She could be our next Public Advocate.
She stood about 6 feet tall with long dark hair and a fire in her eyes. “I have always wanted to be the Public Advocate,” she said while telling tales from her past and describing her family in detail especially her father, a retired longshoreman. Her glance was piercing, her voice penetrative, and the audience was enraptured reflecting on her words empowered by a strong narrative which conveyed a sense of absolute authority – so much like an ideal Public Advocate should be doing.
A Brooklyn native, Guerriero doesn’t come from a family of privilege, nor does she have a pedigree in politics, but what she does have is the prerequisite for an effective public advocate: a take no prisoner’s attitude. And Guerriero was a natural.
So many of us are numb to the run of the mill political stump speeches, having become skeptical, even dismissive of the rhetoric, but something struck me as genuine about her. Guerriero spoke with facts and figures, highlighting problems and issues in our education system, and occasionally demanding empirical evidence (and throwing a dig or two) at a Mayor whom was not present in the room at the time.
Her PhD is in schools policy, but as a natural educator, she brought a sense of familiarity to a diverse crowd that were sitting in judgment of her every word. Obviously, she has a natural aptitude for conveying complex issues clearly and concisely. Put simply, Guerriero is a teacher’s teacher with a knack for politics, though admittedly she’s an outsider with humble roots.
Guerrero’s outlook on public policy is what can be loosely described as a long-range academic enthusiast. The primary difference between her and her predecessors would be that Cathy has what it takes to see the job through, a job most people don’t understand except that it’s not the Mayor.
Peering in from the outside on a system filled with irregularities and fraught with red tape, she has her work cut out for her. But one thing is certain; it takes a lot of guts to be the Public Advocate of NYC. It’s one of three citywide elected offices with 9 million constituents and definitely not for the faint of heart. Her description of the public advocate’s duties gave us a clue as to what she will do with the position, which in reality is much like that of the Borough President, it’s what you make of it.
Her facts checked out, and overall I liked what I heard. Having witnessed her opponents in action, I became convinced – we need a public advocate like this. What we don’t need is another talking head or lame duck. And while the office is a bit subjective (remember it’s what you make of it), we have a few basic requirements wherein Guerriero’s temperament seems to match, even, dare I say it, stand out from the crowd. She’s blunt at times in such a way that most reporters have not heard from a candidate often startling them with her straightforwardness.
As for specifics, a good public advocate is someone who is accessible (she answers emails within 10 minutes), someone whom the people can go to for support, a person with enough good sense and moral fiber to investigate and process our complaints from across this great city, someone unafraid to lock horns with the speaker, and of course, to fearlessly preside over the entire council. We need a chief ombudsman, and Cathy Guerriero is it.