Here are a few highlight from the City Council District 11 debate last night at Lehman College:
— There were a little over 40 people in the audience, most of them were older folks.
— Moderator Michael Serrano kicked off the debate with a warning, saying that there would be no personal attacks between the candidates, and that he would shut the whole thing down if he couldn’t get things under control.
— Each of the candidates were in consensus that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, which overwhelmingly affect young black and Latino males, needed to be changed or completely abolished. Cheryl Keeling was especially vocal about the policies, saying: “Less than 1% of those who are frisked have any thing on them.” She even went on to say that if she couldn’t have it her way, she would work to get rid of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
— On the environmental issue, both Andrew Cohen and Keeling believed that there needed to be more trash cans set up on the sidewalks and parks. Cliff Stanton, on the other hand, said that they’re “third on his priority list” and that they should focus on making people more aware of the littering issue so that they can take responsibility and keep the district clean.
— One of the issues discussed concerned charter schools coming into areas with a lot of public schools. While Keeling said that charter schools can offer specialty programs in the arts or for gifted children, she saidt “we should first take care of our public schools.”
— Cohen says that charter schools are a “very small piece of the puzzle,” and also emphasized that the public school system needed to be improved.
— State testing was another education issue. All three candidates, especially Cohen and Stanton, said there is too much emphasis on preparing for state testing and the whole system needs to be reformed.
— After a five minute break the audience got a chance to ask the candidates some questions.
— There were a couple of questions from audience members about charter schools. One was from a woman who was concerned on how charter schools are forced upon public spaces. Cohen said that while he is not against charter schools in general, he saidt co-locating charter schools with public schools in the same building has been an “abject failure.”
— One woman addressed the issue about toxic chemicals in public schools. She used the incident at PS 51 where there were high toxicity levels of trichloroethylene, a known cancer-causing chemical, as an example. All three candidates said that there need to be improvements. Stanton pointed out a loophole in DOE’s policy where older buildings being leased are not required to be tested for chemicals and said this needs to be addressed.
— Things started to get heated after an audience member took offense to a comment Keeling made about higher voter turnouts in Riverdale. He asked her why she thinks Riverdale gets preference in funding and services over places like Norwood. Keeling responded by saying that Riverdale is not entitled to more benefits but that more people in other areas needed to vote. She told residents who feel neglected to “stop complaining and just go vote.”
We’ll have a more extensive report in the next print edition of the Norwood News and we’ll post a video of the entire debate when it becomes available.