Because the Mayor talks about “belt tightening” and “sacrifice” when he cuts the budget, and you never hear from the civil servants who get those cuts in the neck, you might get the impression that they heroically and uncomplainingly shoulder their burden like good soldiers.
Therefore it is both refreshing and instructive to read today’s statement from public advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s office which begins:
“For the past 7 years, I have had to take part in a ridiculous annual budget dance with the two people who control my office’s budget: the Mayor and the Speaker of the City Council.
“Historically, the Mayor proposes cuts to the budget, and I negotiate with the Council Speaker to restore it. I have always said this is problematic because this is an independent office that is a check on government. The office should have an independent budget.
“This year, despite a vigorous attempt to restore our budget, I have been told that we are about to be hit with a 40 percent cut to our funding. I believe this is political payback from Speaker Quinn for my spirited opposition to extending term limits without a referendum. It’s anti-democratic, bad government, and politics at its worst.”
Then Gotbaum runs through a list of all the good things the PA does for “New Yorkers who are denied city services… with a budget that has been about half that of some borough presidents, just over $3 million at its height, or about 1/200 of 1% of the total city budget.” She calls her office a “watchdog” over government, and says Bloomberg and Quinn are trying to “turn this watchdog into a lapdog.”
Gotbaum points out that, despite the alleged austerity of the Bloomberg Administration, the city’s spending has increased, the borough president’s budgets have been restored, and “the council is spending almost $50 million on member items.” In what we assume is a reference to the city council slush fund scandal, she suggests that Quinn could have found money for the public advocate’s office “from wherever it is she is parking funds.”