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New York City‚Äôs public advocate‚Äôs office was already largely powerless and hamstrung by an anemic budget. Now it may face its most daunting challenge yet: harmony.
For the first time since the office was created 20 years ago, it seems likely that the public advocate will be an ally of the mayor‚Äôs.
Brooklyn City Councilwoman Letitia James, who won a Democratic Michael Kors Online Outlet primary runoff for the job Oct. 1 and faces no Republican opposition in November, walks largely in ideological lockstep with mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio, who is trouncing GOP candidate Joe Lhota in polls.
De Blasio and James both come from the liberal, labor-allied wing of the Democratic Party. Both represented adjacent Brooklyn districts on the City Council, and the two agree on most issues ‚Äē though they‚Äôve differed on a handful of topics like Atlantic Yards and Mayor Michael Bloomberg‚Äôs big soda ban.
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They‚Äôve endorsed each other in next month‚Äôs general election and often appear side by side at press conferences, like one last week in support of fast food workers‚Äô rights.
Their similarities could create a challenge for James if she wants to make her mark on the city ‚Äē or use the post as a launching pad for higher office, experts say.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs going to be hard for the ombudsman of the same party to be a critic of the mayor, particularly when there‚Äôs not too much difference between them on their public positions,‚ÄĚ said Jeanne Zaino, a political science professor at Iona College and New York University. ‚ÄúUnfortunately, it‚Äôs going to fulfill in many people‚Äôs minds the idea that the situation itself is a toothless stepping stone to the mayor‚Äôs seat.‚ÄĚ
The three people who have held the public advocate‚Äôs office ‚Äē Mark Green, Betsy Gotbaum and de Blasio ‚Äē have all been Democrats who‚Äôve been vocal critics of Republican or independent mayors Rudy Giuliani and Bloomberg.
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The challenge for James will be to carve out a role for herself in a post that comes with little more than a bully pulpit when she has a few disagreements with de Blasio on major issues like policing or schools.
Politicians who served with both of them on City Council recall that they had a close relationship. James backed de Blasio over Christine Quinn for the speakership in a race that left a lasting schism within the body.
‚ÄúThey were very close,‚ÄĚ said Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Brooklyn). ‚ÄúNot only are they close in the political sense, but their supporters are the same.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think she‚Äôll take him on on anything core to his administration,‚ÄĚ Fidler added. ‚ÄúIt will be Michael Kors Handbags Outlet a challenge for Tish to carve out some space where she can get some ink and flash without doing it by being at odds with the administration.‚ÄĚ
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But colleagues also predict that James ‚Äē known as a fiery pol who took on Bloomberg over the scandal-ridden CityTime payroll system and the city‚Äôs botched response to the 2010 blizzard ‚Äē will not be content to stay on the sidelines.
‚ÄúTish is a very outspoken and independent person, and I don‚Äôt think that she is going to shy away from being Michael Kors Online Store critical of de Blasio,‚ÄĚ said Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx), who predicted the two might end up clashing over development projects.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs not going to be any pushover or any easy mark ‚Ä¶ Those who might predict that she‚Äôs going to be some sort of cipher or disciple, that‚Äôs not Tish,‚ÄĚ he added. ‚ÄúFor a public advocate ‚Ä¶ if they aren‚Äôt outspoken, there‚Äôs not much they can do.‚ÄĚ
Councilwoman Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), who served Michael Kors Online Store as an aide to Green, suggested there are a host of other foes James could choose to take on besides the mayor ‚Äē from the state and federal governments to big banks and discriminatory businesses.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of outside government antagonism that, if you‚Äôre good, you can find,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúYou kind of pick up on things that aren‚Äôt Michael Kors Factory Outlet being done by the mayor, things the Michael Kors Handbags Outlet public cares about.‚ÄĚ
James declined to be interviewed for this story.
In a debate last month, she said she wouldn‚Äôt hesitate to challenge her ‚Äúclose friend‚ÄĚ de Blasio, ‚Äúparticularly if he does not keep his promises to New Yorkers to change the direction of the city after 12 years of a Bloomberg era.‚ÄĚ