New Yorkers' grand, central guide to elections, politics & government

Office Roles and Powers


It’s important to know what each member of city government is responsible for and empowered to do. Here, we attempt to help you investigate the roles and powers of the different city offices, making sure to point out that different officeholders utilize their positions and powers variably.


City Council Member (51)

  • representative of a specific geographic district
  • charged with working to represent his/her district and its constituents while also working in the best interest of the city at large
  • may introduce city legislation
  • may vote on proposed city legislation, city budget
  • may vote in attempts to override a mayoral veto of previously passed council legislation
  • nominates people to the Borough President for community board membership


Speaker of the City Council (1 – citywide (elected by fellow council members))

  • elected by fellow city council members
  • acts as the main representative of the city council
  • determines which proposed legislative bills get to the council floor for a vote


Borough President (5 – 1 per borough)

  • executive official and representative of one borough
  • charged with working in the best interest of his/her borough, its residents, businesses, and visitors
  • charged with keeping tabs on the quality of life in his/her borough and being a voice for the borough throughout the city
  • liaises with neighborhood residents, community organizations, schools, and other individuals and groups
  • makes some appointments to community boards, Panel for Education Policy, and City Planning Commission
  • has some say over land use  and zoning within his/her borough
  • controls a portion of the city’s capital budget


Comptroller (1 – citywide)

  • chief financial officer for the city
  • charged with tracking city contracts, determining when auditing is appropriate, and carrying out audits of city agencies
  • analyzes expenditures and monitors/provides advice and recommendations concerning the city’s 78 billion dollar annual budget
  • responsible for reporting to the mayor and the city council regarding the city’s finanical condition
  • oversees the management of the city’s five major pension funds – that combined are worth approximately 135 billion dollars
  • issues and sells city bonds
  • has a voice of authority relative to economic issues facing the city and its residents
  • manages a professional staff of over 700 employees – ranging from accountants and attorneys to economists and engineers


Public Advocate (1 – citywide)

  • the official watchdog within the city government, charged with ensuring “good government” and looking out for all of the city’s residents
  • performs oversight of government agencies and programs
  • may introduce legislation to the city council
  • responsible for assessing issues of fairness, justice, and equality
  • has a platform from which to speak as a check on the mayor and the city council
  • charged with monitoring conditions for all New Yorkers, including virtually each demographic group
  • becomes acting mayor in the mayor’s absence


Mayor (1 – citywide)

  • chief executive of the city government
  • may introduce legislation to the city council
  • may veto city council bills
  • makes many administrative appointments
  • represents the city within and outside
  • currently granted “mayoral control” of the city’s school system by the state
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