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Candidate Conversations: Curtis Sliwa

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – CBS2 is holding in-depth conversations with the 2021 New York City mayoral candidates.

We are asking each of them the same questions, so you can compare.

The order was chosen at random.

Here's Marcia Kramer's interview with Republican Curtis Sliwa.

Marcia Kramer: From ending gun violence to recovery from the pandemic, the next mayor of New York City will have a lot on their plate. We're speaking with each candidate in an in depth conversation to see where they stand. We're asking each candidate the same question. So you can compare. Joining me now is Curtis. Curtis, thank you very much for joining us.

Curtis Sliwa: Thanks for providing the time, you know, Republicans have not really heard much in this election cycle, I hope to change that in the general election.

Kramer: So let's get started. The first question, should you get elected, what would be your top three priorities on day one?

Sliwa: Top three priorities is I'll be visiting every precinct in the city of New York to shake the hands of the men and women who serve in the police department because their morale is at an all time low. I'll let them know I got your backs, go out, do what you were trained to do. Make these streets safe, the subway safe, the parks safe. But if you cross the line and violate people's civil rights, you'll have me as your worst nightmare.

Number two, personally involved in animal care, no more kill shelters. We're not going to be killing any more dogs and cats in the shelters in New York City.

And the third thing is in terms of education, vocational training. It is a must. We have to prepare these young men and women for careers where there are demands in the job sector. And we're just not doing that in either the public school sector, the charter school sector, or even the parochial school sector.

Kramer: So I have to ask you, you talk about no-killing of the animals in the shelter. So are you going to be adopting them out to various people? Are you going to adopt them yourself? And how many pets are you going to take home with you?

Sliwa: Well, Marcia, cities like Los Angeles and Austin already have no-kill shelters. And that's the one issue that I found brings together Republicans, Democrats, independents. They find it odd that we only give our dogs and cats 72 hours to survive before they euthanize.

I and my wife, Nancy, we have 15 rescue cats in our apartment in the Upper West Side. So we want to set the example. But there are a lot of men and women out there who will be more than happy to adopt the cats, if provided a little bit of help. But that's what goes along with the no-kill shelters, is placement of the dogs and cats and staying in touch with the people who are caring for them in case they need help in providing food, medication and trips to the vet.

Kramer: So let's turn to the cops. How do you square reducing the size of the police force budget, which has already been done by the city with the need to keep the city safe and end gun violence?

Sliwa: Well, the number one priority is refund the police. You got to take the billion dollars, put it back into the budget. And then, like was done at the end of David Dinkins' administration, with the help of Peter Vallone, who was city council speaker, the Safe City, Safe Streets program, which had a dedicated tax to the hiring and training of cops that gave Rudy Giuliani 38,000 police officers so that he could bring back the quality of life.

Likewise, we need the same kind of program except, in this case, we're going after Madison Square Garden, Columbia University, NYU. They pay no property taxes. Cornell Medical, Rockefeller, they sit on troughs of money, many of them nonprofits. They buy properties in the immediate area, taking it off the property tax rolls. And that will be dedicated, specifically those monies raised, to hiring cops, training cops and getting the 38,000 that we need because the force is sinking rapidly in the direction of 32,500 with early retirements. And that is a force that cannot take back the streets, the subways and the parks from the criminals who are taking full advantage at the weakened situation that Bill de Blasio has put our police department in.

Kramer: So what you're saying is instead of a surcharge on the personal income tax, which is what David Dinkins did, you would do some kind of a surcharge on corporate America, or people, or companies, or in the case of educational institutions that aren't paying enough property taxes, and that's how you would raise the money?

Sliwa: Yeah, well look at Columbia University. They have an endowment of $11 billion. NYU, $5 billion. And yet they're buying up property in Morningside Heights, uptown in Columbia, throughout Greenwich Village. They're taking it off the property tax rolls. They pay no property tax. They're going to have to pay their fair share. But at least everyone will know it's dedicated to public safety, specifically hiring and training the police so that we can once again get a quality of life, once again have safe streets, safe subways and safe parks, which right now we don't have.

Kramer: So did the budget cuts exacerbate the violence and the gun problems that we're experiencing now?

Sliwa: Without a doubt. When they took a billion dollars, Bill de Blasio and the city council, from the police budget, they eliminated the Street Crime Unit. These were men and women who went undercover, who understood how gangs and guns are a deadly mix in the inner city. And they were very good at doing preemptive interventions to stop the proliferation of violence, and also the continuation of revenge shootings. They eliminated that and look at what's happened since.

They also eliminated the Homeless Outreach Unit. These were men and women, police officers dedicated to helping homeless people who are in desperate need, taking them to the shelters and trying to get them services. They eliminated that service of the police department. And I will tell you, they destroyed the morale of the police department because now instead of telling them to be proactive, and what they specifically should be doing to counteract the enormous rise in violent crime, they're forcing the police to be reactive. They're not telling them specifically orders from headquarters: This is what you do when you chase a suspect. This is what you do when all of a sudden you have shots fired. And the police officers are adrift. Their leadership can't provide them with any information and it all starts in City Hall, with Mayor de Blasio, clearly has taken a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball to the police department that was the best in the world.

Kramer: So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that one of her prerequisites for endorsing a candidate that they have to agree to cut $3 billion from the NYPD budget. Would you want her endorsement?

Sliwa: AOC? Marcia, you know what the acronym stands for? All out crazy. Three billion dollars from the police department. Their budget previously was $6 billion out of a $98 plus billion budget. They've already taken a billion. Who do you think is going to provide public safety? You know, AOC, she'll have armed security officers sometimes assigned to her from the NYPD. And yet average everyday people should be deprived of that? Who will fill the void? There aren't enough individuals who can do what the police do. And I guarantee you if AOC had a problem in the Bronx, where she claimed she's from, she'd be calling 911. And that means police response. They have not come up with an alternative. They really want to defund the police, defund prison, and they want to make it easy for people to get out of jail. That's why the no bail law, she's not responsible for that. She supports that. That's Cuomo and the state legislature. We see it time and time again being abused as these predicate offenders are released back in the street to do it again, because there are no consequences for their actions.

Kramer: That leads to my next question, the police commissioner says that bail reform has gone too far. And that it needs to be changed, s the judges feel that they have the ability to set bail for people involved in hate crimes, violent crimes, etc. Do you agree or disagree?

Sliwa: Marcia, two years ago, New Jersey had a no bail law. And that bill was worked on by defense attorneys, prosecutors and police. And they found the perfect balance. They allow their judges the discretion of deciding finally what happens to the accused, whether they are a risk of flight, whether they are a danger to themselves or a danger to society. And then at that point they can impose bail. Why we wouldn't just Xerox copy a successful program like existed in New Jersey? You know why? Because our elected officials in Albany are pretentious, they are omnipotent. They think they know better than anyone else. All they had to do is copy the successful no bail program in New Jersey, instead of what they've done is create a program that is just continuously released violent felons, violent predicate offenders back in the street to do it again and again.

Kramer: So the number of homeless in New York is really out of control. I wonder what you think the answer is? And do you think that homeless shelters should be put in neighborhoods where people don't want them?

Sliwa: Well, number one, if you notice, there's no transparency. Mayor de Blasio, through his Department of Homeless Services, overnight can turn a empty hotel into a COVID-19 hotel, which they've done all throughout the city. Or they can shove a homeless shelter into a community in which there's no discussion, no debate, no, in fact, information to the elected officials to that community. And then, in having visited so many of these shelters, they want to put a total of 80 - they were on their way to about 62, at this point - there are no services in the shelters.

So, for instance, for men or women who have serious alcohol, drug problems or emotional issues, no services in the shelter. They have to be in by 10. It's a warehouse, and they kick them out the door at 7, they roam the neighborhood with nothing to do, with no programs to deal with the problems that afflict them.

So you're just really moving problems around on the chessboard without resolving their problems. Over $2 billion of our $98 plus billion budget goes to homeless services. And we also allow people from out of state to come into our city, declare themselves to be indigent, and we're providing them with three hots ,a cot, shelter, medical. That's got to be challenged, because we're the only city that's under court order to do such.

Kramer: Next question, people who send their kids to charter schools really, really love them. I wonder what your position is, and also what your position is when it comes to Jewish parochial schools, which have been criticized because they're not they don't all provide the same level of secular education that some people think they need?

Sliwa: I'm well familiar with the charter schools. We need to lift the cap to allow for more charter schools to operate. There's, like, eight to one lottery system now, in which mostly people have color's children on a waiting system to get into charter schools. This Mayor de Blasio has publicly said he hates charter schools. And he won't even repurpose a lot of the empty commercial space to meet their needs. So I'm a champion to charter schools, except I'm going to tell him, he can't just be an academic institution. You've got to have some vocational training. And when a young man or woman doesn't do well, you can't just kick them out and expel them. And then, they become a student of the public school system.

You have to have your own schools that handle the hard to handle children, or those with discipline issues. And in terms of parochial schools, part of my life. I went to a parochial school. Catholic schools, they taught evolution. And in fact, it was state mandated. Now, Roman Catholic theology doesn't believe in evolution, but we were exposed to that. Most of the Jewish shuls and synagogues, their religious schools, they have secular education.

To those who refuse any secular education whatsoever, then they have to suffer the effects of that. And that means none of the state funding that they are entitled to if they would just do a balanced program. Mostly rigid, religious, I understand that, having gone to a Catholic school, but also some secular education. Specifically when they get into a junior high school area, or the high school area.

Kramer: So I'm wondering what measures you would put in place to make sure there's no sexual harassment in a Curtis Sliwa administration?

Sliwa: Well, that is one of the biggest problems that we have - guys who are pervs. They don't know how to keep their hands to themselves. I think I would use as an example, the governor, Andrew Cuomo. And having been part Italian myself, you know, his explanation is oh, you know, Italians, we're very manual, we're very thoracic. We like to put our hands on, we like to kiss. I said, what is it? What Italian family did you grow up in, Andrew? I mean, you draw the line. You don't put your hands on women. You don't put it on their back, you don't put it on their sides. If anything you make sure, as the governor of the state, you're an elected official, which is do as I say, not as I do. So you can't be a perv.

Look at Andy King, look at some of the other officials. Their careers have been destroyed because they've been exposed to harassing women. And that's really the way it should be. Although we got to start with the governor. This governor, seems he's impervious. He can perv whomever he wants, and he says it's an Italian thing. Don't you know, putting hands on? And kissing? Hey, what kind of Italian are you Andrew Cuomo? You don't do that to women.

Kramer: But what kind of what kind of positions would you take in order to prevent women in your administration from being victims of sexual harassment?

Sliwa: Well, I think what you have to do is mandatory training. And you have to make sure that everybody goes through that training to make sure they understand what the rules and regulations are, and that everybody is freely open to ask questions and address some of these issues. Whether it's through the HR department, or another department that specifically is in charge of that. But best policy is keep your hands to yourself. It's a professional atmosphere, keep the personal side of your life out of the workplace.

Kramer: Curtis, given ranked choice voting, who would you ask your supporters to choose in second place if they voted for you in first?

Sliwa: Well, unfortunately, there are only two candidates, because my opponent in the Republican primary, Fernando Mateo, knocked off Sarah Tirschwell, challenged her signatures. She actually qualified long before we did. She announced earlier, raised twice as much money as we did. I supported her effort to stay on the ballot with the Board of Elections. But it was Mateo who challenged her signatures, knocked her off the ballot. So we won't have ranked choice voting. We should have it. It should have been Sarah Tirschwell, Curtis Sliwa, Fernando Mateo. And obviously Republicans then could have used rank choice voting. Now it's only two candidates, so it's not going to apply.

Kramer: So we'll come to the part of our show, it's a segment that we call "in one word." So, in one word, Curtis, what do you consider your best leadership quality?

Sliwa: Example. Lead by example.

Kramer: Next question. In one word, friends and family would describe you as?

Sliwa: Friends and family would describe me as a five star. Five star.

Kramer: That's two words, but I'll give it to you. Okay. In one word.

Sliwa: Okay.

Kramer: What is your What's your favorite comfort food?

Sliwa: Favorite comfort food? Beans and rice.

Kramer: In one word, name a unique skill or talent?

Sliwa: Stickball. Stickball. That's my sport, stickball.

Kramer: Okay, last one. You'd like to do this when faced with a difficult situation?

Sliwa: Mood elevator EDM? I listen to EDM, calms me down.

Kramer: Okay, thank you

Sliwa: Electronic dance music.

Kramer: Curtis, thank you so much for joining us today really appreciate it.

Sliwa: Oh, my pleasure, Marcia, anytime.

You can watch our New York City mayoral debate with leading contenders on CBSN New York and on CBS2 hosted by Kramer and Maurice Dubois on Thursday, June 10 at 7 p.m.

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