Is It Really Necessary?

This coming Tuesday, a very small percentage of voters will turn out to vote in a run-off election for the Democratic candidate for Public Advocate between Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron.

While we are sure that either candidate will do a fine job in the position, we question whether the position – which is seen as largely ceremonial – is even necessary.

With an open seat caused by Bill de Blasio’s campaign for Mayor, City Republicans did not even attempt to field a candidate, effectively ensuring that whoever wins Tuesday’s run-off will be sworn into the position.

One of the duties of the Public Advocate is to serve as an ombudsman, providing oversight and investigating complaints from City residents. No matter how diligent in the role the Public Advocate is, however, it would be impossible to address the problems facing residents of five very diverse Boroughs that face even more diverse issues.

Would it not be best for an advocate for Queens to come from Queens and be elected by Queens residents? The office of the Borough President, whose power has been greatly reduced over the years, would be in a greater position to advocate for the issues affecting its constituents than one individual attempting to address problems City-wide. We imagine that the money allocated to the Public Advocate’s office would come in handy for the Borough Presidents as well.

When the City charter was amended 20 years ago, and the office of the Public Advocate created from the ashes of the cast-aside President of the City Council, many believed the position would be abolished completely. Perhaps it’s time the City acted on that notion.