Andrew Rasiej: The Quixotic Candidate for Public Advocate
Andrew Rasiej is running hard for Public Advocate.
What is with this office? I mean did everyone get bored with Mayor and decide that it's no fun to have a campaign for an office with actual responsibility? Also, what does the public advocate even do? Oh, look, some text in blockquotes to the rescue!
The office of Public Advocate is currently defined by the City’s official voting guide as follows: “The Public Advocate represents anyone who uses City services. As the City’s chief ombudsman, the Public Advocate investigates complaints about city agencies; reviews the responsiveness to the public and recommends improvements in programs and complaint handling procedures of City agencies; and helps to resolve problems individuals have with City agencies. The Public Advocate is elected to serve a term of four years.”
Or, in Mark Green-speak:
LOOK AT ME! I'M THE PUBLIC ADVOCATE! COME TO MY PRESS CONFERENCE! I WILL FIGHT FOR YOU AND ALSO YOU SHOULD QUOTE ME!
Ok, that's not so funny. But actually, and mostly theoretically, the public advocate is a great testing ground for lots of new technowizardry. Camera phones, blogs, online community combined with old fashioned organizing models, can really create a powerful sense of community to supplement and surpass the 311 success. Can Andrew pull it off? I don't think so. But I wish it were possible, because the office is actually pretty neat. Here's how Andrew sees the position:
Andrew said he views it as a great untapped opportunity – a truly unique platform that could be used in countless ways to reconnect New Yorkers to each other and their government, re-imagine the city’s possibilities, and ultimately recharge our democracy.
Sadly, New Yorkers don't care about this level of abstraction, except when heroic size war and peace like events are involved. Dean's message of inclusion worked, so did Bush's 'war on terror' metaphor. But the idea that a minor municipal office can 'recharge our democracy', well, perhaps he could begin with something more prosaic. Though I like it, even this is too high concept: 'The New York Times has a letters to the editor page. Shouldn't New York City have a letters to the mayor page?' Or maybe, 'We don't send all of our trash upstate. Some of it we keep right here, in city hall.'
I'm looking to see what Rasiej does. I don't think he'll win, but he is already forcing the current public advocate Betsey Gotbaum to do a slightly less crappy job. The rap on her - very nice, very ineffective, very plugged in. Someone not to fuck with. I get the sense - on good authority - that Andrew's making enemies. Not that many yet, but we'll see where this goes.