In their final debate before next week’s election, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and city Comptroller Bill Thompson tussled over taxes, education and the new Yankee Stadium Tuesday night night.
Neither man landed a knock-out punch, though there were several barbed exchanges: Thompson twice accused Bloomberg of lying, while the mayor insisted his opponent would raise taxes.
Both argued over whether the city was affordable to the middle class, with Thompson suggesting the billionaire mayor cannot relate to the average New Yorker.
“Everybody realizes that the mayor is out of touch with the people he represents,” Thompson said.
Bloomberg, in turn, said most people he meets on the subway and on the streets do not view him that way.
“It’s very easy to say, ‘I feel your pain,’” Bloomberg said. “That’s not what we need. We need people who are actually going to do something to make this city better.”
The pressure was on Thompson — who trails Bloomberg by 16 points in a recent poll — to leave a lasting impression on the electorate, whose interest in the race has been spotty.
The questions focused largely on the economy and education, with only one brief exchange over Bloomberg’s push to extend term limits, which Thompson vehemently opposed.
The most testy exchanges came when Thompson accused Bloomberg of “cooking the books” at the Department of Education and compared his stewardship of the schools to Enron.
Bloomberg said Thompson would implement “job-killing taxes” and assailed his tenure as president of the Board of Education.
One question, asked by a New Yorker interviewed by a reporter for ABC, which hosted the debate, concerned the taxpayer-financed bonds used for the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, where the World Series begins tonight.
Bloomberg called it a wise investment that would yield more parkland for neighborhood residents, while Thompson lambasted the deal as a “giveaway.”
In one of the more unusual moments of the night, each man was asked to give the other a grade. Thompson, laughing awkwardly, said he would “be kind” and give the mayor a D-.
Bloomberg declined to give a grade but offered his opponent a rare compliment.
“I think Bill has actually been a reasonably good comptroller,” he said. “It has been a pleasure working with him.”