Commentary: Lhota should pitch lotsa ideas
With Anthony Weiner back in his cage and Washington engulfed by the federal shutdown, Americans have forgotten New York’s mayoral race. What started as a sex farce starring Weiner as Carlos Danger has become a battle between David and Goliath, somewhat literally. The latest Wall Street Journal-NBC 4 New York-Marist survey finds former Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota, an average-sized Republican, 44 points behind Democrat Bill de Blasio, a man as far left as he is remarkably tall.
Voters will decide in three weeks whether America’s financial and media center remains in Republican hands or becomes yet another toppled liberal domino. Given his 23 percent to 67 percent deficit, Lhota might as well run boldly on reformist, free-market and limited-government ideas. Such proposals could inspire like-minded local candidates across America.
• Government pensions. Lhota should promise to end pension spiking. Retirees will see a fair and appropriate percentage of what they earned across their entire careers, not what they artificially rack up during their last year or two via double and triple overtime.
Let de Blasio echo Lhota or stand up and explain to New York’s exhausted taxpayers why they should keep fueling this key driver of local spending and debt.
• Public-sector health benefits. According to a Citizens Budget Commission report released in January, “More than 90 percent of the municipal workforce is enrolled in health insurance plans that require no employee contribution toward the cost of the premium for basic individual and family coverage. The city continues to pay the full cost for employees and their families if they retire before the age of 65. When they enroll in Medicare at age 65, retirees are reimbursed by the city for the full cost of the Part B premiums.”
That’s right. Nine out of 10 city workers here pay zero for medical coverage. Gotham taxpayers would love this deal. Alas, the commission discovered, private workers in 2011 paid 20 percent of individual premiums and 23 percent of family coverage.
Big Apple government employees should pay their fair share for health insurance.
Let de Blasio endorse Lhota’s idea or explain to private-sector taxpayers why they should help purchase their own health coverage and also finance 100 percent of public servants’ medical premiums.
• Charter schools. Lhota wants to double today’s numerical cap on charter schools. Better yet, scrap the cap. Let parents and students determine the number of charters. If traditional public schools succeed, charter demand will dwindle. And if they fail, charters will help students — mainly black and Hispanic — escape the academic rubble.
Also, vacant space at government schools and other public buildings should be open to charters.
De Blasio can agree with Lhota or, more likely, spurn urban parents and keep eating from the teachers union’s hands.
• Public safety is a civil right. New Yorkers, especially in dangerous neighborhoods, have a civil right to walk around without becoming crime victims. This requires tough policing — including stop-question-and-frisk tactics — and tough-but-smart police officers, starting with Commissioner Ray Kelly. Lhota should ask Kelly to keep leading the NYPD.
• Fight the job drain. High taxes and anti-business regulations repel employers and jobs. Low tax rates and a pro-growth atmosphere, Lhota forcefully should explain, will generate and import opportunity.
• Rent deduction. Let apartment renters partially write off their rent against their taxes. Why should homeowners have all the fun?
• Public integrity. Lhota should visit Queens to endorse GOP City Council candidate Dennis Saffran and his excellent anti-corruption ideas.
City employees indicted for graft would be suspended without pay. Those convicted would forfeit their pensions. Period. De Blasio should follow Lhota’s lead or tell scandal-weary citizens why he won’t.
• Inclusion: In this singles-heavy city, speeches about “people helping their families” talk right past unmarried and childless citizens. Invoking individuals, families and loved ones includes everyone.
Joe Lhota has a vertical path to victory. But if this David somehow topples Bill de Blasio’s Goliath, he will remind Republicans how to win urban voters.