Laugh all you want about Anthony Weiner. He of the crotch shot seen ’round the world that forced him to resign his New York City congressional seat two years ago next month. The brash Big Apple native is now running for the Democratic nomination for mayor and to underestimate him and his chances would be a big mistake.
When Weiner made his first run for the nomination in 2005, he was a long-shot candidate. At the time, I was an informal adviser to Mike Bloomberg’s second reelection campaign and was all set to vote for Weiner in the Democratic primary. Weiner was the best candidate in the field, yet he was doomed to lose to a more popular Dem in the field who would be a politically weaker opponent against Bloomberg. That is, until his “Diner” ad targeting middle-class voters for a 10-percent tax cut hit the airwaves. That ad and Weiner’s ideas struck a chord with the electorate, particularly my friends who didn’t pay attention to local politics. As a result, he almost forced a runoff with the man who went on to lose to Bloomberg.
Now Weiner’s back and armed with the same kind of smart ideas that made him a force eight years ago. “Keys to the City: 64 ideas to keep New York the capital of the middle class” contains proposals that should spark an interesting debate.
He wants the city’s board of education to play an active role in preserving the city’s dwindling Catholic schools (No. 5). He believes that schools should be used after hours — “even for churches” (No. 10). Food Stamps should be given 50 percent more value when used for fresh produce (No. 16). State properties should pay city property taxes (No. 26). New York City should be turned into a “single-payer laboratory” (No. 29). City workers who smoke should pay higher health insurance premiums (No. 36). There should be DNA taken from more arrestees (No. 39). Five percent of waste should be chopped from the city budget (No. 41), which was part of Weiner’s plan in 2005. All contracts with the city should be published (No. 43). Senior citizen housing should be created on hospital parking lots (No. 53). Weiner’s ideas for job retention and tax reform are not as imaginative. Still, they will put him in the middle of a vigorous debate about the future of New York City.
Weiner might not have a giant campaign staff or supporters from the political class chomping at the bit to sing his praises. But he has drive and limitless gumption to sell his ideas. His fellow challengers for the Democratic mayoral nomination would do well to take him seriously.
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