Up Close With NYC's Mayoral Candidates: Joe Lhota (R)
Born in the Bronx, and now a resident of Brooklyn Heights, 58-year-old Joseph J. “Joe” Lhota is a longtime New Yorker.
He graduated from Georgetown and Harvard Business School before working as an Investment Banker for 15 years. He then served as Budget Director in Rudy Giuliani’s first term as Mayor, and Deputy Mayor for Operations during his second term. After leaving office he was an executive at Cablevision and the Madison Square Garden Company, before being tapped by Governor Andrew Cuomo to head the M.T.A. in late 2011. Lhota is a millionaire off real estate investments and owns a vacation home on Nantucket.
With “who’s going to educate your children?” as a common rhetorical question throughout his campaign, Lhota’s seems to be trying to make education a signature issue. A big supporter of charter schools, Lhota told “The Atlantic” that the number of them needs to double, at a minimum. He sees we can look at Charter Schools like “laboratories” where good education styles and policy can be developed before being adopted--and adapted--by NYC Public Schools.
Safety and Crime Prevention
Lhota believes the NYPD needs to be more transparent, going into the communities they serve and explaining tactics like “stop and frisk.” Regarding that controversial tactic he says there’s no issue of the practice itself, but the police need to “make sure the men and women of the NYPD are trained properly to use it.” He describes himself as “not one of those people who wants to handcuff the New York City Police Department,” and supports universal background checks on owning firearms. Lhota would be happy to stay with Ray Kelly as NYPD Commissioner and would hope Kelly could help choose a successor if he were to step down.
Lhota doesn’t seem to have said much on health care, but, as stated below, he’s asking city employees to pay a greater share of health care costs under new negotiations for union contracts.
Lhota has expressed a need to revamp New York City’s tax structure to make it more “business friendly”--all in an effort to create more jobs. Lhota also fully supports the rezoning of Midtown East to allow for new, taller buildings. He knows the area well--his campaign office is a few doors down from Grand Central Terminal. Lhota said one of the first things he would do as Mayor is call together the Presidents of all New York City’s colleges and universities to have a conversation about which industries the city needs to focus on to allow continued growth. He’s also told City and State that he supports bringing casinos to the City, but only in spots far from schools and with good parking.
Lhota is really pushing for the small business vote, starting a “small business tour” the week of August 5th. He says the goal of visiting everywhere from pizza joints to manufacturing plants is to “establish a dialogue between the next mayor and our small businesses." He’s been critical of the “burdensome tax and regulatory policies” enforced on small business, saying the city government has been fining them to make ends meet on its growing budget.
Lhota’s calling for a “complete evaluation” of the city’s tax structure as soon as he would enter office. He wants to make sure New York City’s “business friendly, “Not because I want businesses here, but because I want jobs here.” He also hopes to shrink the size of the City government, which he says is growing at 55% over the rate of inflation.
With union contracts sure to be a big issue for the next mayor, Lhota’s taking a stance similar to Mayor Bloomberg. He calls himself “the only candidate who has repeatedly said the city cannot afford retroactive raises for public employee unions.” Like Bloomberg, he’s also asking for employees to pay a greater share of health care costs, taking some of the burden off the city.
Chairman and CEO of the MTA was Lhota’s last job before becoming a full-time Mayoral candidate this year. He served as head of the agency for a little over a year, from late 2011 through the end of 2012, and oversaw the preparation and response to Superstorm Sandy, possibly the most disruptive event in the history of the MTA. Naturally he’s got some ideas for the city, like building parking lots at the end of subway lines to entice more drivers to become straphangers. Also, according to the New York Times, he has considered extending the R Train to Staten Island and transferring control of the M.T.A.’s bridges and tunnels to the city government. Lhota says transferring control of the M.T.A. to the city would be unlikely, but he’d like the City to at least have more power within the agency. It’s not all public transportation for Mr. Lhota though. He has thrown his support behind bike lanes, saying roads must be shared by bikes and pedestrians and trucks and cars and busses.
Lhota doesn’t seem to speak much on the environment, but he has said one of the moves he was most proud of in the Giuliani administration was closing Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, which he called “an environmental disaster.” He told the Wall Street Journal that after the close “the quality of life for people on Staten Island has radically changed.”
Post-Sandy Recovery and Rebuilding
This is where Lhota’s name became known to many New Yorkers as he led the MTA in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Following Mayor Bloomberg’s release of a “storm resiliency plan,” Lhota puts out a press release not commenting on the plan, but adding one recommendation: “the state should mandate electrical companies whose service areas cover evacuated flood zones to terminate power prior to expected storm surges to prevent another mass fire like the one that swept through Breezy Point during Superstorm Sandy.”
Edit: Lhota did comment on the resiliency plan, commnded Mayor Bloomberg. He also committed to continuing to implement the "ambitious capital projects that will be started" in relation to the plan.
Lhota does not seem to have said much on hunger, but has tried to make job creation a signature issue, saying “every New Yorker deserves a good-paying job.”
Lhota reportedly used to label himself an “unabashed Libertarian” in his Twitter bio, but since the beginning of the campaign he seems to have gotten a little bashful. He now more tentatively admits to having libertarian leanings, apparently uncomfortable with the divisive term. True to those “leanings” Lhota told City and State he believes marijuana should be legalized, regulated, and taxed--but don’t expect him to campaign on that. He says “the Mayor has no role whatsoever” in legalizing marijuana, and would leave it up to the Governor and state legislature. Lhota is also Pro-Choice, according to the New York Times.
More of WFUV's Coverage on Republican Mayoral Candidate Joe Lhota:
GOP Council Members Back Lhota for Mayor (3/20/13)