In the aftermath of the recent Democratic mayoral primary, some (although not a lot) of attention was paid to the concession speech of former Brooklyn-Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner. He maintained that he had the most innovative ideas of the campaign, but that he was an “imperfect messenger.” Perhaps to prove this point, he was photographed “giving the finger” to a reporter.
The strange thing is that Weiner may have been right about his election platform. A look at his usually-ignored “Keys to the City” reveals some strikingly innovative, far-reaching ideas. Here are some of them:
- A single-payer health plan for the uninsured in New York City. Consider this—several states, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, have their own health care plans. New York City has more people than the entire state of Vermont.
- Push mold elimination requests to the front of maintenance requests for housing projects. Mold is as toxic today as lead paint was yesterday.
- Conduct an air rights audit for New York City properties, such as schools and police stations. Taking advantage of unused air rights could add millions to the city treasury.
- Create a new Mitchell-Lama-type program to build housing for the middle class similar to the well-known program of the 1960s. Since Mayor Bloomberg took office, it seems that residential construction is done either for the well-to-do or for low-income people (the latter often proving a bonanza for politically connected non-profits).
- Encourage the Housing Authority to buy energy-efficient lights, boilers and windows that will pay for themselves in energy costs and save untold amounts in repairs and day-to-day maintenance.
- End arrests for small amounts of marijuana that take officers’ attention away from fighting serious crime. The main reason these laws are on the books is so that officers can show their superiors how many “collars” they made.
- Give incentives for experienced teachers who choose to teach in low-income schools. Nowadays, most teachers who work in these schools are beginners who are waiting to get tenure so they can transfer out.
- Eliminate city income taxes for New Yorkers who make $40,000 or less. This, Weiner said, will cost the city only “one half of one percent of the total budget, while generating hundreds of dollars in savings for middle-class and struggling New Yorkers.”
- Put cab stands for yellow cabs in every borough. This would make it easier for yellow cabs to find fares in the outer boroughs and would attract more of them to Brooklyn, the Bronx, etc.
- Institute “lead time” for pedestrians at traffic lights, giving them a few seconds of walking time before cars start to move. This would be a godsend to seniors who can’t walk fast.
- Give incentives to cab fleet owners who choose hybrid or other energy-efficient cabs, rather than insisting that all cabbies drive the same vehicle (the “Taxi of Tomorrow”).
- Give a bonus to families on food stamps who buy fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than penalizing those who buy unhealthy foods.
While some of these ideas may already be in Mr. de Blasio’s, Mr. Thompson’s or Mr. Lhota’s playbook, others are probably unique to Mr. Weiner. Just because Weiner’s personal behavior is suspect doesn’t mean his ideas aren’t worthwhile. If some of them are put into action, they, rather than the “Carlos Danger” scandal, should become Anthony Weiner’s most lasting legacy.