The office of public advocate was barely five years old when powerful people began tinkering with one feature of the job: its role as the successor to the mayoralty should City Hall be vacated by death, illness or resignation. Mayor Giuliani tried to kick Mark Green out of line to replace him if the mayor won his run for Senate. Mayor Bloomberg succeeded in making sure that the advocate only took the reins until a special election could be held, in 60 days or so, rather than filling out the remainder of the mayoral term.
Nomiki Konst wants to go a step further. The journalist and activist, who at age 34 has done everything from run for Congress in Arizona to serve as on-air talent for The Young Turks, is one in a crowded field of candidates running in the February 26 election to temporarily fill the post vacated when Letitia James became state attorney general. She says her plans for using the office begin with how to reshape it.
“On day one, I will be calling for the public advocate’s office to be removed from line of succession to the mayor. The reason we’re in this problem today with 23 candidates for this position is a lot of people who have higher ambitions want a well-paying stepping stone,” she says. “That corrupts the office.”
Konst also calls for decentralizing the public advocate’s office. That’s an idea that other candidates have mentioned as well, but she proposes “deputized public advocates in every City Council district.” Given that the office currently is budgeted for 45 employees, and there are 51 Council districts, that will require some new money or creative staffing. But Konst thinks it critically important. “With Amazon, if you had people examining what was going on in Long Island City, you’d know that area was being rezoned. You’d know that many apartments were being sold to Amazon employees before negotiations even started. That kind of thing can be caught early on if you have eyes on the ground.”
Konst is also pledging to take on the real-estate industry and to fight for a “$30 minimum wage for municipal employees and all New York businesses with more than 75 employees.”
Below, hear Konst weigh in on these topics as well as what she thinks of Letitia James’s performance in the office. Or listen to the full show, which includes an interview with another public advocate candidate, Assemblyman Ron Kim.
Full January 23, 2019 Show