Jerry Goldfeder: An Agenda for New York City’s Public Advocate

Jerry Goldfeder penned a letter that appeared in the New York Times. With his permission, the letter follows here:

To the Editor:

Re “Who Wants to Be Public Advocate? Perhaps New York’s Next Mayor” (news article, Sept. 17):

Thirty years ago, the last time the New York City charter received fundamental revision, the position of public advocate was created to act as an ombudsman and agency watchdog. Four occupants have put their own stamp on the post, but the public still has only a vague sense of its duties.

Several reforms can make the office more effective.

The public advocate should have unfettered subpoena power to bolster the office’s investigatory mandate. This would require City Council action, and the new public advocate should sponsor legislation on his or her first day in office.

The public advocate should also partner with the city comptroller, who has far-reaching auditing authority, to jointly expose fraud, waste and corruption in the city.

And the public advocate should tap into the experience and expertise of the thousands of local community board members throughout the city. A formalized working relationship between the community boards and the public advocate is an opportunity hiding in plain sight.

Such reforms could transform the public advocate into a meaningful position, and attract candidates who actually want the job for its own sake.

Jerry H. Goldfeder
New York
The writer is an election law expert.


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