In discussing ways to save and promote small business, the candidates were unanimous in supporting some form of commercial rent regulation. Mr. Diamondstone also advocated giving storefront tenants a right of first and last refusal when a landlord puts a building up for sale. Mr. Baer proposed use of “local currency” redeemable only for purchases from local stores, which he said has succeeded in some New England communities. Mr. Thies noted that many business start-ups are not storefront businesses but rather freelance operations that do not have a bricks and mortar presence. He said the biggest obstacle for these businesses is the City’s unincorporated business tax. The threshold for this tax has been raised to $100,000, but Mr. Thies advocates eliminating it completely.
Asked whether, as a City Council member, he would act independently of his former boss, State Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez, Mr. Levin said he would be guided by his own moral compass. Asked what, as a City Council member, he could do about health care, which he has made a central issue in his campaign, Mr. Biviano pointed out that the City’s charter empowers it to protect the health of the citizenry. San Francisco, he noted, has attempted to establish its own health care program, although it is facing a challenge under the federal ERISA statute.
During a “lightning round” in which candidates were asked to give “yes” or “no” answers, all said that some tax increases would be necessary to meet the City’s fiscal needs, but Mr. Biviano said he would address the issue of corruption first. Asked whether some limit should be imposed on the number of double-deck tour buses entering the neighborhood, all said “yes” except Mr. Biviano, who said, “Electric buses.”
One question did elicit some disagreement among the candidates. Asked if $600,000 for installing historic lampposts in the Heights is an appropriate use of funds, the answers were: Levin, “Questionable”; Diamondstone, “Yes”; Baer, “No”; Simon, “Yes”; Thies, “No”; Biviano, “Not now.”