New York City’s Public Advocate’s office (formerly called the President of the City Council) was created in 1993 as a public watchdog to serve as a check on the mayor’s office. However, there are other checks on the mayor’s office (the voters, the city council, the press) and many have claimed that the Public Advocate office is a complete waste of taxpayer money.
The New York (NY) Post and other newspapers have frequently called for the Public Advocate’s elimination. The Post compared the office to an appendix—a body part that serves an unknown function and is often removed. In editorials on December 28, 2004 and July 6, 2009, the Post wrote about “The Office of Public Appendix” and ‘The Public Appendix.”
Wikipedia: New York City Public Advocate
The office of Public Advocate for the City of New York is a citywide elected position in New York City, which is first in line to succeed the Mayor. The office serves as a direct link between the electorate and city government, effectively acting as an ombudsman, or “watchdog,” for New Yorkers.
The office was created in 1993, when the New York City Council voted to rename the position of President of the City Council. Following the City Charter revision of 1990 which eliminated the powerful New York City Board of Estimate on which the President held a seat, the post was seen as largely ceremonial; its only notable responsibility was to cast the deciding vote in the City Council in the unlikely event of a tie. At the time, it was thought likely that the post would be abolished altogether.
The position nevertheless survived, and has thus far been held by two Democrats, Mark Green and Betsy Gotbaum. The 2009 election to succeed Gotbaum is highly competitive.
The Public Advocate presides over all stated meetings of the New York City Council. As the presiding officer, the Public Advocate is an ex-officio member of all committees in the Council, and in that capacity has the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation. The Public Advocate also serves as an ombudsman for city government, providing oversight for city agencies, investigating citizens’ complaints about city services and making proposals to address perceived shortcomings or failures of those services. These duties, worded somewhat ambiguously, are laid out in Section 24 of the City Charter. The Public Advocate is also charged with appointing members to various boards and commissions, including one member of the New York City Planning Commission. The Public Advocate serves on the committee which selects the director of the Independent Budget Office.
The Public Advocate is limited to two four-year terms in office. Along with the Mayor and the Comptroller, it is one of only three offices elected by all the city’s voters.
Public Advocate for the City of New York
Office of the Public Advocate
The Public Advocate’s powers are laid out in Section 24 of the City Charter and include the following provisions.
“...the public advocate shall… review complaints of a recurring and multiborough or citywide nature relating to services and programs, and make proposals to improve the city’s response to such complaints… receive individual complaints concerning city services and other administrative actions of city agencies; and investigate and otherwise attempt to resolve such individual complaints.”
“...The Public Advocate may, on the request of a resident, taxpayer, community board, council member or borough president, or on his or her own motion, inquire into any alleged failure of a city officer or agency to comply with any provision of the Charter...”
“... the Public Advocate shall have timely access to those records and documents of city agencies which the Public Advocate deems necessary to complete the investigations, inquiries and reviews required by this section.”
The Public Advocate presides over all stated meetings of the City Council, a locally elected body with 51 members representing communities across New York . As the presiding officer, Public Advocate Gotbaum is an ex-officio member of all committees in the Council, and in that capacity has the right to introduce and co-sponsor legislation.
The Public Advocate is a Trustee on the Board of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) which is New York City ‘s largest retirement system, serving 200,000 current employees and 130,000 retirees. As of December 31, 2004 the fund had 34 billion dollars in assets. As a Trustee the Public Advocate’s fiduciary responsibility consists of ensuring that members’ retirement benefits are available upon retirement and that the fund maximizes its return on investment at appropriate levels of risk.
Public Advocate Gotbaum sits on an appointments committee to select the Director of the Independent Budget Office (IBO). The IBO is a publicly funded agency dedicated to enhancing understanding of New York City ‘s budget by providing non-partisan budgetary, economic, and policy analysis for the residents of the city and their elected officials. In September 2002, an appointing committee consisting of the Comptroller, the Public Advocate, a representative of City Council, and a representative of the Borough Presidents selected Ronnie Lowenstein to be IBO’s director for a four year term.
The role of the Voter Assistance Commission (VAC) is to encourage and facilitate voter registration and voting by all eligible United States citizens residing in New York City . VAC is strictly nonpartisan. Public Advocate Gotbaum is one of seven commissioners who serve as ex-officio members on the Commission.
Public Advocate Gotbaum serves as an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees at the Museum of the City of New York. BG is an ex-officio member meaning she attends the board’s quarterly meetings but does not vote.
Finally, Public Advocate Gotbaum serves as an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees at the Queens Borough Public Library.
Wikipedia: Vermiform appendix
In human anatomy, the appendix (or vermiform appendix; also cecal (or caecal) appendix; also vermix) is a blind-ended tube connected to the cecum (or caecum), from which it develops embryologically. The cecum is a pouchlike structure of the colon. The appendix is near the junction of the small intestine and the large intestine.
The term “vermiform” comes from Latin and means “worm-shaped”.
Given the appendix’s propensity to cause death by infection, and the general good health of people who have had their appendix removed or who have a congenital absence of an appendix, the appendix is traditionally thought to have no function in the human body. However, new studies propose that the appendix may harbor and protect bacteria that are beneficial in the function of the human colon. There have been no reports of impaired immune or gastrointestinal function in people without an appendix.
The most common explanation is that the human appendix is a vestigial structure which does absolutely nothing for the body. (There has been little study of its function in the other animals in which it occurs - apes, wombats and some rodents - or comparison with animals in which it does not occur.)
Monday, August 29, 2005
Eliminating the Public Advocate
Anyone who is familiar with my campaign knows that my #1 issue is eliminating the office of Public Advocate altogether. Recently I came across this NY Post editorial from last December that makes essentially the same points I have been making throughout my campaign. Now that I think about it, I do recall reading this editorial at the time, but I had forgotten about it. Anyway, I agree with everything below:
THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC APPENDIX
28 December 2004
New York Post
Publicity-hound lawyer and public scold Norman Siegel says he’s decided to challenge incumbent Betsy Gotbaum next year for New York City public advocate – a position whose only other prior holder was Mark Green. Apparently, the 2-to-1 trouncing he got from Gotbaum in the 2001 Democratic primary runoff hasn’t lessened Siegel’s appetite for the office.
Well, that’s his right, of course.
But the fact remains that the Public Advocate, a job created 10 years ago, is the most pointless political position in the entire city. It provides nothing of value except a platform for someone who likes holding press conferences – to wit: Green, Gotbaum, Siegel – and hopes to run for higher office.
And that’s no reason to be spending scarce tax dollars. This position has to go.
New York (NY) Post
THE PUBLIC APPENDIX
July 6, 2009
Pity Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum—who now holds what is without ques tion the most useless elected office in city government.
Even the hapless borough presidents, as of last week, hold (alas) some real power—thanks to their sway over the reconstituted Board of Education.
So no wonder city pols seem to be warming to the idea of scrapping the public-advocate office entirely.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Monday, July 06, 2009 • Permalink