Congressman Anthony Weiner took on a broad range of topics during yesterday’s hour-long telephone town hall meeting, touching upon neighborhood and international issues alike.
Weiner’s star continues to rise on the heels of the Democratic healthcare victory, and he made clear in the beginning of the call that he’s now tackling economic issues.
But that didn’t stop residents from picking the congressman’s mind about climate change, civil rights, stimulus funds, healthcare, social security, education and even the perceived threat mosques present to the United States.
You can hear the full audio of the call here:
Here were some of the more interesting responses Weiner gave:
Plumb Beach Erosion – Congressman Weiner said he’s allocated funds to do emergency repairs to the beach, which was heavily damaged by this year’s nor’easter season. He acknowledged the threat to the Belt Parkway, which he said if it takes more damage may need to be closed, forcing an enormous amount of traffic onto local roadways. But the pol said his hands are tied beyond getting the money and coordinating with the Army Corps of Engineers. “The fact is it’s the state that has to step up with a plan,” he said. “That is a state highway … this ultimately is going to need some long-term solutions, we can’t just keep putting sand there.”
Mosques and Terrorism – A caller concerned about radical teachings and preaching hatred at mosques asked the congressman what the government can do to limit the activities of mosques. “The short answer to that is that even in a religious institution you can’t break the law,” he said. Mosques, like any other group, are barred from inspiring hate, inciting violence, conspiring to commit a crime, or harboring terrorists. But until a mosque does that, the Constitution offers very clear protections. “Government should not be weighing in on religious activities, whether it be where the institutions are placed, whether it be what their teachings are.” He said. “I believe in the separation of church and state, I believe in it fully and I believe the overreaching of government is very dangerous … [but] if someone is doing anything to jeopordize our saftey and security, that of course trumps other considerations.”
Establishing a W.P.A. 2 – A caller asked Weiner if he would support a bill to create a new Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency that employed millions during the Depression era to build and maintain public works projects. “I believe we should, but we’re in the midst of what is really a very divided Congress and very divided country on the basic question of, ‘In these periods of time when we have high deficits, do you invest more to stimulate the economy to create more jobs, or do you dial back these programs?'” He said that history has shown that it’s important to get deficits under control, but at the same time cutting back too severely can deepen the recession.
Climate Change – Weiner admitted to a caller that the government has not been doing enough to combat greenhouse gas emissions, and said the “Senate is where [enivronmental bills] go to die.” However, he said he’s optimistic that the political environment is ripe for such a bill, with disasters like the oil spill reminding the nation of the costs of our energy policies. He also said we need to kick our addiction to foreign oil. “We have to solve the problem, the only question is whether we do it now or later under more difficult circumstances,” he said.
Increased Tolls on Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge – Weiner described the reinstatement of tolls on the bridge as a “constant battle, first to get the tolls eliminated and now they want to put them back in. My concern is that once you do that, it’s a slippery slope.” He pointed out that the bridge is the only place where you travel within the same borough and have to pay a toll. “That bridge there is really a lifeline and we’ve got to keep up the pressure,” he said. “It’s a necessity and not a luxury.”
Gay Marriage – “The question is from the civil-legal perspective, and I believe that they should” have the right to marry. “You can’t have two parallel legal systems for different types of relationships … I think this is a civil rights issue and I support people’s rights and their right to be married.”
On Corporate Jobs Moving to NJ – Weiner said the city and state made a “fundamental mistake” during the housing boom in 2006-7, when condos, co-ops and other housing units were being developed in the outerborough. He said more incentives need to be given for companies to move into developing outerborough neighborhoods, which have the existing transportation and other infrastructure, instead of pushing them across the river to New Jersey. “These are mistakes that we made as the government to New York City,” he said.
Bloomberg’s Proposal to Charge Extra for Garbage Pickup – “I’m very concerned about it,” said Weiner. “My view is that sometimes we say we’re keeping taxes where they are, but piling on fees and charges so that we’re doing the same thing.” The biggest problem with the proposed collection fee, according to Weiner, is that it was a closed process. “It’s reasonable to say that if you’re producing an annoying amount of garbage, okay, you pay extra,” he said. “But the way to do that is in a more honest way. There were never any hearings on this proposal, there was never any debate on this proposal. This was stuck in as a revenue raiser in the same budget that they were boasting didnt raise any taxes.”