Watering the Grassroots: de Blasio Teaches New Yorkers How to Organize

Much as the New York Post editorial board may protest, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (profiled in the Observer earlier this month) has moved ahead with his plan to foment grassroots organizing, today releasing Part I of his “Guide to Community Organizing.”

The guide, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Haitian Creole, reads like a textbook from a high-school civics class. Part A, labeled: “Institutions That Impact Our Lives,” explains how New York City government is organized, how legislation gets passed and how to make one’s voice heard, be it by testifying at public hearings or calling the local councilman. The second part, “Organizing for Change,” outlines how to form a new community group to create a collective, and thereby louder, voice.

De Blasio appears to be taking a page from ACORN, one of his strongest supporters. He also seems to be trying to bolster the power of an office whose critics question its very existence, and whose budget has been cut drastically in recent years.

In an interview earlier this month, de  Blasio told The Observer that he didn’t want to complain about his ever-shrinking budget, but that, “It’s frustrating because I obviously know we could do a lot more for people if we had more staff. And a lot of times we’re triaging between good things that we could do and we have to delay things and make choices. I don’t mean to be hackneyed, but we’re doing more with less. It’s just constant use of volunteers and interns and retirees and you name it. Whatever we can get our hands on we’re using because it’s a such small full time staff. It’s not right.”

The use of the public advocate’s office to foment activism doesn’t sit well with everyone.

In January, the New York Post editorialized against the initiative:

[D]e Blasio’s community “partners” are the same lefty grabbers who’ve been picking the city dry in the first place.

And, indeed, who put de Blasio – a client of the far-left Working Families Party – in office. This move only formalizes and consolidates their power.

But it needn’t have been partisan to be flatly offensive.

The day that citizens need the government’s aid to petition the government is the day to pronounce democracy dead.

De Blasio, obviously, is already running hard for mayor, having been public advocate for scarcely 96 hours – and thereby demonstrating yet again how pointless his office truly is.

After all, if the poor soul who still calls the public advocate looking for actual help knows he’ll be subjected to a round of political indoctrination, how much longer will he even bother?

Bill de Blasio should content himself with the charter-prescribed duties of his office, humble though they are.

If that’s not enough, we hear ACORN’s hiring . . .

drubinstein@observer.com Watering the Grassroots: de Blasio Teaches New Yorkers How to Organize