Sit back registered Democrats and wait until November to vote again — that is unless you care about who becomes mayor of New York City.
Abysmal turnout is expected for the runoff Tues., Oct. 1, to pick the Democratic candidate for public advocate. Without a Republican in the race, the Democratic nominee is all but assured of being elected to office in November, which means he or she will become first in line to succeed the mayor.
The public advocate’s office has also been a launching pad for mayoral campaigns. Indeed, polls now predict the current public advocate, Bill de Blasio, will in fact be our next mayor. So clearly the advocate’s position should not be ignored.
Admittedly, the precise role, and frankly the need, for the office has not been made clear to many New Yorkers, including us, in the 20 years it has existed; but it does provide a platform and an opportunity to help city government work for people most in need.
All that said, there are two good candidates to replace de Blasio, state Senator Daniel Squadron and City Councilmember Letitia James. Both have demonstrated a commitment to helping those most in need and the independence that the office requires, but in our view, Squadron has the better chance to be more effective.
For starters, he has a thoughtful plan to reorganize the office, and he is not counting on getting an increase in the public advocate’s tiny $2.3 million budget, the way James is.
The next mayor will be confronted with daunting budget choices as he (the major candidates are men) negotiates long-lapsed contracts with the city’s municipal labor unions. Increasing the advocate’s budget may have a minimal effect on overall city spending, but it would nevertheless be hard to justify in the face of probable cuts to vital programs.
Squadron is right to put the emphasis on increasing the office’s effectiveness rather than its spending. He has represented Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn these last five years with energy, and is a creative thinker who we think may bring relevance to this ambiguous office.
When a landmark case showed that thousands of people in Lower Manhattan were potentially eligible for rent protections, Squadron and his staff took the lead in finding out the buildings that were eligible. When Hurricane Sandy hit Downtown, they were out on the streets helping people rebuild their lives. His series of community town hall meetings demonstrate a commitment to helping people.
There has been some talk since the primary election two weeks ago that one reason James should be elected is because the city’s next mayor and comptroller are likely to be white men. While diversity is important, it’s inherently unjust to impose such a rigid quota on a single race. Voting for James solely because she is not white and male is as wrong as it is to not vote for Squadron because he is.
And regardless of who is elected in this race, the speaker of the City Council is really the second most powerful person in the city, and that post will almost certainly be held by someone who will add diversity to city government.
We think Daniel Squadron is the best choice for public advocate and we endorse him.
However, we know the worst choice would be not voting Tues., Oct. 1. Yes, the old lever machines will be used again. Go and pull it for the candidate you support. Express your democratic right. Vote.