Public Advocate - Democratic Primary

        
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Preferred Candidate - Daniel Squadron - Dem
Age: 33 Occupation: Member, NYS Senate
Education: Yale University (BA)

Daniel Squadron is the current incumbent for Senate District 26, a seat he has held since 2009. As a state senator, Squadron focused on reform of state government, introducing various ethics reform and campaign finance measures. He is running for Public Advocate because he believes that the office has the potential to better serve those who are underrepresented in city government, and to be a champion for those who do not currently have a voice representing them. In order to represent these constituencies, Squadron proposes dividing the office of the Public Advocate into four units: the Advocate for the Most Vulnerable, the Children’s Advocate, the Accountability Advocate, and the Housing Advocate. Each office would have an external board of advisors composed of issue-experts and advocates. In regards to the policy priorities of these units, Squadron would focus on oversight of the Department of Corrections and seeking the end of the agreement between the New York Police Department (NYPD) and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) that requires the NYCHA to pay for its own policing, among other items. Squadron also cited his desire to call summary inquiries in Supreme Court to allow for information to be subpoenaed if agencies are not properly conducting their responsibilities. Squadron would also continue the Landlord Watch List to publicize landlords who violate city regulations. On Citizens Union’s reform issues, Squadron would prioritize public access to information through monitoring compliance with the Open Data Law, reviewing Freedom of Information Law requests, and would conduct a people’s performance report, evaluating the Mayor’s Management Report’s benchmarks and the integrity of the underlying data. Squadron also supports reforming the city’s stop, question and frisk policy. Citizens Union prefers Squadron’s candidacy, as he has a strong record on reform issues, along with a proactive yet pragmatic vision for the office of the Public Advocate, including a detailed plan on how to ensure that the public has access to government data and information. 

 
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Catherine Guerriero - Dem
Age: 43 Occupation: Senior Adjunct Professor, Columbia Teacher’s College and New York University
Education: Wagner College (BA); New York University (MPA and Ph.D)

Catherine Guerriero is currently a professor of education policy, who is seeking election as the Public Advocate in order to bring an outsider’s voice to city government. Guerriero believes that her management skills, as a former manager of the papal visit to New York City, and experience as a college professor would allow her to effectively manage the office, as well as produce policy research. In order to advance policy issues and solutions, Guerriero would create a “think tank” composed of fifty fellows who are currently graduate students. This “think tank” would also have a unit for constituent services and legal services, using fellows with experience in social work and in law school. Guerriero believes that mayoral control needs to be ended, and supports changing the composition of the Panel of Educational Policy so that the mayor no longer appoints a majority of members. Guerriero support the use of stop, question and frisk as a law enforcement tool, but believes that police should be better trained in its use. Having received the support of many police unions, Guerriero also supports adding an additional seven to ten thousand police to the city’s force in order to improve public safety. While Guerriero was not knowledgeable about Citizens Union’s reform issues, she believes that she would serve as a watchdog for city government in order to be a counterpoint to the mayor, and has stated that she will meet with all groups in order to advance their issues. Citizens Union likes Guerriero’s energy and commitment to serve the public, but she lacks policy knowledge to advance reform issues and her inexperience in government raises questions about her ability to effectively and productively work with city agencies and other elected officials to achieve her goals.

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Letitia James - Dem
Age: N/A Occupation: Member, NYC Council
Education: JD (Howard University)

Letitia James is the current incumbent for City Council District 35, having been first elected in 2003. James is running to ensure that city government acts judiciously in serving all of its constituents. As a former Public Defender and Assistant Attorney General, James brings significant legal skills, and has stated that she would use the office’s legal powers to ensure that the Public Advocate has access to information and is appropriately funded. As a member of the City Council, James conducted oversight of contracts, including with City Time, and focused on legislation such as regulating pregnancy centers. Her priorities would include continuing to examine city contracts, creating an office to assist immigrants, educating New Yorkers about health care changes resulting from federal reforms, and ensuring that charter schools are no longer co-located with other public schools. James has also stated that she would use the bully pulpit to put a face to those who are underrepresented in government, such as the homeless. On Citizens Union’s reform issues, James stated that she would use the office’s powers to perform performance audits of city agencies, and would work to enable whistleblowers to come forward to her office about waste or abuses occurring with contracts or other agency proceedings. James opposes the city’s stop, question and frisk policy, believing the community policing should be used as an alternative, as well as other reforms such as requiring police officers to be residents of the city. Citizens Union believes that James brings considerable passion to the issues she champions, and has detailed knowledge of the powers of the Public Advocate, but felt that she was unrealistic about her ability to work on as many issues she wishes given the limitations of the office. We also were disappointed to see her fail to answer two questions and instead used derision and express animus to two of her opponents who asked the questions during a recent televised debate.


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Reshma Saujani - Dem
Age: 37 Occupation: Founder, Girls Who Code
Education: University of Illinois (degree not reported); Harvard Kennedy School (degree not provided); Yale University (JD)

Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that educates high-school girls regarding computer science, and is a former Deputy Public Advocate. Saujani also managed the Fund for Public Advocacy, the non-profit affiliated with the Public Advocate which raises private funds to support its work. She is running because she believes that the office of the Public Advocate can better protect the city’s vulnerable populations. Saujani would appoint four deputy public advocates, with one each focused on the following: jobs, education, housing and women’s issues. With regard to job creation, Saujani believes that the city should focus on retraining its job force to ensure that new positions in technology fields can be filled. Saujani would extend job preparedness to the classroom, supporting teaching computer science in every school. Regarding Citizens Union’s issues, Saujani would use her profile as the Public Advocate to push for greater transparency of city agencies, and stated she would lead by example by posting online all meetings held by her office and would put the finances of the Fund for Public Advocacy online. Saujani also supports reforms to ensure that elections are more open, such as nonpartisan, top-two elections and election day registration. Saujani’s ability to leverage outside resources for the office of Public Advocate through the Fund for Advocacy would likely increase her ability to successfully pursue her agenda. Citizens Union believed that while Saujuani had many unique and appealing ideas for the office and for city government, her relative lack of direct experience in government compared to other candidates would hinder her ability to accomplish her ambitious list of goals.