No, that’s too hard. New quick test: name the responsibilities of the Public Advocate.
We’re waiting……time’s up.
You can’t. This is precisely the point: the office, which has a paltry $2 million annual budget, has few powers and exists mostly as a jumping-off point to run for a further office. Cue Bill de Blasio, the current Democratic nominee for Mayor, who just posted a whomping 40-point lead on closest rival Joe Lhota. He spent his time as Public Advocate making lists of bad landlords and proposing ill-fated ethics legislation and getting arrested at hospital protests – all worthwhile pursuits, perhaps, but not ones that immediately cry out for the necessity of this citywide office. But the idea of politicians eliminating plum jobs for themselves is like the idea of John Catsimatidis as Mayor: cosmically wonderful, but entirely unlikely. So here we go again.
What makes this year’s Public Advocate election especially jarring is the $20 million price tag for the runoff alone. If you’ve been keeping score at home, that makes this election cost ten times as much as the office’s annual budget. Yay.
Now that Bill Thompson has conceded to Bill de Blasio in the Democratic primary, the only candidates on October 1st’s primary runoff ballot will be the two individuals fighting Democratic nomination for Public Advocate. We’ll be having an entire election (complete with poll workers, voting machines, live results maps, etc.) so that a small minority of Democrats can choose between two people nobody has ever heard of to fill an office that does basically nothing. Let’s meet the candidates.
Letitia James is a City Councilwoman from Brooklyn. She’s been endorsed by the Working Families Party, which sits to the left of the Democrats and is mostly funded by major unions including the UAW and the SEIU. She vows to be “a fighter for all New Yorkers,” pledging to fight stop-and-frisk, “push for economic and social justice for all New Yorkers,” and generally “engage” and “speak out for” and “work with partners to” achieve nice-sounding progressive things. Notably, however, she was among the only City Councillors to speak out against the mega-corporate-backed Bloomberg-beloved Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, which points to an anti-establishment streak. Her presence in citywide office would at least give a few developers a scare.
Daniel Squadron is a New York State Senator notable for not being indicted during his time of service. He also happens to represent the beacons of hipsterdom: North Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. While in the State Senate, he wrote some ethics law and helped make the Brooklyn Bridge Park happen (at least, according to him). He was endorsed by the New York Times in the primary. Squadron brings to mind Jonathan Franzen’s withering description of a liberal state legislator in his novel Freedom:
a Professional Democrat…known for her advocacy of Open Space, Poor Children, and the Arts. Paradise for Joyce is an Open Space where Poor Children can go and do Arts at State Expense.
You get my drift: generally nice, with approximately the same likelihood of taking on something major and controversial as NYU has of winning a football game.
The Daily News made news this year when it endorsed Seinfeld for Public Advocate – a man famous for a show about nothing would be perfect, they figured, for an office that did nothing. James and Squadron both seem nice, but we’ll be writing Jerry in.