN GARCIA: I think a moratorium on hospital debt I would definitely favor. The other debt, it depends. Like, if you bought a new car, I'm not sure that I would favor forgiving that.

BILL RITTER: OK, a complicated question and obviously a complicated answer. Ms. Wiley.

MAYA WILEY: Look, you know, let's just start with the fact that we had $14 trillion worth of consumer debt in this country before COVID. And that was because so much was so unaffordable, including-- I agree with Kathryn. Hospitals. We had 40,000 suits between 2014 and 2019 from nonprofit hospitals seeking payment from people. And we know that one in four people were skipping medical treatments because of cost.

So that means both what I've said already, which is increasing legal services up to 400% of poverty. That means folks like a family making-- an individual making $50,000 a year. Very hard to live on that in this city. Getting the legal services they need, because hospitals are taking them to court for payment.

It also means that we have to rationalize the system, because we have surprise billing from hospitals. We need reform in Albany to make sure that we don't do that anymore. There is a medical billing reform process in place. But also we have to-- we have to solve for lack of insurance. We have 600,000 New Yorkers that don't have health care insurance in the first place, which is part of what's creating our problem and putting our safety net hospitals at risk. I will solve the problem.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Mr. McGuire.

RAY MCGUIRE: Listen, Bill. It is a-- it's clearly an important question, given where we are. There's no simple answer here. The easy and popular thing to say is that we should just have a debt moratorium for everyone that owes money. Problem is that someone is going to be left holding the bag. If you cancel rent, small building owners can pay their taxes or mortgages. They go into foreclosures and lose their life savings. The financial crisis showed us that what happens to people's pension and retirement savings and other types of debt can't be paid.

We need a multifaceted approach to this. Federal government has already stepped in to some extent. We're going to need some more support. Private sector is going to have to actually take some losses here. But we can't just push the entire burden there.

In terms of what the city can do, we can offer grants. We can offer-- to some extent we can offer-- I would say low interest loans, but even that, people don't have the resources to pay those low interest loans. So it's going to be some form of equity. And we can offer incentives to the debt holders to forgive the debt over time.

Ultimately, we need people to get good jobs, so that we can go through and make sure they can meet the debt service. And I recognize how I grew up, the fact that you may be somewhat insecure when it comes to how you pay the rent. And that debt is so real that we need to find a way multifaceted to make certain that we address it.

BILL RITTER: Thank you very much, Mr. McGuire. Mr. Stringer, can the city do this without federal support?

SCOTT STRINGER: Let me just say that as city comptroller, probably the most important part of my job is to mend the retirement security of 350,000 city workers and 350,000 that are retired. It's a very serious responsibility. And what always strikes me is the amount of that pension barely pays the rent.

And when you overlay that with people who are unemployed and people who have none of that income, we have a full-blown crisis. And we cannot punish poverty, period. We cannot go in that direction.

Now, I do have a small business plan. We do have to make major infrastructure investments. I do think we need a Green New Deal jobs pipeline and re-train workers. But I do want to address one aspect of this, and that is hospitals are suing poor people simply for fighting for their lives. And they're suing people for low amounts of money that people can't simply avoid.

There's a solution here, and it starts with the Rivera-Gottfried bill, the Patient Medical Debt Protection Act. It's about curbing unfair billing practices, eliminating these interest groups, and also supporting uninsured New Yorkers. So let's get to Albany, get this legislation passed.

BILL RITTER: Thank you.

SCOTT STRINGER: This will be complicated, but we can certainly do the easy things now.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Mr. Stringer. Mr. Donovan. Got to unmute yourself.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Sorry about that.

BILL RITTER: Your minute starts now.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Thank you. When this city, Bill, was facing the worst debt crisis of our lifetimes, and I was housing commissioner, I created the Center for New York City Neighborhoods. It was so innovative that it was replicated across the country. And it's one of the things that led to me being asked by President Obama to become the US housing secretary in the midst of that crisis.

The center provided not only the housing counseling and the legal services that families needed to stay in their homes, it provided real solutions to debt restructuring to make those loans affordable. And so no one in this race understands how to actually get this done in a way that I do. I did it in New York, and I did it across the country to get us out of the Great Recession.

So we need to create real programs to reduce debt, not just for homeowners and health debt for taxi drivers, for so many that have been victimized. And I'm the only one who has a record of actually doing that. We also need someone who can go to Washington, work with our attorney general and the president, the vice president, to restructure bankruptcy in this country. Right now, we do not have access to bankruptcy on debt for individuals in the way that we should.

BILL RITTER: OK, Mr. Donovan. Thank you. Mr. Yang, your time.

ANDREW YANG: Again, our city's badly wounded. We have a homelessness crisis that we cannot afford to have get worse. So I have a comprehensive anti-poverty plan that we need to act on as quickly as possible. A billion dollars in cash relief to help stabilize the situation of the extremely poor in New York City, $100 million to a people's bank that will funnel tens of millions of dollars right into Black and Brown communities to help those businesses reopen.

But when you look at the consumer debt problems, they come in a couple of categories. And so what you need to do is you need to think, who do you trust to be able to get aid from the government? Individual indigent taxpayers, or their landlords, the hospitals, or any large companies that they owe debt? We should have a moratorium on medical housing and corporate debt above a certain level that's not owed to a locally owned small business and then let those companies access that aid out of Albany and out of the city instead of putting the onus on individuals who, frankly, are not going to be able to do so in many, many cases.

BILL RITTER: All right, Mr. Yang. Thank you very much. Ms. Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: Yes, thank you. So you know, I find it fascinating that we continue to frame this conversation around the debt crisis around what it is that the poor, low income people that have struggled the most and been beaten down the most as a result of this crisis-- how they're going to handle it, how we provide them relief, when we have seen over the course of the last 12 months that Wall Street has thrived, that we have increased the number of millionaires and billionaires in this country. And there's no conversation about what it is that those folks and those entities need to do differently in order to pay their fair share, in order to serve as real stakeholders that have skin in the game in the recovery, the economic recovery, of everyone, and the recognition that their wealth was built on the backs of those who are struggling the most at this moment in time.

And so I would challenge us to actually reframe this conversation in a different kind of way.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you, Ms. Morales. Mr. Adams, it's your turn for this question number three. And I'm assuming from what Ms. Morales said, she's talking about a tax increase for a lot of people.

ERIC ADAMS: Yes, and I think there is a real reframing that's needed. We often talk about the tale of two cities. But we're the author of the tale. And every problem, there's a short term, mid term, and long term solution.

What do I mean by that? We talk-- no one is talking about financial literacy in our schools. Debt has been around in communities like mine for so long, and no one has really sat down and built out our future by teaching financial literacy. Everyone talks about the 2.7 million adults who have to file for bankruptcy because of health care problems. No one is talking about preventive health care measures like my program at Bellevue Hospital. We continue to kick the can down the road. And although we need immediate relief right now, we must have a mid-term and long term plan, so we don't have these systemic problems that have been isolated to Black, Brown, and poor communities. That is where I'm going as a mayor to solve these long term problems.

BILL RITTER: OK, thank you, Mr. Adams. As long as we're on this, I think-- and we're going to start the next question with Maya Wiley. I wonder-- I was going to talk about families next, but I think I'm just-- this is for the sake of the organizers for this event. I think we want to talk about creation of jobs. Because that's what you're all sort of pointing towards.

You know, we found that a lot of the business opportunities-- not so much for the mayor, although it's a powerful job. But it does revolve around governor and especially the federal government, giving aid and starting this-- with this COVID bill is going to happen. A lot of it's going to go to businesses that need to restart. We're seeing it now. We are opening. Some say it's happening too fast. People like Dr. Fauci is saying, we're going to be ready for another surge. More than 12 states already seeing increases in the number of cases.

Let's talk about job creation in New York. We start with Ms. Wiley. What's going to happen? What do you have in mind? What's your plan? How much control can you as mayor, if you were mayor, have over the creation of jobs? How important is that? And where do we start?

MAYA WILEY: Well, I start directly with the power of the mayor. And that's because I sat in City Hall, got a broadband construction line in our capital construction budget, one we never had before, and figured out how to get agencies cooperating with one another, so we got every single apartment in Queensbridge Houses free broadband. That's called change making, and it's called the way that leadership happens from City Hall.

So what I have proposed is creating 100,000 new jobs based on our capital construction budget. That means building things we need built, fixing things we need fixed. That includes creating more affordable housing with deep affordability for the folks who really need it. But it also means locating it in places and communities that need it.

And it also means that is with existing power of the mayor, not needing agreement from Albany or dollars from D.C. It also means $2 billion for fixing NYCHA, starting that process without waiting for the federal government, although I'll go work there too.

But I also have a plan to put $5,000 in the pockets of our poorest families, because that's also stimulative. And $30 million in grants to small businesses, grants, so that they can deal with the debt.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Mr. McGuire.

RAY MCGUIRE: Yeah, I have outlined a comprehensive plan. And I've said from the outset that if there's no-- there can be no social justice without economic justice. So I was one of the first ones out with a plan to create 500,000 jobs. Go big, go small, go forward.

And let me focus on go small. Go small are the small businesses that are responsible for 50% of employers in New York-- of the workforce in New York. And there what I intend to do is take 50,000 of those small businesses and take care of 50% of their wages for one year. See if we can't negotiate the keeping of their New York City sales tax receipts. Appoint a small-- appoint a deputy mayor for small businesses, so that we can cut through the red tape. Create a comeback bank, which others have identified. And I came out with that relatively early, so I'm flattered by that.

And the comeback bank would give grants and equity, create some public-private partnerships, so that we can make certain that we take care of the small businesses and also give our-- our citizens jobs, and to make certain that we see if we can't get some relief on some of the fines that have been paid. 45 fines, seven different agencies for the restaurant owners. We need to bring this back and also make certain it includes bringing back Broadway and the culturals, many of whom are small businesses who represent an extraordinary amount of revenues to this city.

BILL RITTER: Thank you.

RAY MCGUIRE: And also going forward, MWBEs that have been excluded--

BILL RITTER: Appreciate it. I'll stop you there, if I could. I want to get a lot of issues in. Thank you, Mr. McGuire. Scott Stringer.

SCOTT STRINGER: You know, I think one of the lessons of COVID is that we start-- we're going to have to start building careers for people that can withstand economic shock. And I do want to double down on investments in health care and tech and engineering and giving kids of all different backgrounds the opportunity to upscale, even if they can't finish a two year college degree right away, just to get the kind of certificates that can get them-- jump them back into the workforce. I do think we need a universal paid internship program for CUNY students.

And this is the time right now to expand STEM and IT training, put kids on a pathway to careers. Don't wait for the economy to come to them. Let's take it to the kids. Let's retrain the workers. Let's make sure that they have economic opportunity.

Look, some of this has to be a private-public partnership, but we also have to think about what I believe the new economy will be. And this is the work I've done as comptroller. It is the Green New Deal. It is about a $30 billion plan for resiliency and if we don't tackle climate, we're just going to tackle one crisis for another. I believe a climate economy that goes to a Green New Deal will literally change the opportunity for people to jump their careers.

BILL RITTER: One thing I think a lot of people may be thinking about out there as you answer these questions, candidates, you know, we just suffered schools being basically shut down and remote learning, which is not the same. I have a child in sixth grade. My youngest is in the sixth grade. And I know very well that she's on these devices for learning when we've tried to minimize that. But we know that it's not the same as education in the classroom with everyone participating. How much is that going to hurt us? Maybe address some of that as we go ahead. Mr. Donovan, your turn.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Thanks, Bill. So I, too, have a plan to get this city back, to create 500,000 jobs. I think the question New Yorkers should be asking themselves is, who do you actually believe can turn those plans into reality? Nobody else in this race has sat side by side with Dr. Fauci to solve Ebola and Zika. No one else has the experience I do that can make sure we become the safest city in the world. Because there is no recovery without ending this pandemic.

I also am the only candidate who understands with deep relationships and knowledge about the federal budget, having been federal budget director under President Obama. How to make sure that not just we get our fair share of the aid from Washington D.C., but that it actually gets to the ground. As we saw in the first round, whether it's PPP or unemployment insurance, they didn't work for New Yorkers. We need a mayor who understands how to make that aid work for New Yorkers.

And we need a mayor who understands that we are not going to be the city we should be until we are open, our schools, and our arts and culture. There's nothing wrong with New York that can't be solved by what's right with New York. Let's get our actors and performers out into our streets, our vacant storefronts, and let the world know we're back.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Mr. Donovan. Andrew Yang.

ANDREW YANG: I've run a small business in New York City. There are three things that we must do in order to get jobs back. Number one, we are missing 82% of commuters. If you don't have people coming into the city, it's not just those workers, it's the security guards, the cleaning staff, the food truck operators, the retailers that serve those people. We need to give the heads of organizations the confidence to say to their teams, offices are open. Come on back in. That's number one.

Number two, we are missing 60 million tourists who supported 300,000 jobs. We have to let people know that New York City is still the place where they can come, see a show, celebrate, go out, meet their friends. We need to replace the current images that people have of New York City with images of people coming together, celebrating in the open air or indoors. And part of that is going to be reducing street homelessness by more than 50%, because some of the images people are getting are not, frankly, inviting.

The third thing we have to do is let CEOs and enterprises know that this city is open for business. Turning away large scale employers is a disaster. I have talked to several CEOs of major companies who say they are ready to invest big in New York City if they have the right mayor leading.

BILL RITTER: OK, Mr. Yang. Thank you. Ms. Morales, it begs the question, you know, what would it have been if we had those 15,000 jobs from Amazon that we didn't get from a couple of years ago.

RAY MCGUIRE: Exactly.

DIANNE MORALES: I've got an answer for that. We continue to frame the success and the economic recovery of New York City within the context of large scale corporations and big box organizations. While there is nothing wrong with them, what we fail to do when we do that is to recognize that actually over 50% of the New York City workforce is employed by small and midsize businesses that are locally owned, locally operated, and they contribute to the local economy.

So we should instead first prioritize investments and incentives and subsidies to those folks, so that we are rebuilding our local economy from the ground up and out. We should also invest in the public infrastructure and a public workforce. Green jobs, for sure. And really, really expanding worker-owned cooperatives, so that we are building a base of economic recovery that is based in our city and in New Yorkers, rather than corporations that come into the city, exploit our labor, and extract our wealth.

BILL RITTER: OK, Ms. Morales, thank you. Mr. Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Thank you for that. There's several things we must do. Number one, we must become an Empire State again where we build empires and attract businesses here. Let's lift up the success of Google and what they're doing in the Chelsea area. Let's lift up the long term lease with Facebook down in Hudson Yard. Let's go out and attract new businesses here. Let's become the center of life sciences, biotech, self-driving cars, drone development. Right here in New York, we have the talent, and we have the people.

And then let's bring back this team spirit. I am not those who say, we don't care if affluent New Yorkers stay or leave. 65,000 people paid 51% of our income taxes, 2% of income tax filers. We need them here. We need to work this through together. Let's build out a strong MWBE program. Let's change our procurement rules to start using taxpayer dollars right here in our city. And let's have a great green infrastructure municipal bond program [INAUDIBLE].

BILL RITTER: Thank you. It begs the question, maybe a question I asked, again, Ms. Garcia, but Mr. Adam talked about it. You know, a few people pay a lot of income tax. Some people think they should be paying more. But how do you bring those people back?

KATHRYN GARCIA: Yes, no, I am-- I am a big proponent of progressive income tax at the federal level. At the state level, it pits us against other states. We need our tax base to stabilize. And tax increases should be the last resort rather than the first.

And the mayor can actually foster job growth. I put out the plan to support small businesses and arts and culture, starting with giving them more open space, getting rid of the bureaucratic nonsense, and creating a crowdsourcing microlending fund for them, so you can reach over 5,000 small businesses and get them back up and running. We know that this city has to be vibrant again. And as mayor, I would be bringing New York City government office workers back as they are vaccinated, as it is safe, so you can lead by example.

But we know that's not going to happen if people don't have schools reopen, don't have child care, are afraid to get on the subway, are afraid that they're not going to be safe. We have to get fundamental city services right to support our economic rebirth.

BILL RITTER: I'm going to-- thank you very much. I'm going to go back to the 45 second rule, because I want to get in two more questions, and then we get to your closing remarks. And I appreciate all of you, you know, raising these important issues because, because we are all in this together. People have different politics and different perspectives, but the success of whoever which one of you or anybody else who's not on here running for mayor, that becomes mayor-- we want to-- we're going to support them, because we need to figure out how to get this city operating again.

ANDREW YANG: It's going to be one of us, Bill.

[LAUGHTER]

BILL RITTER: OK, well. That's not for me to judge. It's for the viewers to judge. And you know, I appreciate you coming on to this program. I know it's difficult. We've never done-- I've never done a Zoom political forum or debate before. And it's an interesting challenge. But you all are doing a great job. And I appreciate that.

I want to talk about families. Because a lot of people who are-- the people who are sponsoring this are very much concerned about what happens to our families and family courts. We're talking about civil justice here. And I know that economic justice begets civil justice begets criminal justice. But we want to talk about families.

It has been a tough year. We've talked about kids learning remotely. We've talked about parents out of work or working from home. Kids hanging out with their parents-- you know, it's just not the best thing. And we can't wait for them to be hanging out with their friends again. And not being taught face to face is not the best way to get our education system and keep it with a graduation rate, which is in the low 80%. And let me just say that 21 years ago the graduation rate in New York City schools was 50%. We've come a long way. We have a long way to go.

Families do need city support. And I know it's not free money out there, but they do need help from us. What more would you do as mayor to ensure the safety of families and kids and parents specifically? And what would you do as mayor to look at judicial appointments in family courts? One of you mentioned family courts before. And it has been a big success. And I would like to get your ideas about what we can do.

And if my count is right, Ray McGuire, you have the next start for this question.

RAY MCGUIRE: Listen, the challenge here-- in this case, one of the questions that you reference here, which was, what happened to HQ2, which has a direct impact on families, has a direct impact on jobs, has a direct impact on whether or not those families have the option, the opportunity, to move forward? You also referenced what happens in education. It is a tragedy of what's happening in education for many of the Black and Brown kids.

The graduation rate that you cited today is 25% for many of the Black and Brown kids. You look at third through eighth grade. 60% to 70% are below proficient. If you look at what's taking place pre-K is good, but we need to start before pre-K. So yes, we need the outrage that exists now. The abject failure that has taken place in the educational system before COVID-- and now it's been exacerbated by COVID.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you, Mr. McGuire. Appreciate it. Again, 45 seconds. We'll take it to you, Mr. Stringer.

SCOTT STRINGER: Well, look, let me say that there's nothing more important than making sure our children are safe and built. Let me just say that I'm going to have to leave shortly, because I have to pick up my son Max from third grade. So please bear with me speaking of parenting during COVID.

But I do want to make a couple of points. Look, what we're seeing in the shelter system-- 41% of the people coming to the shelter system right now are domestic violence survivors. And we have got to rebuild the system.

I just did an audit of young children 0 to 3 in the shelter system. And not kidding you, we found in cribs mice droppings. And we found cribs next to radiators that were overheating. This whole system is a mess. And this administration has not done nearly enough to protect our children. They're not protected when it comes to their education in schools. And [INAUDIBLE]. And we're certainly not doing it in the shelters. I'm going to try to hang out as much as I can, but please forgive me. If I'm late for school, this will be my last Zoom.

BILL RITTER: Fatherly duties are excused. And you don't need a note from your doctor for it. All right, thank you, Mr. Stringer. Mr. Donovan.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, Bill, and to Scott, I feel lucky. My boys are 21 and 19. So it's been a little bit easier, the remote learning this year for me than for you.

SCOTT STRINGER: [INAUDIBLE]

SHAUN DONOVAN: So my condolences. Look, Bill, you asked about our court system, and I want to go directly to that. I worked with President Obama to try to close the most expensive prison system in the world, Guantanamo. Our prison system is the second most expensive. We spend over $400,000 per prisoner, per year, and we get bad results.

And so I have the most comprehensive plan to remake it. I would create a pretrial agency, so that any time a child, a family, an individual, before they go into court, before they end up at Rikers, we are proposing alternatives, and we are implementing those alternatives. And we're funding them with $3 billion a year by the end of my first term to remake this system.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you, Mr. Donovan. Mr. Yang.

ANDREW YANG: I think the question was about family court specifically, right.

[LAUGHTER]

Just checking. So as a public school parent myself, I think the best thing we can do for families and kids right now is get our schools back open. And you referenced this a little bit earlier, Bill, which is that online school is no substitute for in-person instruction. Studies show that it's 30% to 70% less effective. And that's just on the academic front. I mean, in terms of the social, developmental, and other fronts, it's way, way worse.

So we have to get our schools back open and then, frankly, expect that our kids not only are behind, but many of them are suffering from trauma, mental illness. We need more counselors, social workers, and mental health resources in our schools to be able to help our kids get back on their feet, which may mean summer school. I know that's going to make me sound like a terrible Grinch type. But may mean summer school, may mean extended hours. Because to me, if we're to help our families, the schools are where we're going to catch a lot of those issues.

On the family court side, they're under-resourced. It's awful. We have to do-- we have to hold ourselves more accountable to families who rely upon our court system to function.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Mr. Yang. Ms. Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: So in response to whether we're talking about the family court system, or whether we're talking about the Department of Education, or any other system that does harm to our families, we have to fundamentally transform these systems, so that we're moving away from the current model of punitive criminalization of families that are under-resourced to one that actually focuses on supporting, and healing, and providing families with what they need to actually succeed and thrive. Right now, the family court system in particular, child welfare system, does a very good job of separating children from their Black and Brown parents. And that needs to be addressed, because that causes much more harm than any kind of positive interaction that we can provide.

So those are the things that I think we need to be looking at and how we need to be reframing-- again, that's my thing. We need to be reframing these systems to actually provide support and healing to the families that they have hurt for too long.

BILL RITTER: And in fact, the COVID pandemic, Mr. Adams, has sparked a lot of rethinking and reframing conversations around the country.

ERIC ADAMS: That's so true. But many of us did not need a rethinking conversation. We knew the problems were there, because we were on the ground for years. 35 years of watching how our city and our agencies were not responding to the needs of our cities. And when you think about the fundamental underlying causes, again, our city is dysfunctional. We create our crises. We talk about a tale of two cities, but we are the author of those tales.

Number one, my New York City aid program. Use our existing earned income tax credit to boost the amount of money given to those families in need. Second, my city card. Why aren't we using technology to automatically sign people up for the services they need and not have to navigate government? Look at our plan around child care. We're leaving too much on the table with child care. 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are served by city's ACS program. 86% of our children are without a spot. We can do a better job by utilizing our resources better.

BILL RITTER: Appreciate that, Mr. Adams. And I know that we could be talking for 45 minutes about each of these subjects rather than 45 seconds. And I do appreciate your brevity. Ms. Garcia.

KATHRYN GARCIA: This is a critical time for families in our city. There has been so much trauma and so much stress. We do need to make sure that we are getting schools open.

I have older children too. They're 22 and 25. But I have a five-year-old niece and a 10-year-old niece. And being isolated, I realize it's been 20% of their lives for the five-year-old. We need to be prepared to get them back into school and to make sure that we have wraparound services to ensure their social emotional development. That is critical for families.

But beyond that, we know that they need to have financial assistance. Whether or not that is with free child care or ensuring that they have access to benefits, the city has to make that easier. And in terms of family court, it is too far down the pathway-- meaning we need to be intervening much sooner for families that are in crisis, so that we don't end up there in a place in which you are at each other's throats.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you, Ms. Garcia. Ms. Wiley.

MAYA WILEY: So look, it starts with recognizing, yes, we have to safely get back into schools. That's about vaccine penetration. That's about making sure that communities of color that have had the highest infection and death rates get that vaccine. But we also have to be much more transparent with our families, with our community, about how it will be safe.

But look, when we're back in school, which we will be, I will have student support teams. We will make sure there are social workers in our schools. Right now, we only have 560 school psychologists. So we'll have trauma-informed care, because we'll increase that, and student support teams. Because we do have to pay attention to what's been going on psychologically for our kids.

But also having community schools, right. That's partnership with community-based organizations, so we're supporting the whole family. And our drop-off centers, universal care centers, so that there's safe places to put children or elderly family members who need care. That's about creating good jobs, but that's also about making sure families can care for family members.

BILL RITTER: Thank you all very much. I want to ask a quick question, and then we'll go into your closing-- closing remarks. And I ask this with all due respect. And I know many of you have worked within the city administration during the last eight years. But I want to give the viewers here on this Zoom forum a good sense of how you might be different than the current administration. What successes you've seen in the de Blasio administration, and what opportunities do you think have not been taken advantage of?

No one has really talked about the de Blasio administration very much. And I'm interested to hear-- some of you served in that administration-- how you would be different, and how would you be the same? If my judging is right here on this time keeping, Mr. Donovan, you have the answer-- the first answer to this. If we keep it to 45 seconds, that'd be great.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, Bill, I think the fundamental problem is that for the last eight years we've had a mayor who puts politics ahead of people. And I believe in what Fiorello Laguardia said, which is that there's no Republican or Democratic way to take out the trash. There's no Republican or Democratic way to do so many of the things that we need to do in this city, which are really about rolling up your sleeves, getting to work, actually making government work for New Yorkers, and making this city a city that works for everyone.

BILL RITTER: All right, appreciate--

SHAUN DONOVAN: That's what I've done my entire career. No one has the experience that I do in government in actually getting results.

BILL RITTER: All right. Shaun Donovan, thank you. Andrew Yang.

ANDREW YANG: I think the signal achievement of the de Blasio administration was universal pre-K. I was one of the beneficiaries. One of my boys was in that class. But this mayoralty has been a disappointment over this last number of months and years, in large part because the bureaucracies have not been functioning at a high level. And when they don't function, then no one knows who's responsible. Bill de Blasio, when people are upset at him about something, he'll look around and try and find someone in his administration that he can put in front of the cameras or send out a press release and say, it was this person's idea, this person's fault.

That's not the kind of leadership we need right now in New York City. We need someone who's laser focused on getting the city back on its feet and who will be a heat shield for the people on their team, so that they can do their best work in dedication to the people who are living here every day.

BILL RITTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Yang. Dianne Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: So I would say that this administration started off with a lot of hope and possibility. I think folks were a lot-- were very excited about some of the ideas that de Blasio was putting forth. And I would agree with Andrew, that the pre-K idea was-- and the-- the advent of pre-K was a good thing.

That being said, I think one of the significant challenges of this administration was in the failure to understand what it takes to move from rhetoric to implementation, the failure to identify and allow strong leaders to actually execute on the vision that had been laid out, and that had-- that brought him into office to begin with that many of us were excited about, and the failure to get out of the way to let those things actually happen.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you, Ms. Morales. Eric Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Bill, let's be clear. We can't run cities the way we have run them historically. There should have been a continuation of Bloomberg's almost 2.0 in technology. We must run smarter cities. We create our conflicts in our city. Just looking at how agencies are operated in silos. They are actually creating crises for each other. No one to turn to, not utilizing all of our resources-- here's where we are.

We must manage our assets, have an equitable distribution of resources in real time. That is what cities must do in the future. And I think the mayor dropped the ball in doing that. It's no longer running cities the way we've run them before. OK, Mr. Adams. Thank you. Kathryn Garcia.

KATHRYN GARCIA: Thank you. And so I would echo what others have seen, though I didn't benefit from it. Pre-K was amazing for families. It made a huge difference for both the kids and for their parents. However, after that got implemented, the mayor became distracted. Sort of went on to think about other things, you know, in places like Iowa. And we did not have strong leadership. And then we had a pandemic.

And what we saw was the tragedy of trying to get schools back up and running, how mismanaged that was. The rollout of the COVID vaccine, which almost systematically made it hard for people of color, for the elderly, for the disabled to gain access. So fundamentally, I see a lot of opportunity that was wasted.

BILL RITTER: OK. Thank you, Kathryn Garcia. Maya Wiley.

MAYA WILEY: Look, I'm proud to have been the first black woman to be a council to New York City mayor. I am proud to have helped push through the first sanctuary city bill in this city, proud to have partnered on UPK, proud that we got paid family leave done, ID NYC, and a $15 minimum wage. But I also was very public about saying the police commissioner needed a pink slip, because he was not on mission, and he was not keeping our constitutional rights safe.

And I've also been quite clear that I think we had to close schools sooner. We did have to listen to our experts, our public health experts, and been transparent with the public. And it was kind of astounding to me that over the summer we didn't have a very clear vaccine rollout plan in place, knowing vaccines were coming.

But having said that, as the only person who's been in that city-- in that hot seat inside City Hall, it's a hot seat. And we have to take the body blows for our people. And that's what I'll do.

BILL RITTER: A tough job, to be sure. Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Ray McGuire.

RAY MCGUIRE: You know, pre-K is good. But the facts are all too many of our children arrived at pre-K behind. The narrative that we started out with was a tale of two cities. We missed the opportunity to address the systemic inequities in education, in health care, in the criminal justice system, and in the economy.

Today, the city is more divided. It's more fractured. And a city divided cannot stand. What we need and what was lacking was leadership. And today we need the leadership that meets the moment. That's the opportunity that we have before us.

BILL RITTER: All right, thank you for the candid-- candid answers to that question. We're going to now move to closing remarks. You have one minute. I appreciate all your answers to these questions, candidates. It has been a really-- I think for people who have to make a decision about who to vote for in a very different kind of election and a tough role for the new mayor, you've helped shine a bright light. And I appreciate it. Honored to have been part of this.

Let's start with the closing remarks. Reversing now, first names at the bottom, all the way back to the top. We're going to start with Shaun Donovan. Mr. Donovan.

SHAUN DONOVAN: Thanks, Bill. And thank you for doing this. It's important to our democracy. And I appreciate your leadership and all the sponsors as well.

I hope what the viewers here have heard is that I bring the deepest experience in moments of crisis, whether it's leading this city and our housing work in the wake of 9/11, leading our country back from the worst housing and economic crisis of our lifetimes, making sure when Sandy hit I brought the resources and the coordination that rebuilt this city better, stronger, and safer, and that I was asked by President Obama to lead our $4 trillion federal budget at a time of fiscal crisis and was able to make big investments in health care and housing and jobs, just as we need to do now, while reducing that budget deficit faster than any time since World War II.

But I hope what you've also heard is that I'm the man with the plan. And just yesterday, I released a culmination of a year's worth of work, bringing together hundreds of New Yorkers and national experts. Go to ShaunForNYC, learn about my plan. And would love to earn your support. Thank you.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Mr. Donovan. Scott Stringer would normally get it. He went to go pick up his son. So we're going to go to Ray McGuire. Mr. McGuire.

RAY MCGUIRE: Listen, on October the 15, I called my 95-year-old mother and told her I quit my job. And she said, boy, I think you've lost your mind. Why is it? I said, Mom, because the city that I love now is in need of leadership. Given the foundation that you gave me, and given what this city has given to me, now is the time to move forward and lead this city.

I have the lived experiences. I have the experience of managing through crises, notwithstanding what you've heard, managing through the depths of the financial crisis, and making certain that I brought others along, making certain that I created wealth and opportunity. And going forward, my plan, my vision, is to create the greatest, most inclusive economic comeback in the history of this city. I have what it takes to meet this moment, which desperately needs leadership, which is what I bring to the table.

BILL RITTER: Ray McGuire, thank you. Maya Wiley.

MAYA WILEY: You know, when I was counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, I saw firsthand what the job is. And the job is to unite us. You've said it so many times, Bill. We are all in this together. And we need to succeed. And that means a leadership that understands how to get the city government to partner with itself across 55 agencies, but also to partner externally from government, like I did in getting broadband to Queensbridge Houses, like getting women and minority-owned business contracts up from $500 million to $1.6 billion with no budget, with no staff, with no resources.

But the thing is that right now our exhaustion that's a spiritual exhaustion, from our affordability crisis to our systemic racism, is one that it is time we solve for good. And that has been my life's work. And I will lead by listening and learning in leadership that partners. And that's what we have to do to come out of a historic crisis. MayaWileyForMayor.com. I hope you'll look at our plans, because we've got them.

BILL RITTER: Thank you, Ms. Wiley. Kathryn Garcia.

KATHRYN GARCIA: So I got into this race because the city is facing enormous challenges. And I am the only one who has really led in crisis, Hurricane Sandy, as well as during COVID, delivering over 200 million meals to New Yorkers. I know what it's like to step up and take on-- I don't know-- four jobs at once.

But I'm also doing this because I grew up in this city and was able to see my parents on civil servant salaries actually be able to support us, actually be able to ensure that we had a culturally diverse, rich life growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. I want every family to have that. And I know that we can make the city more affordable. We can actually connect our youth to the new green jobs. We can ensure that we are creating healthier air and that we are educating our children going forward. I am here because I'm a lifelong New Yorker, and I love this city, and we need somebody who's not going to be a Boston Red Sox fan.

[LAUGHTER]

BILL RITTER: Thank you. Thank you for pointing that out, Ms. Garcia. Appreciate that. Eric Adams.

ERIC ADAMS: Thank you, Bill. Let's be clear. The mayor of the city of New York, on any given day he can walk into City Hall and see a plane land on the river or a plane flying into one of our buildings. He can see marches for justice, or he can see anarchists trying to destroy our city. The only person who's running for mayor who had that uncertainty throughout his entire career is me. I faced that every day when I walked inside a precinct, policing during the '80s when crime and crack was destroying our city, going through 9/11.

I know what is to be a real New Yorker. When COVID hit our city, some fled. I led. I was on the ground visiting the countless number of people who were in need. We need to turn this city around with a real plan. I met with over 250 leaders over the last two and a half years. I'm ready to tell you my chancellories, my police commissioner, my first deputy mayor. My team is ready to lead ground one. I'm a blue collar mayor that understands blue collar people in the city of New York.

BILL RITTER: All right. Eric Adams, thank you very much. Dianne Morales.

DIANNE MORALES: Thank you so much, Bill. So I'm not a traditional candidate at all. I have-- mine are radically different ideas for what is, in fact, a radically different time. The next mayor of New York City has to have a clear vision in defending and protecting human rights. That includes the rights of all New Yorkers who've been made increasingly vulnerable over the course of the last four years. And in this crisis, we do that by recognizing our collective interdependence and orienting our policies towards prioritizing everyone's ability to live safely, in dignity, and provide for their families.

We are at an intersection of unprecedented times and unlimited possibility for radically reimagining who we can be. New York City needs leadership that's unapologetic about the need for us to center and elevate our working class and our vulnerable communities. We can't keep doing business as usual and expecting different results. I have the executive experience and the personal experience to take us in a new direction. And that's what I will do.

BILL RITTER: Ms. Morales, thank you very much. And finally, Andrew Yang.

ANDREW YANG: Thanks, Bill. Being last is what I'm more used to. If there are law students here, I moved to New York City as a 21-year-old law student 25 years ago. And I've had the kind of career and family I only could have dreamed of then. That's the New York City we need to get back.

I went on to run a small private company here in New York. And if you've ever run a small business, you have to deliver day in, day out. No one cares about your politics or any excuses. And that's what we want from our city right now. We simply want things to work better.

I then went on to start a nonprofit that improved thousands of lives and created thousands of jobs and then started a presidential campaign that became a national anti-poverty movement that activated millions of Americans and led me to become friends with some of the people New York is going to need to rely upon for our recovery. That is the kind of leadership we need in City Hall. And that's the kind of leadership I will provide.

BILL RITTER: Mr. Yang, thank you very much. And to all the candidates, I so thank you for coming here and making the case. It has been a fascinating, and I think, informative event. And again, I thank you for your participation.

As important, maybe more important, for your desire to want to contribute to making this a better city and a better world. And Ms. Wiley said she was called to-- called to serve and do this. And I think that all of you expressed similar sentiments, whether you said those words or not. And we appreciate it as citizens of New York. Good luck to you.

And to the viewers, thank you for watching. This is the biggest, most diverse group of candidates to ever run for New York City mayor. We hope you have-- we have helped you get some insight and shined a bright light on what these people stand for and what they intend to do if they're elected mayor, and at least get you-- get information and the facts by which you can make an informed decision as the primary and the general election unfolds in this very unusual year. That's our job at Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

And for all of us here at Channel 7 and all the sponsors, the good people at Fordham University who really put this thing together and did so much work-- and the students, the law students, who worked with me on getting information on all the candidates, I thank you for your work. And your-- your brains are amazing and inspiring to me. And I have great faith in the future of this country if these are the students we are educating.

I'm Bill Ritter of Channel 7 Eyewitness News here at WABC TV. And we wish you health and peace. And let's take care of each other. Have a great day.