Democrats would lift Bloomberg’s cell phone ban, Carrion open to drones

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At a technology forum this afternoon, the major Democratic mayoral candidates all agreed that they would lift Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on cell phones in public schools if elected.

"We can't say we want [students] to learn on the internet and then when they come to school, take away the only device they have to access the Internet," said City Comptroller John Liu, who called the current policy "silly."

The forum, called "Start Up City," was hosted by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and mayoral forum was moderated by Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith.

When Smith asked the other candidates if they agreed with Liu, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, an ally of the current mayor, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a critic of the mayor, former comptroller Bill Thompson, who ran against the mayor in 2009, and former Councilman Sal Albanese, all said yes.

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After the panel, Thompson noted that students who have to pay to store their cell phones in bodegas and shops while they're at school are economically penalized, and added that it could be a safety issue.

"You're not able to stay in touch with your child during school days to make sure everything is okay, to make sure they are where they say they're supposed to be, to make sure they're safe," he told reporters later.

He added, "You want students to be able to bring their phones to school. It's a safety issue."

De Blasio agreed.

"How on Earth are parents going to monitor" and "keep on top of their kids if their kids don't have cell phones?" he asked reporters. "I tried talking to the mayor about this," he added, saying Bloomberg was ignoring "parental rights."

The Democratic candidates also agreed that they oppose using drones as part of the New York Police Department's crime fighting and security efforts.

Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is running on the Independent Party line, said he was open to the idea, which Bloomberg has cast as seemingly inevitable.

Carrion, who formerly served as White House Urban Policy Director, offered an implicit criticism of the administration's drone policy, saying the term itself was "weighted down by the fact that we've used drones for bombing in other places in the world, killing children and women and other people that were innocent bystanders and we're having to deal with that in the Congress of the United States and as a people [in] a free, democratic society that is trying to advance freedom."