NYC lawmaker proposes getting rid of public advocate position to save money

Public Advocate Letitia James won the race for attorney general on Election Day and now a group of City Council Members want to axe her current position when she leaves.

"Now's the opportunity for New Yorkers and the chance to actually have this conversation," said City Councilman Kalman Yeger. "Will anybody notice if this office is gone? And I say no."

When James leaves to become attorney general in January, the public advocate position will be vacant. Yeger, whose bill is co-sponsored by several Bronx Council Members, says the position is nothing more than a political stepping stone, as it was for James, and Bill de Blasio before he became mayor.

"We spend an enormous amount of money every year, well over $3 million, to keep this office operational and I'm not sure that the tax payers are getting value add for that," he said.

The public advocate position is the first in line to replace a sitting mayor who leaves mid-term. The public advocate can sit in on council meetings and introduce legislation, but has no voting power.

But a spokesperson for James defended the position, pointing to the work her office has done to hold bad landlords accountable and help vulnerable children.

“The public advocate’s office under Tish James has played a critical role protecting the lives and interests of tens of thousands of the most vulnerable New Yorkers - and the sponsors of this bill know that full well. Our most vulnerable communities will be the real losers if political games get in the way of real work,” said Delaney Kempner, spokesperson for the public advocate.

But Yeger thinks the money would be better spent elsewhere.

"This is not about any individual who is holding the office now, has held it in the past, or aspires to hold it in the future," said Yeger, "This is about the office itself."

Even if the bill gets through City Council, New Yorkers would have to vote to get rid of the position. That likely wouldn't end up on the ballot until the 2020 election.

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