Improving City Services
Betsy Gotbaum was first elected to serve as Public Advocate in November 2001 and re-elected in 2005. She is only the third woman elected to a city-wide post
in NYC history. As Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum improves the lives of the City’s most vulnerable residents by championing reforms that lead to better access to city services. The following is a snapshot of some of Betsy Gotbaum’s successes as Public Advocate.
• Commission on School Governance: Betsy Gotbaum’s strong advocacy on behalf of school children led the state assembly to ask her to convene a commission on school governance that would make recommendations on the reauthorization of mayoral control before it expires in June 2009. The commission, whose members include experts in education, policy and government, met with over 60 stakeholders and has acquired a series or original papers from nationally recognized experts; these will be published by the Brookings Press. The commission’s report will be available in late 2008.
• Fought forced drop outs: Betsy Gotbaum and Advocates for Children showed that, over 3 years, the DOE forced 160,000 students to drop out of high schools, triggering new procedures to prevent this illegal practice.
• Secured special education services: Betsy Gotbaum revealed that the DOE was withholding special education services for up to 20,000 students, prompting the DOE to make reforms to the special education evaluation system.
• Improved Career and Technical Education: Betsy Gotbaum found that DOE has failed to align CTE programs with growth industries, match programs with muchneeded industry partners, and promote gender balance in CTE high schools. Her recommendations for improving the CTE program were incorporated into the final report of the city’s CTE Task Force. A pilot program will launch in 2009.
• Helped More At-Risk Families: Betsy Gotbaum advocated against the mayor’s shortsighted cuts to preventive services, getting an additional $22 million to help more than 1,000 families stay together.
• Improved Child Safety at City Shelters: Betsy Gotbaum identified that, over a 3 year period, 20 children died of abuse or neglect in city shelters. The City Council passed legislation she introduced mandating the distribution of information on reporting of child abuse, providing materials on protecting children, and creating a training program for shelter staff.
• Increased Public Awareness of Sleeping Safety: Betsy Gotbaum found that the most common cause of fatalities of children known to the child welfare system was improper sleeping position, prompting ACS to launch a $1.5 million “Take Good Care of Your Baby” public education campaign.
• Prompted ACS to Expanded Legal Services to Better Protect Children: Betsy Gotbaum identified a 23% annual ACS attorney turnover rate due to high caseloads, leading the city to hire 25 more attorneys and increase ACS’ legal budget by $3.4 million.
• Increased a Woman’s Access to Reproductive Health: Betsy Gotbaum and NARAL Pro Choice NY successfully lobbied the city to institute an abortion training program for its medical staff, create separate facilities for women undergoing this procedure, and make available the medical abortion pill.
• Forced 100% of Hospitals to comply with Maternity Information Act: Betsy Gotbaum found that none of the 44 city hospitals that offer labor and delivery services were providing legally-mandated maternity information. Her advocacy resulted in 100% of city hospitals making this information available.
• Improved Access to the HPV Vaccine: Betsy Gotbaum revealed few city clinics offered the HPV vaccine. Shortly thereafter, the city announced all immunization clinics would make this vaccine available.
• Improved Access to Food Stamps: Betsy Gotbaum’s investigations and advocacy resulted in the food stamp application being reduced from 16 pages to 4, evening and weekend food stamp office hours for working New Yorkers, and a community-based outreach program that enrolled 77,000 New Yorkers in the food stamp program.
• City Services Satisfaction Project: Betsy Gotbaum initiated a program to assess New Yorkers’ opinions of city services in order to provide city agencies with information they need to make improvements. In partnership with the Mayor and the Fund for the City of New York, 100,000 New Yorkers were surveyed. This was the largest municipal services survey ever conducted.
• Constituent Services: The Office of the Public Advocate runs a municipal helpline that assists about 12,000 New Yorkers a year in getting the public benefits and services that are rightfully theirs. Constituent calls about help with public benefits and services including public housing, homelessness, income support and food stamps, have more than doubled during Gotbaum’s tenure, as have calls related to the schools.
Betsy Gotbaum is an ex-officio member of all committees of the City Council. In that capacity, she has introduced and co-sponsored 346 bills.
Bills introduced offer solutions to important, yet unaddressed problems that affect New Yorkers, including the need to allow advocates to help New Yorkers cut through red tape by setting up help desks in public benefit offices, reduce hazardous mold and pest infestations in apartments, require pharmacies to translate prescription information into other languages, protect caregivers from workplace discrimination, and more.
New York City Employee Retirement System Trustee
The Public Advocate is a Trustee on New York City ‘s largest retirement system, with over $40 billion in assets. She holds one of six full votes, which she used to increase the representation of smaller fund managers, target programs that invest pension dollars in rehabilitation of affordable housing, force companies to adopt fair labor practices related to sexual orientation and gender identity, and more.
Fund for Public Advocacy
Betsy Gotbaum’s not-for-profit fund is an incubator for innovative government programs, including a program to equip paramedics with motorcycles to increase emergency response times and the city services satisfaction project. Since its inception, the fund has raised over $2,500,000.
With less than a year and a half left in office, Betsy Gotbaum has an ambitious agenda. She will continue her successful fight to improve education, child welfare and women’s health services. Additionally, Betsy Gotbaum will:
• Propose the city expand children’s access, through the schools, to health care services including primary care, dental care, and wellness programs, including nutrition and exercise
• Increasing access to public benefits through legislation that would enable advocates to set up help desks
• Reduce childhood asthma triggers by compelling landlords to remediate
hazardous mold violations
• Make available the city’s first-ever public benefits resource for 600,000 immigrants
• Guarantee workplace protections for caregivers