Inaugural Address of Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum

Today we stand in a different New York from the one in which I began my campaign for Public Advocate a year ago, a New York that has been terribly damaged and cruelly wounded, and yet is in many ways stronger than ever. How lucky we are to be citizens of such a great city.

I begin the new term and the new year by remembering September 11th. We will always know what we were doing that morning, and mourn those who sacrificed so much, especially the ones who offered their lives in service to the city. I take this opportunity to thank them. We honor their sacrifice, and that of their families. It is our good fortune as New Yorkers to have such heroic public servants.

Today, in memory of the lost, I pledge to make the office of Public Advocate work for all of you. We can best remember the fallen by working together to rebuild this city. One valuable legacy of tragedy is the tremendous reservoir of good will among New Yorkers. We all want to lend a hand in rebuilding our home. I intend to use my office to tap into this good will - to offer New Yorkers a way, according to their talents and abilities, to pitch in and speed our recovery.

I want to thank Mayor Giuliani for preparing the way by being a great leader, and a symbol of the best in our city to people throughout the world. Mr. Mayor, you have set a high standard that we in the new administration will have to work hard to equal.

I pledge my help to our new mayor, who has spoken so eloquently this morning. I know how difficult the path is ahead of you. I will support you to the best of my abilities. My job is to be your partner, not adversary, in your work to make a better life for New Yorkers.

I also look forward to working with the new City Council. I remind all of you that we must fight together if we are to serve our community in this difficult time. I will miss your departing speaker and my great friend, Peter Vallone, who achieved so much as your leader.

For my part, starting today, I pledge to do all that is in my power to make the Public Advocate your watchdog over city services. The Public Advocate will also be your ombudswoman - which is a way of saying that you can turn to my officer with your problems, and we will work with you to solve them.

As I pledged in my campaign, I will not forget that the education of our children must be improved. Nothing is more important to the survival of our city. I will work especially hard to monitor the building of new schools. I will also make sure that all New Yorkers know how to get the benefits that are rightfully theirs - health care insurance for the elderly, the young and the poor - and of course support for the families of victims of September 11.

I want to thank my husband Victor, my friends Mayor Ed Koch and Sandy Silverman, my family, and all my supporters, for standing at my side throughout my campaign to become Public Advocate. I thank all of you here today for being with me at the beginning of our journey together. Working together, we can make our city even more exciting, more vital, and more just than ever. I think you for your trust. I will work every day to the fullest of my ability to earn it. Happy New Year, everyone.

January 1, 2002

Other Searchlight articles by Betsy Gotbaum:

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