Fresh off his spirited and occasionally contentious debate of the previous evening, GOP mayoral candidate Joe Lhota spoke to a packed room at the BOMA/NY Annual Conference and Leadership Breakfast and left no doubt that a Lhota administration would be a sharp and clear departure from the last 12 years.
Criticizing the platforms of his opponent Bill de Blasio and some policies of the current mayor, Lhota said his New York will be a city that does “more than survives, it will soar.”
His prepared remarks took on de Blasio’s platforms as positions that could return NYC to the era of squeegee men and broken windows that marked the ‘80s, a period, he said, when Bill de Blasio served in government and learned the wrong lessons. “He’s never run anything,” said Lhota, and “he is not a tested leader.”
Lhota, who ran the MTA and served as Mayor Giuliani’s Deputy Mayor and Director of Management and Budget — and promised to put the “management” back in the office — sketched out his key goals for the business audience:
NYC was recently ranked as one of the worst cities in which to do business; property taxes have gone up by $10 billion over the past 10 to 11 years, he said.
De Blasio’s call for more taxes was anathema to the GOP candidate who called for “fairness and transparency” overall. “An increase is not on the table.”
More specifically, a Lhota administration will not allow DOB fines and fees to be used as a tool to balance the budget, and he called the practice “illegal for violating state law.”
He also called for online education of businesses, using an easily searchable DOB website that would email notifications in advance of every regulation change.
“Inspectors will be trained to keep fines consistent,” and fines themselves would be subject to a cure period—a period of 3 to 5 days to fix the infraction with no fine imposed. If the infraction is fixed when inspectors come back to inspect the site, no fine would be levied.
“All crimes matter,” said Lhota, promising to ardently pursue quality of life issues. “If they are not pursued,” he said, the broken window theory — the window as a sign of growing deterioration — takes hold.
The candidate then took questions from the BOMA/NY audience on issues affecting our industry:
Gun control: “There are way too many illegal guns in NYC and I will vigorously uphold our gun control laws,” he said. He also praised the NYPD for their strategy of going to the source — often illegal shops in the south — following the gun runners to NYC and apprehending them as soon as they cross the George Washington Bridge. This policing action is part of the reason why NYC will have an historically low murder rate this year, he added.
Terrorism: He is in full support of how the NYPD works with federal and other sources and will continue to make resources available for fighting terrorism a top priority.
DOB: Lhota called for simplifying procedures such as contractor annual license renewals. “There’s no need to make a personal appearance every year where you sit and wait for hours. If you can get your New York State driver’s license online easily, NYC’s system should be even better.” He pointed to a more accessible website as one of the answers and felt annual renewals are excessive.
Sustainability: Seeing this movement as Bloomberg’s legacy, and one with which he agrees, Lhota pledged to make NYC even more sustainable and keep it the sustainability leader among America’s major cities.
Small business: “I want to keep small business here — taxes are too high, and we must the lower the cost of business.” He sees regulations as throttling business development, and pointed out that his opponent’s call for higher taxes “is a recipe for disaster.”
Union contracts: All 153 bargaining units are without a contract—some have gone for 3-5 years without one and wages have been stagnant. Moreover, the labor reserve was used up by the Bloomberg administration and so the dollars are gone for possible retroactive pay increases.
Lhota said he will begin negotiating on Nov. 7 with all concerned parties.
“I will listen to them, they will listen to me, then we’ll come back and work it out together. We will create a roadmap to solve the problem together. I’m not in the pocket of the unions,” he added. “I am in the pocket of the people of the city of New York.”
Parking fines: Fines and tickets have been used to balance the budget, which he called “outrageous.”
Lhota said we need to look to cities like Minneapolis Saint Paul and Boston to see how they deal with traffic congestion. In Minneapolis, for example, FedEx trucks pay a premium for a three-hour parking spot, from which they make all deliveries in the area.
“It is far more efficient and effective,” he reported adding that he is looking forward to instituting changes that are fair and do not penalize businesses.