There have been three public advocates in the short history of the office: Mark Green, Betsy Gotbaum and Bill de Blasio. All three used the office’s powers to scratch out a presence in city government, enabling two of them, Mr. Green and Mr. de Blasio, to become serious contenders for the city’s top job. Mr. Green didn’t quite get there; Mr. de Blasio still might.
So the public advocate is an important position, even if it has few responsibilities and a paltry budget of slightly more than $2 million per year. We think State Senator Daniel Squadron is the best-qualified Democrat seeking nomination for the office.
Mr. Squadron seems capable of following Ms. Gotbaum’s view that the public advocate should offer criticism not for its own sake but to help spur improvement in the delivery of city services. As a state senator, Mr. Squadron has been a voice for small business development, more-reliable public transportation and more parks, especially on the East River waterfront.
Reshma Saujani, one of Mr. Squadron’s opponents, is smart, energetic and charismatic. She lacks Mr. Squadron’s experience, but she’ll be heard from again, and that’s a good thing. City Council member Letitia James is an effective advocate for her Brooklyn neighborhood, but she’s not prepared and not qualified for citywide office.
The public advocate’s voice can be shrill and demagogic. But Mr. Squadron figures to bring modulation to the office. He understands how government works—and how it doesn’t. That wisdom brings credibility, an important asset for a position that serves as the public’s voice in city government.
Senator Squadron is the right choice for Democrats as public advocate.
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