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Eye On Politics: A Wide-Ranging Interview With Anthony Weiner

Former Congressman Running For Mayor Talks Sexting, Housing, Stop-And-Frisk, And More
New York City Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner campaigns in Harlem - May 23, 2013 (credit: TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

New York City Mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner campaigns in Harlem – May 23, 2013 (credit: TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Two years after a sexting scandal drove him from the U.S. House, Anthony Weiner is now trying to revive his political career with a run for New York City mayor.

Weiner spoke to WCBS 880′s Steve Scott on Friday and answered questions during Scott’s Eye on Politics segment.

“What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years that makes you a different Anthony Weiner now than you were then?” Scott asked.

“Well, look, I’ve gone through substantial changes,” Weiner said. “You know, for the first time in 20-some odd years, I wasn’t in a position of government, had a chance to look at it from the outside as a consumer. I have a 17 month old at home. That changes your perspective in an awful hurry.”

“One thing that hasn’t changed is my sense — that the middle class upbringing that I had, the sense that [an] affordable place and public schools that were pretty good and jobs with benefits — those types of things that made my career possible and made the Weiner family able to live and rise through the middle class. Those things are all under siege right now in New York,” Weiner said.

Some people, including some who supported Weiner in the past, have said that after his transgressions, they just can’t trust him in a position of leadership. Scott asked how Weiner would try to win them back.

“Well, I’m gonna keep trying to to talk about the issues important to the middle class and those struggling to make it. I’m going to try to remind people that my career has not been one instance, but a continuum of fighting for lower taxes for the middle class. I ran for mayor in 2005 on a platform of improving teacher pay and improving the quality of our public schools and trying to make it possible for teachers like my mom, who was a 31 year school teacher, to be able to do their jobs without interference,” Weiner told Scott.

“I’m going to talk about the ideas that I think matter to New Yorkers, but I certainly understand that there might be some people saying, ‘You know what, I’ll never vote for that guy in a hundred years. And even those citizens of New York, I want to have a conversation with about how we make the city better for the middle class and those struggling to make it.”

Weiner also said there were three things he would do about affordable housing.

“Right now just about every subsidy program we have are what are called ’80-20 programs’ – 80 percent market rate, 20 percent for low income people. But there’s no niche in there for middle class people. So, I propose that the formula change to more a 60-20-20. 60 percent market rate,” he said.

He said the average apartment in Manhattan is going for $1.2 million.

“So, you can have fewer market rate apartments and still have a very profitable venture for any real estate person,” he said.

“The second thing that I would do to make housing more affordable is I would say, ‘Look, we have to take some of these places that are now brownfield — unusable land because no one wants to figure out how to develop them because they’re unusable — and the city should take the liability for cleaning up those properties in exchange for making more affordable housing,” he said.

“The third thing, if you’re an oligarch coming from around the world to park your money in New York City and pay$10, $15 million for an apartment, we’re gonna tax you at a little higher rate than if you’re a neighborhood person in Sunnyside that is just trying to make a transaction to move into a bigger home,” Weiner added.

Should the controversial NYPD practice of stop-and-frisk be abolished?

“I would not abolish it. If someone is acting suspiciously and we think they’re gonna commit a crime, a police officer should be able to stop them,” Weiner said. “But if you’re a cop who’s stopping people and they haven’t done anything wrong, you’re a bad cop and you should be fired.”

Would Weiner as mayor keep Ray Kelly on as police commissioner?

“I think it’s time for some change at the top,” Weiner said. “But I like Ray Kelly and I think he’s a talented guy. So, if he’s willing to take another job in my administration, I might offer it to him.”

At a CBS New York town meeting Thursday night, many people said that they can’t afford a quality education for their kids, especially in neighborhoods like Harlem where the event took place.

“How would Weiner make the schools in New York City better?” Scott asked.

“Too many neighborhood schools are not attractive to neighborhood people anymore. What I would want to do, I would want to [give] teachers incentive. I want to pay them more if they’ll go to some of these tougher schools,” Weiner said. “I also [would] want to try out different things in schools that have space. That means maybe putting in a new lab, maybe even putting in a charter but making sure that we come up with new ideas for dealing with these schools, that we don’t abandon them and close them down.”

What does Weiner think the minimum wage should be in New York City?

“I think we should let the states set the minimum wage, but I think it’s pretty clear it needs to be higher,” he said, adding that for every middle class job lost, one and one-third lower wage jobs is gained.”

He said the median income in the city is about $45,000.

“That’s almost poverty in New York City. So, I think we do need to raise the minimum wage. I do think we should do it statewide though,” he said.

Though pressed, Weiner would not give a specific number, but said “I think that a livable wage is probably something more in the $15 range, maybe even more when you’re in New York City.”

What about the Upper East Side waste transfer station?

“It’s a bad idea. It’s going to cost about $200 million,” he said. “I think it’s a boondoggle and if I’m mayor I’m going to stop it.”

At an event on Wednesday, he was described by the Daily News as having lashed out when someone brought up the sexting scandal.

But Weiner described it a bit differently.

“It was a calm exchange that got a little ‘New York style,’” he said. “Someone wanted to yell and all I said was, ‘You can’t grandstand on this issue.’ But I tell you this, if someone wants to ask me about my personal failing, it’s their right to and I respect their right to. But also, there are a lot of people who want to talk about other issues and I’m not going to let anyone bully me or my neighbors.”

What is “New York style?”

“It’s basically standing up for what you believe in, speaking clearly to people, and understanding they’re going to push back pretty hard,” he said. “I frankly like that tussle of politics and tussle of the way we deal with things in New York. You can have five New Yorkers standing in a circle and you’ll have 12 or 13 opinions and I like it that way.”

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