Monday, January 4, 2010

New York's New Public Advocate -- You Can Fight City Hall After All (And He'll Help You)

The previous post mentioned how some regimes organize pro-government protests in response to grass roots public demonstrations.  According to this report in the New York Times, Bill de Blasio, New York City's new public advocate intends, among other things, "to train aggrieved residents to organize petition drives, demonstrations and civic actions against City Hall."   For those not familiar with the public advocate post, it is a city-wide elected position intended to serve as a watchdog for New Yorkers.  The position has been somewhat dormant of late.  But de Blasio intends to change that, in part by focusing on community organizing.

The idea that a government official intends to help organize demonstrations against the government is an odd one indeed.  Civic-minded activists would seem better motivated and equipped to facilitate public protests against government offices and officials.  Then again, some constituencies could apparentlt use the organizational help.  As the Times reports, it is not clear that protest assistance is what constituents really want from their government.  They generally want their problems solved.  So it's not clear there will be much demand for the service de Blasio intends to offer. 

Although it's an odd use of public resources, some part of me applauds the initiative.  One would not think New Yorkers, with all their swagger, would need help getting their voices heard or fighting City Hall.  Then again, "Mike" Bloomberg just attended his third mayoral coronation after reversing (with the help of a compliant City Council) a term limits law that limited mayors to two terms.  Bloomberg has expressed an intention to listen more this term.  Here's hoping that de Blasio's demonstrations will give him an earful.     

1 comment:

  1. He's not spending much public money on this or anything really. The article says the budget was slashed by about 50%, as I recall, to $1.7 million or something, which is a drop in the bucket by governmental standards.