April 29, 2016
Brian Lehrer: Good morning, everyone. Mayor Bill de Blasio is our first guest today. And this could have been a relatively good news day for the Mayor with the official street homeless count showing a 12-percent drop, following new efforts of his administration – and we’ll talk about that – but that comes in the midst of five separate investigations now taking place involving money in politics linked to the Mayor or political organizations linked to the Mayor, and a relentless campaign by The Daily News to hype them on its front page with gigantic type headlines you have probably seen – like “Crime Time for Blaz,” “Bull de Blasio,” and “Blaz Chose Cronies Over Kids.”
We will note, in fairness, that there have been no criminal charges filed against the Mayor or people from these groups. We don’t know yet if his defense is bull. And the most detailed reporting I’ve seen on the Upper West Side construction issue does not indicate he chose cronies over kids. Where there is smoke, sometimes there is only smoke.
But there are five investigations and questions to be asked, so we will talk to the Mayor about the investigations and other things like his new executive budget. And listeners, as usual, we can take calls for the Mayor at 2-1-2-4-3-3-W-N-Y-C, 4-3-3-9-6-9-2.
Mr. Mayor, we always appreciate you coming on. Welcome back to WNYC.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Thank you very much, Brian. And I want to thank you for a fair-minded evaluation of the situation, and the phrase “where there’s smoke, sometime there’s only smoke” is a powerful one.
Lehrer: But I will ask you a series of questions first about –
Mayor de Blasio: Please, I welcome them. But I just want to say I appreciate that recognition.
Lehrer: Okay. Investigations by the Manhattan DA and U.S. Attorney – as you know, one of the central questions is whether you or your campaign-related organization solicited money to be channeled through Democratic county committees to skirt the $10,300 individual campaign donation limits to some State Senate candidates when you were trying to help the Democrats win control of the Senate in 2014. One of the stories around this is that the grocery-chain owner John Catsimatidis says you asked him for money for upstate committees at the Al Smith dinner that year. He donated $50,000, and, in the next day or so, he gets a thank you from someone with the Senate Democrats. Could you clarify – what did you personally ask Mr. Catsimatidis to do?
Mayor: Brian, let me say something at the outset, and I would reference to all your listeners – look at Jim Dwyer’s column in the Times today. The notion – this is what I find strange about this whole reality – a Democrat, I’m proud to be a Democrat. I’m proud to be a Progressive. Believing that the best thing for the State of New York and the City of New York is a Democratic State Senate – that is, to me, fundamentally normal. In fact, I think it’s an obligation to try and do what’s best for the people and making sure we have partners in government who are actually going to work with us. All of my predecessors, if you look down through the history in different ways, have supported their parties and their party structures. So there’s something going on here that goes beyond anything we’ve seen previously in the way such situations were treated. And I think we have to wonder about the motivations behind it, especially the fact that documents were leaked at the State level inappropriately and mischaracterizing the reality.
In terms of your specific question, I did ask people – I’m not going to go into any individual case – I certainly asked people to support Democrats. That’s true, and everything was done legally, and appropriately, and it’s powerfully described in a memo that one of the lawyers working on these issues, Laurence Laufer, put out describing the whole history of how these things have been handled over the years – how State election law works, what party structures are allowed to do. Everything we have done is consistent with the law – the spirit and the letter of the law. That’s the bottom line.
Lehrer: But let me get specific. You were involved in helping Senate candidates, as you say, not helping upstate committees do their housekeeping. So, did you know what the chain of custody of that money was likely to be?
Mayor: I was certainly not involved in any of the specifics of the day-to-day in different – different efforts. And again, I’m not going to speak to specifics because of the investigation that’s going on. I’m going to speak to the overall reality, which is the truth. Everything was done very carefully, meticulously with legal guidance all along the way – and consistent with what so many other people have done, so that’s why I’m saying it’s very interesting that now it becomes a subject of these questions. And I think we have to find out some of the motivations behind this because we specifically followed – every step along the way – legal guidance – and did what other mayors and other leaders have done for years and years under the laws of this state – following the letter and the spirit of the law. Well, that’s how we’re supposed to comport ourselves, and that’s how we did.
Lehrer: Well on the letter and the spirit of the law – Mr. Catsimatidis apparently says he thought he was being ask for money for upstate committees, and then he was surprised to get a letter of thanks very quickly from the Senate Democrats. So were you less –
Mayor: Yeah, I don’t know anything about – I don’t anything about.
Lehrer: Less than direct with him?
Mayor: No, seriously, I literally don’t know anything about what letter he received, or how he characterized it, or what his specific relationship is with the Senate Democrats. And I don’t think – I mean I respect your question – but I don’t think that’s the pertinent question here. The pertinent question is – did we approach everything legally and appropriately with the appropriate guidance? And what was the motivation? The motivation was to elect people who I thought would do better by way of the State of New York and the City of New York.
Lehrer: So in this case, did you ask Mr. Catsimatidis to help upstate Senate candidates so that we have a Democratic Senate to help the City of New York, etcetera? Or did you ask him to help county committees?
Mayor: Again, I’m not going into specifics of the conversation a while back. I want to be very careful about saying what I specifically remember. And I also want to be broad because these investigations are going on. I will tell you, I asked people to help create a Democratic Senate because that was what was important for improving life in the State and the City. That’s the bottom line.
Lehrer: One of the details in the State Board of Elections memo on this is that a campaign manager for one of the Senate candidates sent an email to the treasurer of the Ulster County Democratic Committee asking “Has the check for $60,000 cleared? Below is our banking info. We need the 60 transferred ASAP please.” Why wouldn’t that be smoke-and-gun proof of intent to donate money way above the $10,300 limit to be used quickly for a specific candidate?
Mayor: Again, I’m not going to speak to any specifics. I don’t know anything about that email. I can tell you this – look at the law. And I think, Brian, the question here is – is law our standard? You know, it’s a very interesting year where different interpretations are going on of how we go about campaigns. If the law is our standard – look at the law, and again there’s an exhaustive seven-page memo that’s available online by Laurence Laufer that goes into the whole history of State election law. How it works, how it functions –
Lehrer: That’s your lawyer in this case.
Mayor: One of the lawyers for – yes – one of the entities involved. And goes into an exhaustive description of how the law works, how party committees function, how they relate to each other, how they relate to candidates. Let’s talk about the law. If we actually want to have this discussion, everything was done within the law. Now people want to change the laws, and we’ve talked about this before. Let’s have a consistent conversation. If we want to change the laws and no longer allow party committees, or if we want to change the laws and not have any private contributions to campaigns, something I would love to see. I would love to see full public financing of campaigns – then let’s do that. But this is something of a double-standard if some people follow the law exactingly, and that’s considered a problem, and other people follow the law exactingly and it’s not a problem. We have to create some consistency in this discussion.
Lehrer: You’re raising consistency. You’re raising motivations in a couple of your answers so far, and I want to follow up on that. And this is going to be kind of a long question, so bear with me.
But New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer pointed out this week in his column and in our show yesterday that the State Board of Elections memo, written by a Cuomo appointee, conveniently did not mention that the same method of getting hundreds of thousands of dollars to Senate candidates in October 2014 – much of it from some of the same organizations and people linked to you – was used by the State Democratic Committee, which is controlled by the Governor. So, Jim Dwyer is suggesting – why didn’t the governor’s appointee investigate them?
But Bill Mahoney writes on Politico New York today, “The suggestion by the Mayor and his defenders that he was singled out for punishment for political reasons by the Cuomo-appointed official who made the referral is complicated by the fact the appointee, Board of Elections enforcement council Risa Sugarman, has sounded the alarm over similar behavior in the past. And unlike de Blasio, the actors involved in those past instances are not known to be rivals of Governor Cuomo, to the extent that they’re known at all.” And he continues, “Despite claims by de Blasio’s allies that there was nothing novel about his attempts to raise money for Senate Democrats, his actions were actually quite unusual.” Mahoney writes, “While State and local party committees have pumped at least a quarter billion dollars into their candidates’ campaigns this century, there hasn’t been a directly comparable instance in which multiple committees with sparse past involvement in Senate races were utilized to funnel money to candidates’ coffers to such a degree.”
So my question is – are you making any allegation? Or do you have any serious suspicion that any part of this is a political campaign by the governor against you after hearing that?
Mayor: I think – first of all, let me speak to the analysis there. I’m not a lawyer, but there’s a huge logic fault in that analysis. The question is not what was each party structure doing at any given point over the years. The question is what does the law allow? What is appropriate under the law? And what does history tell us about how different party structures are supposed to work and how they work with different candidates? Again, there’s a seven-page memo that exhaustively addresses these issues. And anyone who is seriously interested in this stuff and wants to really understand it – it’s been published online in many, many places – written by Laurence Laufer and really describes this history.
Now to the question of motivation, I said to a number of your colleagues in the media the other day, I think people should dig into this question. I think they should ask the question – how a State Board of Elections official singled us out, apparently not understanding how State election law works – and then leaked their document to the media, which in and of itself may be a violation of law. I think that needs to be looked at, and I find it telling. So I think there is a larger set of issues that have to be asked here about what’s really going on. You started, Brian – and I appreciated your fair framing of this situation – but you started in what should have been a good news week. Because we unveiled a budget where we’re doing a lot to help everyday people, on top of what we did on affordable housing lately and a whole host of other issues. Well, how convenient that when we’re doing a lot of work to help everyday people, there are all sorts of efforts being made to obscure that work.
Lehrer: Well, what exactly are you alleging? On the part of whom?
Mayor: I’m not alleging anything specific. I’m saying it should be looked into. I’m saying all the media energy that’s being put into this. Everyone has a right to look at anything they want to. But I think they should be looking at that question too.
Lehrer: Right, well do you have any reaction to Bill Mahoney’s article after he apparently did look into it and concluded that Risa Sugarman has sounded the alarm over similar behavior in the past regarding politicians not known to be rivals of the Governor?
Mayor: I don’t think that ends the discussion of what the motivations were here and why such an exceptional act was taken to leak a memo like this, which again directly contradicts State election law. So, again, I don’t find his logic pattern to make sense. Someone could have done something on another case – that doesn’t mean there aren’t ulterior motives in this case. But again, I’m – I’m not making a specific allegation. I think the media should look into what happened here and why it happened – that’s all I’m saying.
Lehrer: Errol Louis writes – since you talk about following the law – in his Daily News column this week, “It is true that upstate Republicans have pulled similar stunts over the years, but what made City progressives think that mimicking one of the shadiest practices of their adversaries was a good idea.” How would you answer Errol Louis?
Mayor: I think it’s a powerful discussion we have to have. Look, and I say this to all my fellow progressives – so there’s a status quo and that status quo is backed up by a lot of money and power. And we need to go straight at it and we need to change things. One of the things we need to change – and I’ve said it for the people of the State, for the people of the City – we need a different State Senate. We need a lot of other things to change. When I came into office, I was very quickly confronted, as you saw, by a huge amount of outside money opposing me. In this case it was hedge fund money. It is not a surprise, and we’ve seen it in many other cases – when a progressive tries to get something done, there’s lots of powerful interests that put money into trying to stop it. And the law sadly allows for that. I don’t think it should – that’s another outgrowth of Citizens United. So if – and again this is where I think Errol’s logic falls off the cliff – if we say, we’re trying to make changes that will help everyday people, not reinforce the power of powerful interests, not continue the status quo, but break the status quo. And therefore, we use legal and appropriate means to make big changes, which is exactly what we did to achieve pre-K for all, to achieve a new affordable housing plan. If we are using the tools the law allows, but somehow that is criticized when it wasn’t criticized in the case of other people using it. But meanwhile, those who oppose the changes we’re making have literally limitless potential to use their money against our agenda. There’s nothing we can do to stop that under the current laws. And they have a hell of a lot more money – it’s quite obvious. So I just think, there’s a misunderstanding here of what’s going on in the post-Citizens United world. And look, I am trying to defend the interests of the people of New York City. That’s what I came here to do. And right now, the situation in Albany is consistently – undercut the people of New York City. For me to stand by and just watch that status quo happen. I don’t think that’s a particularly noble position to take.
Lehrer: So you’re saying no unilateral disarmament, but will you voluntarily establishment any different bright lines for fundraising for your reelection campaign, or any political operations to help the Democrats take back the State Senate this year because that’s up again this year, or maybe issue an offer right now to the Governor to work together to finally clean up the New York campaign finance rules?
Mayor: I think we need to clean up the New York campaign finance rules. And we have to clean up the entire electoral system in this state. We’re obviously working right now to push the Board of Elections, which the City does not control. The State does, but we are working right now to push them very hard for a series of reforms. We need campaign finance reform on the State level, which we thank God have here in the city – public financing of elections. I would go to full public financing of elections, but even if we could get the state level something that approximates to like what we have here in the city, that would be a step forward. We need same day registration, early voting, mail-in voting. New York State is incredibly behind on electoral reform and campaign finance reform. I will work for that unquestionably. I have worked for that and will continue to.
Lehrer: And will you voluntarily establish any different bright lines for fundraising for your reelection campaign or setting up committees that some have called slush funds, like the Campaign For One New York, that others can make unlimited donations to?
Mayor: Again, I don’t accept – here’s the problem – the law. We are following the law. We are disclosing. One thing I’m absolutely adamant about – by the way, there are figures in the state who have received huge amount of donations from private interest who have not disclosed where they are from. We are avid – nationally, you see this with the Koch problems and others – I have said ever since Citizens United. One of the bright lines – one of the brightest lines is disclosure. There is nothing I do, nothing that supports my agenda that doesn’t fully disclose the donors. We’re going to continue that in everything we do. We’re going to follow the law in everything we do. In terms of the campaign, it still hasn’t engaged yet. Let’s get though the presidential – but we’ll certainly speak to the values we hold in our campaign. I think there has to be a single standard in this discussion – adherence to the law and disclosure and clarity about that consistency. We will always follow the law. We will always disclose any support we get. I am very comfortable sticking to that standard, and I always have.
Lehrer: One more thing on this – and I know you want to respond, I’m told you do – to the Daily News “he chose cronies over kids” stories. For our listeners, this is about the city’s position on a proposed development of a Jewish home life care nursing home next to P.S. 163 on West 97th Street on the Upper West Side. According to Politico New York, a judge ruled that the environmental impact process that the City used wasn’t adequate for removal of lead from the site next to the school for that construction project. The alleged crony part is that the law firm representing the nursing home includes Barry Berke, your campaign treasurer and lawyer in some of these other investigations. What would you like to say about this case?
Mayor: I would like to say that that Daily News cover was propaganda not journalism. It bore no resemblance to the truth, and the piece in Politico outlines in great detail what the truth is and I want to start with the underlying reality. I was a public school parent until June. I spent a vast amount of my career focusing on the needs of children. That’s why we did pre-K for all. I’m always going to be focused on kids and their needs and their health and their safety, and any implication otherwise is a bold-faced lie and again propaganda.
So then the question becomes, what do we think of this property next to the school – well, it’s for a nursing home. We talked a lot about this when we were having the debate over the affordable housing legislation. This is a rapidly aging city. We must have more nursing homes. We must have more senior affordable housing. Let’s get real about where the city is going and what we need. So the notion that there would be a nursing home is a good thing for the city. That’s not even why the Law Department was involved to begin with – and again it’s very well outlined in the Politico article – the Law Department in and of itself, defending the legal interest of New York City, recognized that the judge’s decisions related to that case would potentially change everything we do regarding environmental impact statements for everything we do in land use in the city, and they felt validly that it would complicate and slow a number of the things we’re trying to do such as the creation of affordable housing and many of other public goods. So the Law Department – on its own, as it does all the time – went to court and said we have a precedent issue here. We have a legal concern. I didn’t have anything to do with that. I didn’t have anything to do with the nursing home issue, which is a development that the city is not involved in – it’s regulated by the state.
So many facts were left out, and then this notion that a law firm that was involved – well the law firm was not involved in any of the issues that the Law Department go into, the law firm Kramer-Levin wasn’t involved in anything in this particular issue that the Law Department dealt with – and the lawyer who I’m working with never talked to me about this. It’s just a series of assumptions, mischaracterizations, misinformation linked together and then made a blaring headline. It’s just not fair to the people – that’s the bottom line. It’s not fair to the people to misinform them in this fashion. So I can say to the people of that school, we want a resolution that creates safety for the kids. I think that we do need nursing homes – no questions about it – but we have to do it in a way that keeps our kids safe, and we’re going to work with the community on that. But when our Law Department – doing its every day work – decides to defend a legal interest of New York City for the long term, that’s what they’re supposed to be doing.
Lehrer: The Politico argument – the article does seem to say that nobody who was arguing the City’s case in this had knowledge that your campaign treasurer or lawyer – with respect to these investigations – was a partner in the firm that was involved. Why would the City argue against a judge’s ruling that tightened standards for protecting kids from lead? Wouldn’t you want to maximum possible protection?
Mayor: We always want the maximum possible protection for kids in everything we do. And I think if you look at what our schools have done over the years – in our administration [inaudible] there’s been a huge emphasis on the safety of kids. The question here is about everything we do in the City. Now look, Brian, I really appreciate the question because I would not be shocked at anyone who says, well wait a minute [inaudible] it’s a real human concern, therefore we assume the Law Department wasn’t looking at this really human concern. No, I disagree – the Law Department was looking at the issue of everything, not just in this one case but the precedent that would be set by changing the way we do all our environmental impact statements. And all the things we have to get done in the City – of course we have to protect health in [inaudible]; of course we need a rigorous process around EIS’s, but at the same time people all over the City are clamoring for more affordable housing, new schools, all sorts of public needs to be fulfilled. I hear it everywhere I go – every town hall meeting I go to people are demanding action quickly. We have to balance the needs of safety and careful due process, and legal standards. All of that is sacrosanct, but we also have to create a reality where we can get things done for people. So, what the Law Department was doing – again, I was not involved in any of their deliberations, but I do fully support their approach. They were saying, this judge is changing the rules of the game that have been the rules for a long time – that’s a concern. That sets a big very precedent. What we are saying, separate from the Law Department, is we want to fix this situation. We’ll work intensely with the community and everyone – all the stakeholders – to make sure that any development on that site is done carefully, and properly, and safely. But we’ve got to be able to have the sophistication in this city to separate these questions. Our Law Department every day has to deal with big precedent issues and big procedural issues that will affect lots of practicalities for the people of New York City for years and decades to come. And we have to be able to recognize that.
Lehrer: I’ve gone long with a lot of questions about the investigations, so we are going to wind up cheating the callers today relative to the time they usually get.
Mayor: Give the callers a chance, Brian.
Lehrer: Let’s get at least one or two in here. And Jeff, in Brooklyn, you’re on WNYC with Mayor de Blasio.
Question: Good morning, Brian. Good morning, Mr. Mayor. I voted for you, I’ve been a supporter of your programs. The reason I voted for you because I felt that you were a big-picture progressive – you talked about big bold plans. And you’ve got a lot of them done, and that is great. We’ve got through the first two years, now we’ve got two more years ahead of us. [Inaudible] it seems like a death by a thousand cuts between the fights with the Governor’s Office and these investigations. What do you feel will be the next two years? What do we get to look forward to? What are the big plans? What’s the big vision coming out of your administration particularly since – I don’t know if you’ve announced it yet – but if you’re going to go for reelection? What do we see as New Yorkers to look forward to for the second half of your term?
Mayor: Well Jeff, I appreciate the question very much. Absolutely I’m running for reelection. And I am very proud of the big bold plans we’ve put into place, and I appreciate you recognizing that we’ve got a lot more to do. What we’ve already said – I’ll give you some quick examples. We’ve said we’re going to make the city safer. We’re going to have 2,000 more cops on the street by the end of the year. We are going to deepen the relationship between police and community with a whole new approach to neighborhood-based policing. We’re going to create a lot more affordable housing; the plan is in place now – will serve half-a-million people. I want to achieve that as quickly as possible. We have the Equity and Excellence plan for public schools. That means computer science for all; that means all our kids reading at grade level by third grade over the next nine years. These are huge changes for our city. And we want to do a lot more to reach our young people – we want to do a lot more to help young people who have not had economic opportunity to have it. We want to do a lot more to create a five-borough economy, which we have made real progress on – 250,000 jobs created in the last two years, and really all over the five boroughs. There are so many big things that we are going to be working on and a lot more to say, but, even just in this budget that we announced earlier in the week, we’re changing so many things that effect quality of life. We’re going to be able to plow the streets better. We’re going to give people more fairness in terms of their water bills. We’re going to make sure our water supply is safe for the long term. We’re doing a lot more on mental health – a lot more to combat homelessness. These are the big things that need to happen in this city. Just my wife’s alone – Thrive NYC – if we simply implement that to the maximum of its ability, we are going to be reaching the one in five New Yorkers who experiences a mental health challenge each year in a much comprehensive way than ever before. We’re going to go right at the opioid crisis. All of these things are big changes we need in our city. And all that’s happening – and I think the people understand it and feel it and see it. And the noise being created elsewhere does not obscure the fact that the work is getting done. So no, I don’t agree with one part of your characterization – all this noise doesn’t change the facts on the ground that we are changing lives of people in this city. And we’re going to keep doing a lot more.
Lehrer: Debbie, in Chelsea, you’re on WNYC with the Mayor. Hello, Debbie.
Question: Hi, thank you for taking my call. I was thinking that there is a very big part that you were leaving out of the conversation when talking about the campaign finance. It is fine to say that all this money is going – is being funneled to make the House more Democratic, but what about what went on with the real estate developer who wanted to buy the horse stables. And the horse stable owners wouldn’t see their properties and so, they funded – and when Mr. de Blasio said that he would ban the horse carriage industry they funneled lots of money to him; they ran a campaign that did not disclose who they were against his rival Christine Quinn, which is what handed him the mayoralty. They knocked her out. That was pay-to-play. That’s bold-faced corruption. There was no disclosure there. You know, this could happen to anyone. People put it aside, saying the poor horses, but this could happen to anyone who has a property and doesn’t want to sell their property to a big real estate developer – a powerful money interest. You talk about money interest, there is no more powerful in this City than real estate developers. And if someone wants your property, you won’t sell and they give money to a candidate to do something that outlaws your business so you are forced to sell. I mean, what is more corrupt than that? And that has been – that needs to have more light shed on it because that is completely corrupt.
Mayor: Well, Debbie, respectfully, I think you’re wrong on a lot of your facts. I think plenty of light can be shed on it and it’s going to prove what I’ve said all along. The beliefs I have, they were clearly stated in my platform. They were talked about publicly in many, many settings. And I talked about my world view on these issues and how it evolved over time. It has nothing to do with any individuals. It’s about a movement of people who talked to me about what was right and wrong in terms of how we treat our animals. And I was consistent about how I evolved, showing people the thought pattern, showing what I thought made sense – went well beyond the question of horse carriages to a whole host of humane issues. And it is just wrong to put those pieces together – it is wrong to say that that entire campaign came down to those individuals. I just don’t accept any of that. Let everything be aired. I’ve said from the beginning, everything we’ve done was legal and appropriate. We are fully cooperating with any and all investigations because we are very comfortable we did everything appropriately. And, you know, again, I think we have to ask the bigger question it gets back to some of the dialogue I had with Brian earlier. If someone said this is what I stand for, this is what I believe and pushes forward to the people, and the people vote for it overwhelmingly, that is called democracy. And to make simple lines, and say it must be for this motivation, that motivation – that’s not a fair assumption. You know, a lot of times people actually believe something and that’s why it is in their platform.
Lehrer: Well, what some people say about this is that you weren’t running a campaign on a lot of little things. You were running big ideas, kind of similar to Bernie Sanders, if I can make that analogy – I know you support Hillary Clinton – campaign on inequality. And in that, the NYCLASS piece, the horse carriage piece, seemed like it was kind of out of the category, and yet you took that position as they – before they – after they gave you a whole lot of money and used a lot of money to fight Christine Quinn. And there was that developer’s interest attached to it. When did you first take a public position? Did you as Public Advocate about the horse carriages?
Mayor: Brian, we will happily get you the chapter and verse, and it is an evolution over years and years. And I have said this very openly, at first on some of these issues, I didn’t understand what the humane voters and all the folks in that movement were talking about, and, over time, I came to see it more and more. And the notion – and I guess this is what I have real trouble with – people come to decisions about a host of issues including issues that they hadn’t focused on a whole lot before. I’ve talked very openly about what moved me on different issues. I’ve talked very openly about the people were who educated me – why I came to those conclusions. For folks to connect the dots without any proof, I have a lot of trouble with. And also, I appreciate how you started your question, but I think it went astray, respectfully. We [inaudible] to fight income inequality. Fighting income inequality meant pre-K for all; it meant ending a broken and unconstitutional stop and frisk policy; it meant creating a vast amount of affordable housing requiring developers to create affordable housing in major new developments for the first time in any major city in the country – IDNYC, go down the list – paid sick leave. The things that were in the platform we aggressively pursued and there is a lot more where that came from. And we are going to keep fighting for that. And also, one last point, it also – I believe – requires doing all we could to support people who shared those values and would help us achieve it, which is why it is important to be involved in other things like a State Senate [inaudible]. So again, I want to say – you said big bold things – we not only said we were going to do them, we’re doing the big bold things and that is the front – that’s the core of what this administration has been all about.
Lehrer: Did you – and forgive me I don’t know the timeline – did you ever take a position against the horse carriages publicly as Public Advocate before you were running for Mayor?
Mayor: Again, I want to give you all the chapter and verse on all of these humane issues because it has evolved over years and years, so I don’t want to give you timelines into the specifics on the [inaudible] because it is all public. I’ve said it all publicly. Every position I took was public so it has the date stamp on it.
Lehrer: And we are over time, but I do want to give you a chance to talk about these homeless – street homeless numbers down 12 percent. People do question the count, the methodology of the count every year. How much faith do you have in this reduction? And do you link it to any specific policies?
Mayor: I have always questioned the Hope Count. And this is why we’re going to be doing what I think will be a much more accurate count through our HOME-STAT initiative, which literally has City employees out every day between Canal Street and 145th Street, every block of Manhattan counting and observing and reporting in what they are seeing and also, obviously, calling in help for individual homeless folks. This is going to be the most comprehensive count we’ve ever had – the most comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness. So, what you’re going to see – we’ll be doing quarterly macro-counts and daily published counts of what we are seeing. [Inaudible] What I think this – the Hope Count does show is that progress is possible, movement is possible. We have seen that in our shelter population too. We’re under 58,000 people in shelter for the first time in a while because we believe that the rental subsidies we’re giving, the anti-eviction legal services. I think this has been one of the big stories here, Brian. We are pouring resources into anti-eviction legal services. It is making a huge difference. We have 24 percent fewer people illegally evicted over the last two years as a result of this initiative. So, all I think it shows us is there is a pathway to progress. But I have never put all my stock in the Hope Count. I think we have to do something much better and the people of the city will start to see the results of a much more constant counting of the homeless going forward.
Lehrer: Mr. Mayor, thank you so much.
Mayor: Thank you, Brian.