Who has oversight over a mayor, whom many question may have abused his authority ?
Facing questions from the media on Friday about Mayor Bill de Blasio's questionable interference with a judge's order in the case against Bishop Orland Findlayter, New York City Public Advocate Tisch James essentially told a reporter from The New York Post that it was not her job to question the mayor's judgment.
Several people followed Ms. James from City Hall to her office on Friday, asking her to comment on the growing scandal that has forced the mayor to cancel one press conference, forced Bishop Orlando Findlayter to cancel a public statement, and forced the Rev. Al Sharpton to contort himself into a politically expedient embrace with his arch-nemesis, the former racist mayor, Rudolph Giuliani. Mayor de Blasio has defended his intervention in Bishop Findlayter's detention as "absolute appropriate."
Outside City Hall, Ms. James was asked to comment about the mayor's actions that sprung Bishop Findlayter, a crucial political supporter, out of jail, a move seen by many as a favor granted by the mayor to a member of his inaugural committee. As public advocate, Ms. James is tasked with challenging the city government if she sees wrong-doing.
"You are the public advocate, do you have anything to say ?" a reporter asked.
"No comment, no comment," was her first response -- before a reporter repeatedly asked the public advocate for her opinion, finally prompting the public advocate to say, "I will defer to the mayor of the City of New York."
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Just last summer, Ms. James demonstrated she was able to speak truth to power, when she challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to place a moratorium on hospital closings. She has it in her to stand up to powerful men. Left unexplained is why Ms. Tames is standing beside Mayor de Blasio as his young administration becomes engulfed in serious questions about abuse of authority and, quite possibly, obstruction of justice.
In respect of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, during her campaign for the speakership, many raised serious concerns about her ability, or her willingness, to serve as a check on the mayor's power. Because the mayor lobbied on her behalf during the Council speaker race, Speaker Mark-Viverito owes her political allegiance to the mayor. There's no check on the mayor's power.
In respect of the scandal resulting from the mayor's defense of his call to police to help his political supporter, Speaker Mark-Viverito has predictably sided with defending the mayor.
The importance of checks-and-balances in a government plays an important role in being able to reign in the uncontrolled power if one branch exceeds its authority. But checks-and-balances also comes into play to prevent one branch of government from getting into trouble with the law. If the police had told the mayor that they could not let Bishop Findlayter go before his scheduled appearance before a judge, then the de Blasio administration would not be having all these problems. A courageous cop could have stopped all this from snowballing into an uncontrollable scandal. Checks-and-balances exist to both protect the integrity of our three branch government system, as well as to protect political insiders from abusing their authority or obstructing justice. Because the mayor was obsessed with extending his power and influence into every corner of city government, only wanting "Yes men" -- and "Yes women" -- around him, now he has to deal with a mess of his very own creation. For a mayor with major control issues, this is like a form of karmic justice.
To prove that there is no check on the mayor's power, when serious questions were raised about the electioneering activities of one of the mayor's political supporters, the lobbying and campaign consulting firm known as The Advance Group, the matter was referred for investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, precisely because the mayor appoints officials to the Campaign Finance Board and the Conflicts of Interest Board, two city agencies that would be tasked to investigate allegations of wrong-doing by the mayor's political supporters. The matter was also referred to select members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's public corruption investigation panel, the Moreland Commission.
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The possible political damage to Mayor de Blasio's agenda
Because Mayor de Blasio's administration is now in full crisis mode over the police's early release of Bishop Findlayter, this means that Gov. Cuomo will be able to run roughshod over the de Blasio administration's weakened state of governing. The mayor's team is too distracted now with politically protecting the mayor that the mayor is no longer able to fully press for his tax rate hike for the very wealthy. Mayor de Blasio needs the tax rate increase to fulfill on his campaign promise to fund pre-kinder for all New York City toddlers. The mayor's other plans to raise the minimum wage may also be in jeopardy. Until City Hall releases the e-mails that City Hall officials sent to the NYPD leading up to Bishop Findlayter's release and fully answers questions about what appears to be political favors that the mayor may be granting to his campaign supporters, Mayor de Blasio will be be governing from a diminished position.