Speaker candidates make peace – except with Trump – in televised forum

Ali Garber
New York City Councilman Donovan Richards, City Councilman-elect Francisco Moya and City Councilman Mark Levine. Richards and Levine are among the members vying for the speakership.

Speaker candidates make peace – except with Trump – in televised forum

Speaker candidates make peace – except with Trump – in televised forum
November 20, 2017

Following the lead of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the eight candidates for New York City Council Speaker are all pretty much running against one opponent: President Donald Trump. 

The speaker candidates took aim at the president – but never at each other – in a two-part forum, co-hosted by City & State and WNET and airing on “MetroFocus” on Tuesday and Wednesday evening.  

“Particularly in the time of Trump, we need New York City to be the beacon that people are expecting us to be, to guide through the situation,” said City Councilman Jumaane Williams in his opening statement.

City Councilman Corey Johnson echoed his comments.

“In the age of Donald Trump and D.C. Republicans,” Johnson said, “we need to ensure this council remains a forward-thinking, Progressive body that moves forward.”

Recorded on the same night last week, part one will air on Tuesday night, Nov. 21, and part two will air on Wednesday night, with each episode available online by the following morning. The segments will air on WLIW21 at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. They can also be viewed on NJTV at 5:30 p.m and on THIRTEEN at 6 p.m.

Across two nights of questions on closing the jail complex at Rikers Island, fixing public transit and reducing school segregation, the candidates never took direct aim at each other. Instead, they complimented the good work of the council, while criticizing certain areas like the city’s response to homelessness, but offering specific policy remedies.

“(The candidates) are all friends, they’re all people who I respect and admire and I’ve worked with,” City Councilman Mark Levine told City & State in an interview before the forum. “So that’s one nice thing about this race. That it’s among colleagues who know and respect each other.”

This is the first televised speaker’s forum, though the candidates already feel battle-tested. They talked after recording about limiting debates and forums, but couldn’t reach consensus.

It was a rare, private disagreement among a group of council members who seem well-aligned throughout the campaign.

Jeff Coltin
is a staff reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.