Urgent: New York City Needs a Public Advocate

The New York City office of Public Advocate is a desperately needed agent of oversight and accountability in New York City. Yet Mayor Michael Bloomberg has cut the budget for this office by 40% for fiscal year 2010, while he reduced the budget for his own office by just 1%. This was hardly surprising. From his successful bid to extend term limits last fall over the objections of a clear majority of New Yorkers, to the massive sums of public funds being wasted at the Department of Education, Bloomberg has proven time and again that he is not only out of touch but also unconcerned with the needs and problems facing real people in this City. Now, more than ever, New York needs an advocate who will stand up to the Mayor when he is wrong.

This is why last week I proposed legislation to make the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), and Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) independently funded. Politicizing the budgets of these offices makes them watchdogs without teeth. We are tying the hands of the Public Advocate, Comptroller, CCRB, and COIB by making them dependent on the very politicians they are supposed to hold accountable.In these tough economic times, I want to use the Public Advocate's office to ensure that our City agencies are open, accountable, and efficient, and that our tax dollars are spent wisely and fairly. I will also ensure that our City's pension and land use boards are utilized properly to foster economic growth and jobs, maintain long-term financial security, and create permanent affordable housing. And as a public school parent myself, I know all too well the trials that parents across the City face in dealing with our current school system. I will fight to make the Department of Education more transparent, and I will work to give parents a stronger voice in their children's education through our Parent Teacher Associations and Community Education Councils.

If ever there was a fight that proved we need a Public Advocate, it was the fight over term limits. When the Mayor tried to overturn term limits in silence, without a referendum, without a debate, without any regard for how the public felt, I had to stand up. It may not have been the politically expedient thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. The Public Advocate was created to be a check on the Mayor's power because of moments like this, where one man decided to overrule the will of the people. In these times, with this Mayor, that need has never been greater.

In a city of over eight million, with nearly one hundred city agencies under the control of a mayor with unparalleled power and influence, there is no doubt that New Yorkers need an independently budgeted Public Advocate making sure their voice is heard.