March 01, 2013 at 14:20 PM EST
Mayoral candidates spar over paid sick leave
One of the livelier moments in Thursday night's mayoral forum in Harlem was the back-and-forth between the candidates over the City Council's controversial paid sick leave legislation. It also may have left some voters with a false impression of where one of the candidates stood on the bill. WNYC host Brian Lehrer, who was moderating the event at at First Corinthian Baptist Church sponsored by the Community Service Society and building workers union 32BJ, asked whether the only two candidates on the panel not in favor of the paid sick leave bill were Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon. Former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who says he supports the concept of paid sick leave but has yet to take a position on the legislation , leaned toward his microphone, but before he could speak, Mr. Allon interjected that he did support the bill, but believed it should be coupled with tax credits for small businesses to help offset the costs. When Mr. Lehrer asked a second time whether anyone else did not support the bill, Mr. Thompson remained silent. Mr. Lehrer then asked Ms. Quinn, who has said she supports paid sick leave but that the economy is too fragile to mandate it now, what factors would convince her to allow a vote on the legislation. "That's not an easy question to calibrate," she said, to angry grumbling in the audience. "It's one where we're working presently to try to figure out whether you can find a set of independent triggers to look at something like that. "There are different factors one could view," she continued. "The unemployment rate, closure rates of businesses, growth rate, things of that nature. We're trying to figure it out to see what would be the right things to look at to get a more comprehensive picture. As has been said, although we have … regained the number of jobs that were lost in the recession, we still have an unemployment rate [8.8%] that's higher than the rest of the state." Comptroller John Liu, who throughout the night received the loudest approval from the audience for his comments, took the opportunity to refute the Democratic frontrunner. "Chris, there's no conclusive research that the sick leave act is detrimental to the economy," he said, to cheers from those in attendance. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, one of the bill's most vocal supporters, chimed in. "It's precisely in the moment of economic crisis when people are hurting that we need paid sick leave legislation passed," he said. "With all due respect to Speaker Quinn, her answer to me is not believable. More importantly, it ignores the reality on the ground." Mr. Lehrer then asked Mr. Thompson to weigh. But rather than clarify his position on the bill, the 2009 runner-up offered generalities that could have left some voters with the impression that he supported the current bill. He has not formally done so. "I support paid sick," he said. "I'm going to make a couple of additional recommendations over the next couple weeks. We need to move forward now. At the same point, business and workers aren't at odds, they work together." A spokesman for Mr. Thompson was not immediately available for comment.
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