Big Day: Vote Letitia James Public Advocate

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James -- poised to become New York City's first African American public advocate?


As you may know, I am supporting the candidacy of City Councilmember Letitia James for this office.  She is opposed by State Senator Daniel Squadron. 

James represents my Prospect Heights neighbors and me in the Council; Squadron represents a chunk of my Assembly District and my non-Prospect Heights neighbors.  Neither candidate is perfect; neither candidate is terrible.  But one is a better fit for the important but overlooked position of Public Advocate.  It is my hope that you will join me in voting for Letitia James.

My good friend and constituent, Judi Francis, wrote these words explaining why she and her husband are supporting Letitia James:

> As we have said in earlier emails, we know both candidates very well but only one has the experience, the understanding and the humanity to do the right thing. That is Tish. From her early start, growing up as a daughter of a janitor, putting herself through college and Howard University Law School, and later as a public defender, Tish was born to be an advocate for those who don't have the money or clout to be heard. And that includes middle class communities like ours, too.

> Tish has served her City Council district remarkably well, fighting eminent domain for a single developer's profits against a plan that had no community input, saving her local library (first one in Brooklyn created by Andrew Carnegie on 4th Ave) and expanding her advocacy for the other libraries slated to be taken down (one right in her opponent's district but he has been totally absent on that); helping to save Long Island College Hospital and Interfaith, also not in her district.

> Tish was one of just a handful of city council people who voted against the Bloomberg 3rd term power grab (another example of her opponent missing in action). Her record on women's health, on public parks, on housing (sponsoring winning legislation for timely repairs on rental units) has meant the difference for countless individuals and communities throughout the city.

Judi has many criticisms of Daniel Squadron, which I won't go into here.  My greatest concern is that the Squadron campaign has waged a very negative, "take no prisoners" campaign for this office.  I understand the desire to win.  But I also understand the need for New York City to enter a time of inclusive politics that does not revolve around the things we don't like -- but revolves around the things we need and want to see come to fruition. 

Another good friend and someone I admire, political blogger David Michaelson, wrote these words:

The runoff is for NYC Public Advocate. This is a position that can be as strong as the person who is elected to the position. NYC has had three Public Advocates. Mark Green was a strong one. The next two largely did nothing with the position so people forget that it can be an important position that is designed to be a balance to the power of the mayor. The Public Advocate investigates citizen complaints against government agencies, can propose legislation in the City Council (though does not vote in the council), and appoints several members of various boards and commissions that run the city.

The runoff is between two people I know personally: Tish James and Dan Squadron. Both are smart and good people. But they are very different people. Tish James is a strong, African-American woman who has been a strong voice in the community for decades and was initially elected to the city council on the Working Families Party line. She is now a Democrat but was for some time the ONLY person in NY State who was elected on WFP who wasn't also on the Democratic line. She comes from a middle class background and has stood with Occupy Wall Street. She has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of women for her tireless support of women's rights and has been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters for her strong environmental record. She is proudly liberal and is fearless in standing up for poor and middle class New Yorkers, and this has earned her the animosity of Wall Street.

Her opponent, Dan Squadron is a really nice guy, but he comes from a very corporate, Wall Street background and is basically a relatively conservative (for NYC!), pro-Bloomberg Democrat. He is for mayoral control of schools and receives a great deal of campaign money from developers and hedge fund executives. He is not bad, but he is not the person I see using the Public Advocate position for what it was meant to be: a balance to the mayor and a force to help average New Yorkers fight the city when needed.

I urge you to join NOW, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Conservation Voters and vote for Tish James for Public Advocate, October 1st.

The election of Letitia James to the position of Public Advocate would make history here in New York City -- not simply because James would be the first African American woman to hold this position, but because a homegrown resident of a borough other than Manhattan will be in this position.  The filter through which the Public Advocate sees our City is a critical asset.  I like Letitia James' filter.

Some two decades ago, I finished four years of work for the last City Council President, Andrew Stein.  Stein had continued the aggressive work of his predecessor, Carol Bellamy, and had amassed a talented staff (if I say so myself) to tackle various issues of importance to the City.  City Council President was abolished by Charter, and the new Public Advocates, Mark Green then Betsy Gotbaum, continued the tradition -- but with more limited budgets.   The current occupant, Bill de Blasio (an immigrant to Brooklyn), has also attempted to maximize the potential of the office -- with some success.

The Public Advocate is just that -- the person we should all be able to turn to when we have not been heard by City Government (or State or Federal, for that matter.)  A review of Letitia James' track record as a community advocate, activist attorney, and elected official will highlight the need for electing her to Public Advocate.

Run-off elections are historically low-turnout affairs.  Your vote, therefore, will definitely matter.  Please take the time to vote and improve our City.

Elect Letitia James. 



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