Bloomberg Wants to Axe Public Advocate

Presumptive PA-elect de Blasio takes exception -- go figure

Maybe Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum knew what she was doing when she decided not to run for re-election.

"You should get rid of the public advocate," declared Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday during a meeting with the editorial board of the  Staten Island Advance.

"It's a total waste of everybody's money. Nobody needs another gadfly and we have an aggressive enough press."

Along with Mayor and Comptroller, the Public Advocate is one of only three elected by citywide vote and benefited from Bloomberg's end-run elimination of term limits.

The position of Public Advocate, first in the line of succession if the Mayor is unable to finish out a term, was the new name given to the of President of the City Council in 1993. The office may have been done away with entirely in 1989 when a charter revision did away with the Board of Estimate.  But it was largely saved at the behest of Council President Andrew Stein who argued that the city needed a high-profile counterbalance to the mayor's office.  The office was renamed before the 1993 election.

Its primary responsibility was to break ties in City Council votes, a power that Bloomberg managed to get eliminated in 2002. He has since hacked away the office's budget with regularity.

On Sept. 29 Democrat Bill de Blasio won a primary run-off over Mark Green, the very first Public Advocate from 1994 to 2001. De Blasio is expected to defeat 26-year-old Alex Zablocki in Nov. 3 election that is widely seen as little more than a formality.

Not surprisingly, de Blasio doesn't quite see eye-to-eye with Bloomberg.

"Mayor Bloomberg cannot keep changing the rules to suit his political needs," the presumptive Public Advocate said in a statement released a day following Bloomberg's speech. 

"He extended term limits without giving the voters a say and now he plans to eliminate the one Citywide office that is a real check on his power.  I hope Mayor Bloomberg will reconsider his comments because our city government, now more than ever,  truly needs checks and balances."

It only makes sense for de Blasio to speak out against Bloomberg's suggestion, but in reality he need not worry about his job security.

"Whether [getting rid of the Public Advocate] is worth the political battle, I don't know," Bloomberg said.

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