The Original Public Advocate
In the current San Francisco mayoral election, one of the challengers to sitting mayor Ed Lee has offered an anti-corruption plan that includes a proposal that San Francisco create a new elected office for a Public Advocate.
Other major cities already have Public Advocates; the level of authority depends on the city. In New York, for example, the Public Advocate is the city's second-highest elected official — the one who becomes the acting mayor should the elected mayor become incapacitated. New York's first Public Advocate, Mark Green — an associate of Ralph Nader in the 1970s — carved out a strong role for the office in the 1990s. The city's current mayor, Bill de Blasio, was Public Advocate before being elected to the "first chair."
The general idea is that the Public Advocate is a kind of official watchdog — someone who helps to ensure that the citizens are being treated fairly; that government agencies and private companies are properly maintaining basic utilities and services like streets, public transit, water, electricity and gas (and not gouging the people in the process); and that corruption that affects the general populace is called out wherever it is found.
Sound familiar? It should. For 20 years —starting about 150 years ago — there was a civic-spirited gentleman living in San Francisco who was performing exactly this role.
He sought a well-ordered society marked by goodwill; by fairness to all; and by a tolerance for differences in ethnicity, religion and gender that was matched by an intolerance for corruption of all kinds.
Here's a sample of his Proclamations:
On money in politics (21 November 1874)
On treatment of the Chinese (1 February 1873)
On the right of African-Americans to ride public streetcars (27 May 1871)
On fraud against Native American tribes (25 April 1873)
On fraud in ferry ticket pricing (29 June 1872)
On the safety of the streetcars (20 September 1873)
Of course, the gentleman in question is Norton I — known and beloved as Emperor Norton.
Self-appointed, yes. But, in so many ways, the Emperor was San Francisco's original Public Advocate — perhaps the model for Public Advocates everywhere.
He, too, is why San Francisco finally should have an elected Public Advocate now.
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To honor Norton I and the Empire he founded on 17 September 1859...
Please join The Emperor's Bridge Campaign this Thursday 17 September at 6 p.m. sharp for a brief celebration of what we're calling EMPIRE DAY.
All those who salute the Emperor are summoned to attend.
The event — like the Empire itself — is free and open to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
For location and details, click here.
We look forward to seeing you!
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