Earlier this week, The Observer spoke with former public advocate Mark Green, the city’s first holder of the office, about the current one, Bill de Blasio, who was profiled in the paper this week.
Here’s what Mr. Green had to say on the health of the office, and on Mr. de Blasio’s ambitions.
He is obviously a smart, focused capable public official who’s been put in a box by institutional rivals. Because the office has in real terms been cut–let me do some math in my head–because the office has in real terms been cut three quarters over 20 years, he’s not been able yet to be an ombudsman and investigate city services, produce reports that seek to change process or policy. And the fault is with Bloomberg and Quinn for combining to gut an office that they could do without.
According to Mr. Green, former City Council president Andrew Stein, a predecessor of sorts to the public advocate’s office, had 65 staff by the time he left office in 1993. Mr. Green’s staff averaged about 45. Mr. de Blasio told The Observer he has a staff of 27. Again, Mr. Green:
You know, if a plane needs 100,000 pounds of thrust to get in the air and you build one that has an overall impressive 80,000 of thrust, it ain’t going to fly…Either the mayor or speaker have to provide a minimal budget so this charter-mandated independent elected office holder can do the assigned job…It cannot in effect asphyxiate the office by the back door of budget cuts as opposed to the front door of a public referendum.
Because of the ever-smaller budget allocated to the public advocate, Mr. Green said it would be “unfair to come to any conclusive judgments about Public Advocate de Blasio within six months of him taking office. But, if he should want to later run for mayor, which is a fine ambition for the office holder next in line to the mayor, he’s going to have to produce measurable procedural or policy or legislative results beyond standing at press conferences with local residents or workers like an ACORN activist might do.”