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In Mayor de Blasio’s eyes, there’s no good cause that can’t benefit from the big hand of government — even democracy itself.
The mayor on Tuesday announced the appointment of a chief democracy officer, a $165,000 post he first proposed in his State of the City speech in February to boost voter and civil participation.
The job went to Harvard-trained civil-rights lawyer Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune.
According to a City Hall press release, she’ll be “developing robust voter registration drives, expanding civics lesson plans for teachers . . . and engaging local and national partners to engage people civically at all levels of government — from community boards to the City Council to our state Legislature and federal government.”
Officials said Fonseca-Sabune will have one staffer reporting to her. That person has not been hired and the salary has not been set.
“Our democracy works best when everyone gets involved, when all voices are heard and when government provides its people with the resources and information necessary to do these things effectively,” de Blasio said in a statement.
But critics said the new post was a waste of money and could lead to partisan abuse.
“There doesn’t seem to be a need for this particular position,” said Frederick Umane, the Manhattan Republican commissioner on the city Board of Elections.
“There are a number of other agencies empowered to do these things, including the Board of Elections.
“We also do voter outreach. There are plenty of not-for-profits, the League of Women Voters, who act to increase voter registration. The Board of Elections works closely with them.”
Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) said the post should be voluntary and unpaid.
“It’s a waste of money,” he said.
Republicans worry it’s all a ploy to boost the Democratic vote.
“What in heaven’s name is a chief democracy officer?” Staten Island Councilman Joe Borrelli asked. “That’s an incredible salary for a political position designed to drum up Democratic votes.”
State GOP Chairman Ed Cox urged de Blasio to stick to basics.
“Anyone has to be concerned about a highly ideological mayor hiring someone to tell people how they should elect their government officials. He should do his job managing the city — fix the potholes, pick up the garbage, make sure transportation works,” he said.
Mayoral spokesman Raul Contreras conceded City Hall’s lack of confidence in the Board of Elections is “part” of the reason the mayor is pushing the DemocracyNYC initiative, but not the only one.
“It extends beyond voting and encourages civic participation,” Contreras said.
Last year, de Blasio set aside $300,000 to create a new office focused on the nightlife industry, including a $130,000-a-year “czar’ to oversee it.