Anthony Weiner Gets Professorial on ‘Big Thought Thursday’

Anthony Weiner delivering his speech.

Anthony Weiner delivering his speech.

In the first major policy speech of his campaign for mayor, Anthony Weiner was all business.

Standing next to a projected PowerPoint presentation laden with images of a financial charts and graphs, the normally-wisecracking-candidate-turned-staid-professor laid out his plan to overhaul the city’s health care system, including establishing a “single payer laboratory.”

“We have a health care policy that’s really like a Kurosawa thing. This isn’t Rashomon, this is taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Weiner told a crowd of reporters, medical practitioners and supporters gathered in a first floor lecture hall at CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College on what his campaign had dubbed “‘Big Thought Thursday.” He was referencing the famous Japanese film-maker, whose film Rashomon  chronicled contradictory accounts of the same events.

Taking a page from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s yearly budget presentations, Mr. Weiner clicked through slides breaking down city expenditures on health care, with a laser pointer in hand. This was a tempered, prepared version of Mr. Weiner– similar to the attentive candidate who was largely eclipsed by rivals’ squabbling during last night’s live televised debate.

Health care has become a favorite topic for Mr. Weiner on the campaign trail. His plans, first introduced in his “Keys to the City” policy book, include proposals to better cover the uninsured and under-insured, as well as a push for city workers to pay a proportion of their own health costs: 10 percent for most workers and 25 percent for smokers.

Asked about how his policy compared to his Democratic rivals, Mr. Weiner was typically blunt.

“I am unfamiliar with the proposals of my opponents with health care reform. And by unfamiliar, I could say I don’t think there are any,” he quipped.

Prior to the beginning of the speech, another candidate, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, issued a press release touting his own health care plan, including efforts to “enroll 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers in health insurance plans via the Affordable Care Act” and to create 16 new community health clinics in high-need areasby 2018.

Mr. Weiner said he was unaware of his opponent’s plan, but welcomed the effort.

“I think this is an important conversation. I don’t think you can run for mayor in the city of New York and not have ideas about such an important part of our budget, such an important part of our economy,” he said.