NYC Public Advocate Race: One Clear Choice
But my best piece on him was back in 2005 and best expresses why I still think he is the ideal Public Advocate for NYC. So I want to return to 2005 and my son's first campaigning:
Public Advocate: this office is, as far as I am aware, unique to NYC. In a city where the mayor has so much (almost dictatorial) power, the Public Advocate is the counterbalance to the mayor--the person who stands up to the mayor on behalf of the people. At least that is the ideal. Our current PA is Betsy Gautbaum. I voted for her when she first ran. For the life of me I have no idea what she has done for the past 4 years. When Bloomberg refused to give people permits to protest the invasion of Iraq, Betsy wasn't there for us. When Bloomberg arrested and illegally held hundreds of protestors during the Republican Convention, Betsy wasn't there. When Bloomberg wanted to use eminent domain to take private property to give it to developers, Betsy wasn't there. When Bloomberg started routinely arresting the Critical Mass bicyclists, Betsy wasn't there. Many New Yorkers have felt helpless as financial scandals eat away at our pension funds, slush fund scandals run rampant, the school admissions process becomes increasingly insane and divorced from the actual needs of children (as opposed to the needs of companies Bloomberg outsources the process to), ground zero remains an empty hole in the ground, the subway system gets cut back more and more while fees climb...all under the watchful eyes of Michael Bloomberg, Betsy Gotbaum and Christine Quinn.
You know who WAS there at each of those violations of civil rights that Bloomberg was responsible for? Norm Siegel. He was out there defending protestors when Betsy was nowhere to be seen. Norm Siegel has helped communities fight to keep firehouses open from Williamsburg to Staten Island. Norm Siegel has helped communities from Prospect Heights to Harlem try to stop the government from using eminent domain to take their homes for the enrichment of private developers. Norm Siegel ans helped firefighters and non-profits seeking the implementation of a skyscraper safety program and provisions for our firefighters to guarantee they have proper working communication equipment. Norm Siegel has helped families who lost a loved one on September 11th, 2001, as they seek the public release of materials from that day, including 911 emergency tapes and transcripts. And, here in 2009, Norm Siegel stood up against Michael Bloomberg's putch to arbitrarily extend term-limits against the explicit vote of the people. All of these issues have pitted Norm Siegel defending communities against Michael Bloomberg and Christine Quinn fighting against communities.
Norm Siegel has ALREADY BEEN the public advocate for New Yorkers even though he hasn't yet held that office. He was Executive Director of the NYCLU from 1985-2000 and even afterwards has been standing up for the civil rights of New Yorkers to this day (including winning a case for bloggers getting their rights when it comes to press credentials). Siegel has actually been working with the ACLU and Southern Justice and Voter Law Project since 1968, so his civil rights credentials go all the way back. He spearheaded the New York campaigns for the impeachment of Nixon. I cannot think of a better advocate for the people of NYC.
Norman Siegel has also been endorsed by the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Democracy for NYC, Park River Independent Democrats (Upper West Side), the Village Reform Democratic Club, the Grand Council of Guardians (an organization of African-American law enforcement officials), Room 8 blogger and Brooklyn City Council candidate Rock Hackshaw, the New York Metro Area Postal Union (APWU, AFL-CIO), Audubon Reform Democratic Club (Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights), and Brooklyn Democrats for Change (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, Fort Hamilton, Bath Beach and Gravesend).
Among the other candidates I have nothing negative to say for Mark Green, who showed he was a capable Public Advocate before, or Eric Gioia, who I have personal reasons for not supporting but may well be a decent Public Advocate. Only Bill de Blasio seems unqualified for the position both because of the major scandals he has been involved in (slush fund scandals and the WFP violations of campaign finance laws) and because he is widely known as being the advocate only for developers, not the people. But of the four, Norm Siegel stands out as being the MOST qualified and the STRONGEST advocate for the people. If we can elect Norm Siegel as Public Advocate and get rid of Christine Quinn (Bloomberg's most avid enabler) by electing Yetta Kurland instead, we will go a long way to restoring some common sense and honesty to this city government even if Bloomberg manages to annoint himself to a third term.