PUBLIC ADVOCATE ELECTION

February 26, 2019 at 4:30 am

There are 17 people on the ballot vying to become New York City’s next public advocate, and there can only be one. We’re breaking down the candidates, their positions, and the important task the winner will be handed.

Aired on February 25, 2019. 

Transcript Print

>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.
THE POLLS OPEN IN JUST HOURS FOR
WHAT HAS BEEN CALLED ONE OF NEW
YORK CITY'S BEST KEPT SECRETS,
THE PUBLIC ELECTION FOR
ADVOCATE.
IT'S A CROWDED FIELD WITH 17
NAMES ON THE BALLOT, INCLUDING
FAMILIAR FACES LIKE JUMAANE
WILLIAMS AND FORMER CITY COUNCIL
SPEAKER MELISSA MARK VIVE
VERITO.
THE RACE HAS BEEN AT TIMES A
SLUGFEST WITH CANDIDATES
SPARRING ON EVERYTHING FROM
AMAZON TO MAYOR DE BLASIO'S
POTENTIAL RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
HERE'S WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
ABOUT THAT POSSIBILITY DURING
LAST WEEK'S DEBATE ON SPECTRUM
NEWS NEW YORK 1.
>> SHE IS COMPLETE DELUSIONAL.
TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES.
I MEAN, OUR SCHOOLS ARE FAILING.
OUR SUBWAYS ARE CRUMBLING.
WE LACK AFFORDABLE HOUSING.
HE SHOULD APOLOGIZE TO NEW YORK
CITY FIRST.
>> THE MAYOR MAY QUALIFY TO RUN
FOR PRESIDENT.
I'M NOT SURE HE IS QUALIFIED TO
RUN FOR PRESIDENT, BASED AGAIN
ON THE LACK OF FOCUS ON ISSUES
THAT ARE KEY AND CRITICAL HERE
IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK THAT
HAVE GONE UNADDRESSED.
>> FOR A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS
RACE, THE ISSUES AND WHAT IT
COULD ALL MEAN FOR THE CITY'S
POLITICAL FUTURE, LET'S BRING IN
CITY AND STATE POLITICS REPORTER
JEFF COLTON AND FROM POLITICO
NEW YORK, THE AUTHOR OF THE NEW
YORK PLAYBOOK.
I'D LIKE TO WELCOME YOU BOTH TO
THE PROGRAM.
>> GLAD TO BE HERE.
>> LAURA, JEFF, WHOEVER WANTS TO
TAKE THIS ONE, ALL OF THESE
DIFFERENT NAMES DO, WE HAVE ANY
IDEA AT LEAST WHO THE EXPECTED
FRONT-RUNNERS ARE?
>> WE ACTUALLY -- I DON'T HAVE
ANY IDEA, AND I DON'T WANT TO BE
EMBARRASSED TOMORROW IF THINGS
GO TOTALLY NOT THE WAY I THOUGHT
THEY WOULD.
BUT WE THINK THAT THE CANDIDATES
THINK THERE ARE A FEW PEOPLE WHO
ARE FRONT-RUNNERS, AND THOSE ARE
CITY COUNCILMAN JUMAANE
WILLIAMS, IN PART BECAUSE OF HIS
PART IN THE FALL ELECTIONS WHEN
HE DID EXTRAORDINARILY WELL
RUNNING FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
AGAINST INCUMBENT LIEUTENANT
GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHLE, AND
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO WHO A LOT
OF NEW YORKERS LIKELY KNOW FROM
BEING THE FORMER CITY COUNCIL
SPEAKER.
BUT OTHER CANDIDATES, ASSEMBLY
MEMBER MIKE BLAKE THINKS HE HAS
RAISED A TON OF MONEY AND THINKS
HE HAS THE OPERATION AND TURNOUT
AND UNION SUPPORT COULD PUT HIM
OVER THE TOP BASICALLY IN A VERY
LOW TURNOUT ELECTION, IT COULD
BE ANYBODY'S RACE.
A FEW STRAY VOTES CAST IN ONE
BOROUGH, SOME BAD WEATHER IN
ANOTHER COULD JUST CHANGE THE
OUTCOME OF THE RACE.
>> OKAY.
AND THAT'S WHAT MAKES QUEENS
CITY COUNCILMAN ERIC ULRICH SO
INTERESTING.
HE IS THE ONE MAINSTREAM
REPUBLICAN IN THE RACE, AND HE'S
UP AGAINST BASICALLY 15 OR SO
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS.
SO HE THINKS THAT HE CAN REALLY
WIN THIS ELECTION WITH ONLY A
SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THE VOTES.
USUALLY REPUBLICANS DON'T HAVE A
CHANCE IN A HEAVILY BLUE NEW
YORK CITY.
BUT BECAUSE OF THE MASS OF THIS
RACE, ULRICH MAY HAVE A CHANCE.
>> HE IS ALSO THE ONLY CANDIDATE
WHO HAS BEEN UNABASHEDLY
PRO-AMAZON SINCE THE DEAL WAS
ANNOUNCED TO BRING IT TO QUEENS.
OBVIOUSLY THAT FAILED, AND SOME
PEOPLE ARE SPECULATING,
WONDERING IF THERE MIGHT BE SOME
SORT OF SECRET SILENT MAJORITY
MAYBE OF PRO AMAZON VOTERS WHO
WOULD TURN OUT AND SUPPORT
ULRICH BECAUSE HE WAS THE ONLY
CANDIDATE WHO FAVORS THE DEAL.
>> AND THAT WAS A BIG DEAL THAT
WE SAW IN THE DEBATES WHO WAS
FOR, WHO WAS AGAINST, WHO TOOK
MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, WHO WAS OUT
FIRST, ET CETERA.
THAT DID COME UP IN TERMS OF
WHOSE SUPPORT WAS WHERE WHEN IT
CAME TO AMAZON.
I DO WANT TO TOUCH ON THIS, IS A
NONPARTISAN ELECTION.
WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE MOST
INTERESTING THING ABOUT THIS,
EVERYBODY SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN
ABLE TO PICK THEIR OWN PARTY
LINES.
SO WHAT IS SOME OF THE MORE
UNUSUAL LINES THAT PEOPLE COULD
FIND THEMSELVES VOTING ON THAT
AREN'T JUST TRADITIONALLY
DEMOCRAT AND REPUBLICAN?
>> IT'S A TOTAL GRAB BAG.
FIX THE MTA, NO MORE DELAYS.
WHAT WAS IT, NO AMAZON?
>> NO AMAZON.
RON KIM'S LINE, YES.
HE IS GOING HEAVILY INTO THE NO
AMAZON, DESPITE AMAZON NOW BEING
GONE.
>> ERIC ULRICH IS COMMON SENSE.
OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE 17 OF THEM.
I CAN'T REMEMBER ALL.
I DON'T EXPECT YOU THE NAME ALL
OF THEM.
BUT THAT'S AN IDEA OF PEOPLE
GOING TO THE POLLS, THEY AT THIS
POINT ARE STARTING TO TRIBALBLY
SPLIT THEMSELVES UP.
REPUBLICAN, DEMOCRAT.
AND THAT IS A CASE WHERE THAT'S
NOT GOING TO BE THE INSTANCE.
VERY QUICKLY, FOR PEOPLE WHO
AREN'T QUITE SURE, I ALLUDED TO
THE FACT THAT PUBLIC ADVOCATE IS
FIRST IN LINE BEHIND THE MAYOR.
BUT WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS
PARTICULAR POSITION?
>> WELL, IT'S FUNNY YOU SHOULD
ASK.
THERE IS A LOT OF AMBIGUITY
AROUND WHAT EXACTLY THE JOB IS,
WHICH HAS MEANT THAT FOR THE
SCORE OF YEARS THAT THE POST HAS
ACTUALLY EXISTED, THERE HAVE
BEEN FREQUENT CALLS TO GET RID
OF IT ALL TOGETHER.
FOR THAT REASON IT'S BEEN MADE
INTO SORT OF WHATEVER THE
OCCUPANT WANTS IT TO BE.
YOU A LOT OF LEVERAGE TO
INVESTIGATE THINGS, BUT YOU HAVE
A VERY TINY BUDGET.
SO YOU HAVE TO BE PRETTY
CREATIVE.
SOME PUBLIC ADVOCATES HAVE USED
THE OFFICE TO FILE LAWSUITS.
OTHERS JUST USE IT AS A PLATFORM
TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST WHATEVER
THEY SEE AS BEING WRONG IN THE
CITY AND TO INVESTIGATE ANY CITY
SERVICES THAT AREN'T WORKING
WELL.
>> AND OF COURSE SPEAKING AS A
PLATFORM, WE'VE SEEN NUMEROUS
PEOPLE USE THIS AS A PLATFORM
FOR HIGHER OFFICE, ET CETERA.
>> OH, DEFINITELY.
NEW YORK CITY MAYOR BILL DE
BLASIO USED TO BE PUBLIC
ADVOCATE.
AND STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
LETITIA JAMES IS PUBLIC
ADVOCATE.
THE ONE ENUMERATED POWER THEY DO
HAVE IS THEY CAN INTRODUCE
LEGISLATION INTO THE CITY
COUNCIL.
WE SAW TISH JAMES DOING THAT A
LOT AND SPREADING HER WEIGHT
AROUND THERE.
THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE CANNOT VOTE
ON THOSE BILLS TO MAKE THEM INTO
LAW ONCE THEY SPONSOR THE BILLS.
>> SO WITH THIS CROWDED FIELD OF
17 DIFFERENT CANDIDATES, DO WE
HAVE ANY IDEA AS TO WHAT TURNOUT
MIGHT BE?
BECAUSE, AGAIN, THIS SEEMS TO
BE, I SAW A TWEET FROM ONE TOP
CITY HALL REPORTERS ON FRIDAY
WHO SAID IF YOU WANT A GOOD
LAUGH, GO OUT AND ASK NEW
YORKERS IF YOU KNOW THERE IS AN
ELECTION TODAY.
>> RIGHT.
SO I THINK PEOPLE ARE SETTING
THEIR EXPECTATIONS REALLY LOW.
THIS IS A SPECIAL ELECTION IN A
VERY COLD MONTH OF THE YEAR.
THERE HASN'T BEEN A LOT OF
ADVERTISING AROUND THE RACE.
IT'S ONLY THIS RACE THAT PEOPLE
ARE GOING TO THE POLLS FOR, AND
BEFORE LAST FALL, WHEN WE SAW
HISTORIC TURNOUT IN MIDTERM
ELECTIONS, EVEN REGULAR MIDTERM
ELECTIONS AND REGULARLY
SCHEDULED EVERY FOUR-YEAR, EVERY
TWO-YEAR ELECTIONS FOR CITY AND
STATE OFFICES HAD REALLY LOW
TURNOUT.
SO WE COULD BE LOOKING AT THE
SINGLE DIGITS HERE IN TERMS OF
TURNOUT, EVEN THOUGH IT'S A
NONPARTISAN ELECTION.
ANYBODY CAN VOTE IN IT.
PEOPLE JUST DON'T KNOW THAT IT'S
HAPPENING.
>> AND ACTUALLY, JEFF, I ALSO
WANT TO PIGGYBACK ON THE FACT WE
CAN EXPECT LOW TURNOUT IS THE
FACT THAT WE COULD BE DOING THIS
AGAIN IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS,
RIGHT?
HOW DOES THAT WORK?
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
FUNNY ENOUGH, TOMORROW OR
TUESDAY, ELECTION DAY IS ALSO
THE FIRST DAY THAT CANDIDATES
CAN PETITION TO GET ON THE
BALLOT FOR THE JUNE PRIMARY
ELECTION.
YES, WHOEVER WINS THE SPECIAL
ELECTION ON TUESDAY IS ONLY
GOING TO OFFICIALLY HOLD THE
PUBLIC ADVOCATE SEAT UNTIL
NOVEMBER BECAUSE THE POSITION IS
GOING TO BE UP ON THE BALLOT
AGAIN THE STANDARD ELECTION
SEASON.
SO THERE IS A PRIMARY IN JUNE.
THE DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN
PARTIES, THERE WILL BE A GENERAL
ELECTION IN NOVEMBER.
BASICALLY, THE RACE FOR PUBLIC
ADVOCATE WILL NEVER STOP.
IT'S GOING TO LAST THE MAJORITY
OF 2019.
>> ALL RIGHT.
SO THEN GOING FORWARD, THIS
POSITION, AND YOU GUYS DID BOTH
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT'S
POSSIBLE WITH SOMEONE WHO COULD
BECOME PUBLIC ADVOCATE, IS IT
ALSO POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE COULD
HEED THE SUGGESTION THAT THIS IS
AN UNNECESSARY POSITION ALL
TOGETHER AND DECIDE THAT WE
SHOULD ELIMINATE IT?
>> WELL, EVEN IF THEY DID WANT
TO DO THAT, THEY COULDN'T
UNILATERALLY DO THAT.
THAT WOULD REQUIRE A CHANGE TO
THE CITY'S CHARTER.
SO THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE CAN'T
JUST DECIDE TO ABOLISH THEIR
POSITION.
I GUESS THEY COULD TECHNICALLY
JUST NOT DO ANYTHING AND DE
FACTO HAVE ABOLISHED THEIR
POSITION.
BUT IN TERMS OF ACTUALLY MAKING
IT GO AWAY AS A JOB THAT THE
TAXPAYERS PAY FOR AND THAT THE
OFFICE IS FUNDED THE PUBLIC
OFFICE, THAT'S ONE MORE THING
THAT THEY CAN'T DO.
>> ALL RIGHT, THEN.
>> AN ARGUMENT ABOUT THIS,
THOUGH, HAS BEEN THAT THE BUDGET
FOR THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE SPECIAL
ELECTION, IT'S BEEN VERY HIGH.
I THINK JUST PUBLIC MONEY THERE
IS ABOUT $8 MILLION GOING TO THE
CANDIDATES.
AND THEN IN ADDITION, JUST THE
VERY EXPENSIVE COST OF OPENING
UP ALL OF THE ELECTION SITES AND
CONDUCTING THIS ELECTION.
THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE'S OFFICE
ANNUAL BUDGET IS ONLY SOMETHING
LIKE $3 MILLION CURRENTLY.
AND THE ELECTION IS GOING TO BE
FAR, FAR MORE EXPENSIVE THAN THE
ANNUAL BUDGET.
SO A LOT OF THE CRITICS OF THE
POSITION ARE MAKING ACTUALLY
MORE OF A FISCAL ARGUMENT
AGAINST IT SAYING THIS WHOLE
THING IS RIDICULOUS.
THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE BARELY HAS
ANY RESPONSIBILITIES.
WHY ARE WE SPENDING SO MUCH
MONEY ON THIS ELECTION.
>> WELL, OKAY.
SO TURNING A LITTLE BIT FROM
THINGS THAT PEOPLE CRITICIZE AS
RIDICULOUS TO A PERSON PEOPLE
SOMETIMES CRITICIZE AS
RIDICULOUS, OUR POOR BELEAGUERED
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO.
IT SEEMS EVERYBODY HAS AN
OPINION ON HIM AND HIS POTENTIAL
ASPIRATIONS FOR NATIONAL OFFICE.
JUST WHERE DO WE SEE THE
DIFFERENT CANDIDATES COME DOWN
IN?
AND HOW HEATED DID THAT ARGUMENT
GET?
>> WELL, I ASKED THIS QUESTION
IN THE DEBATE OF THE CANDIDATES
LAST WEEK, AND I WAS ACTUALLY
REALLY SURPRISED BY THE ANSWERS.
TO A PERSON, EVERYONE ON THE
STAGE, ALL SEVEN CANDIDATES WHO
QUALIFIED FOR LAST WEEK'S DEBATE
WERE ADAMANTLY OPPOSED TO THE
IDEA OF BILL DE BLASIO RUNNING
FOR MAYOR.
NO ONE WOULD EVEN SAY THEY
THOUGHT HE WAS QUALIFIED ON
ANYTHING THAT HE HAD DONE AS
MAYOR, WHICH SHOCKED ME.
I THOUGHT THAT SOMEBODY MIGHT
HAVE HIS BACK, BUT NOBODY DID.
AND THEY RIDICULED HIM.
RON KIM EVEN CALLED HIM
DELUSIONAL FOR THINKING THAT HE
COULD RUN FOR PRESIDENT.
IT WAS BRUTAL.
>> THAT'S KIND OF HARSH.
>> SO, THEN, DOES THIS GIVE US
ANY INDICATION TO WHOEVER THE
NEW ADVOCATE MIGHT BE, THEIR
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MAYOR?
>> I THINK THERE IS TWO WAYS TO
BE PUBLIC ADVOCATE.
YOU CAN WORK WITH THE MAYOR AND
TRY AND KIND OF CREATE A
PARTNERSHIP, OR YOU COULD OPPOSE
THE MAYOR.
AND IT SEEMS BASED ON WHAT WE'VE
SEEN, AT LEAST IN THE CAMPAIGN
THAT ALL OF THE CANDIDATES FIND
IT POLITICALLY HELPFUL TO OPPOSE
THE MAYOR, TO BE A COUNTER
WEIGHT TO THE MAYOR'S OFFICE, AS
MANY OF THEM ARE FRAMING THE
NEEDS OF THE OFFICE.
SO I WOULD EXPECT -- YOU KNOW,
LETITIA JAMES, THE LAST PUBLIC
ADVOCATE HAD A RELATIVELY
FRIENDLY RELATIONSHIP WITH THE
MAYOR AND DIDN'T CRITICIZE HIM
TOO OFTEN I WOULD SAY.
CERTAINLY ON SOME ISSUES, BUT
OVERALL A HELPFUL RELATIONSHIP.
I WOULD SAY WHOEVER THE NEXT
PUBLIC ADVERSARY WOULD BE, WE
CAN EXPECT A MORE COMBATIVE
RELATIONSHIP.
>> AND OF COURSE THAT'S
INTERESTING CONSIDERING HE
BECAME MAYOR AFTER HAVING BEEN
PUBLIC ADVOCATE HIMSELF.
LISTEN, I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH
SO MUCH FOR JOINING US FOR
GIVING US SOME INSIGHT ON THIS
HUGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE
GOING TO BE RUNNING FOR THIS
VERY IMPORTANT OFFICE.
AND WE HOPE PEOPLE OF COURSE GET
OUT AND VOTE.
>> ABSOLUTELY.
EVERYBODY GO VOTE.
>> YES!
EVEN IF IT'S SNOWING.
>> RIGHT.
>> ALL RIGHT.
THANK YOU, BOTH.
>> THANK YOU.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019