Riddle: What do the NYC public advocate and Staten Island Chuck, the Groundhog Day media hog, have in common?
Answer: Both rarely poke their heads out, and their function is a total mystery to most New Yorkers.
Recent revelations show that both are also long past their expiration dates.
Actually, Charlotte G. Hogg reached her expiration date in February, when Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped the squirming rodent, who passed on to groundhog heaven a week later. Turns out Charlotte was substituting for her more aggressive brother Chuck, who took a bite out of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg's finger on Groundhog Day a few years back. Yes, ladies, as in the Julia Pierson-Secret Service fiasco, the female again takes the fall.
A Staten Island Zoo spokesman said Charlotte's previously undisclosed death a week after being dropped by de Blasio was pure coincidence. When a doctor dropped my cousin Arnold on his head and he immediately forgot the alphabet, the doctor also swore it was a coincidence.
Whatever the case, you can bet de Blasio isn't looking forward to Feb. 2, 2015.
Meanwhile, Public Advocate Letitia James often disappears for long stretches from her office to attend to personal appointments, according to a recent story in the New York Daily News. Other than providing name recognition to ambitious politicians (e.g., Mark Green and de Blasio), the usefulness of the office established in 1993 remains very much in debate.
A year ago, I suggested that when James took over as public advocate, she might change the perception of an office that Bloomberg once called "a total waste of everybody's money." So far, no good.
Not only is the annual budget for public advocate $2.3 million, but a wasteful election runoff for the post last year cost the city an additional $13 million.
Back in the groundhog hole, Staten Island Chuck continues to luxuriate on the public dole, existing on his "six more weeks of winter" scam while he sends relatives out to be manhandled by the latest mayor.
Truth be told, if the groundhog and the public advocate switched jobs, would you notice the difference? Time to end both of these useless sinecures.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.