Jumaane Williams. Photo: Facebook.
On Tuesday, voters in New York City will decide from a list of 17 candidates who they want to be the next New York City Public Advocate. The February 26 special election is necessary since former Public Advocate Letitia James was elected attorney general for New York State last November.
Coming on the heels of Wednesday’s Spectrum News\NY 1 debate, moderated by Errol Louis, seven candidates are now the presumed frontrunners. The seven candidates are: City Council Members Jumaane Williams and Rafael Espinal; former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito;state Assembly-members Michael Blake and Ron Kim; attorney Dawn Smalls; and, activist Nomiki Konst.
The New York City Public Advocate’s office is a powerful position. The Public Advocate is next in the political line of succession to the city’s mayor. Current Mayor Bill de Blasio capitalized on his single term as Public Advocate to become mayor in 2014.
The Public Advocate should be just that: someone who advocates ardently for the interests of all the people of New York City, including its most underserved residents. The best candidate should be someone with a proven progressive track record of getting things done for all New Yorkers—especially, the working poor.
The results of the 2018 Elections made it clear Americans want progressive politicians who will fight for their concerns. Across the board, Americans are concerned about the dire economic realities of our time. Voters cited the rising cost of healthcare, housing, college affordability, and job insecurity, as the main pressing issues.
In a diverse New York City, there are other topics the Public Advocate must tackle. Black New Yorkers, in particular, have peculiarly pressing problems, besides those already mentioned, including: crippling unemployment, high homelessness, failing schools—and the deadly serious issue of racial policing.
There’s also a little known ugly secret. Out of the more than $20 billion that New York City spends with vendors, Black and Latino-owned businesses get less than 1%. This is a crime that begs urgent attention considering Blacks and Latinos make up over 52% of New York City’s population.
At the Black Star News, we believe the candidate who best exemplifies the progressive policies New York City needs now in a Public Advocate is: independently-minded three-term New York City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, 42.
During Wednesday’s NY1 debate, Williams said, “I’ve consistently been on the ground with the people who are feeling the heat the most–people know I’m their champion.” He added, “I have the figurative and literal scars of putting my body on the line and raising issues no one else would.”
Councilman Williams’ resume demonstrates just that kind of determined dedication—along with his forward vision, progressive politics, and activist-minded advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Williams has said the two top priorities he will focus on as Public Advocate “will center around creating safe, affordable income targeted housing and bringing transparency and accountability to our government—particularly around the broken MTA, our city agencies and the NYPD.” Williams has been endorsed by many city unions, political organizations, and by numerous elected officials, at the city and state level.
Prior to being elected to the City Council, Williams used his skills to advocate for everyday New Yorkers. In 2008, Williams, who has a master’s degree in urban policy and administration, became the executive director of the statewide New York State Tenants & Neighbors organization. In this capacity, he fought for the rights of public-housing tenants, and those in Section 8 housing. Williams’ activism continued after being elected, in 2009, to the City Council—where he is known as one of the most productive members. A skilled negotiator, he has been able to pass important bills by building consensus on the City Council. Councilman Williams is the principal sponsor on 53 pieces of legislation.
Williams, who fought for affordable housing when he was at New York State Tenants & Neighbors, has continued to so in the City Council. In running for Public Advocate, he has released a detailed housing plan and says he will “fight to fully fund NYCHA,” while fixing the numerous problems within NYCHA.
Williams has pledged to fight to “end the NYPD’s systemic failure to hold abusive officers accountable,” if elected Public Advocate. He also promised to fight to repeal the 50-a statewide law, which “shields police across the entire state from engaging the public with the utmost transparency.” In the City Council, Williams is a vociferously outspoken critic of racist policing practices like Stop-and-Frisk and he championed the Community Safety Act which survived the veto of then Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Community Safety Act instituted an independent Inspector General requirement to oversee the New York Police Department (NYPD) and created much needed accountability and enforcement against biased policing. This legislation also makes it easier for victims of discriminatory unconstitutional stops to initiate legal action.
In 2015, Williams’s Fair Chance Act was passed into law. The legislation prohibits employers from looking into the criminal history of prospective employees until after a conditional offer of employment has been first made.
Williams has also been an advocate for an anti-violence initiative known as Cure Violence. This anti-violence approach, which uses mediators to prevent violence, has been lauded by some NYPD police officers who admit it has helped reduce violence where it has been practiced.
For all these reasons, The Black Star News endorses Councilman Williams to be the next Public Advocate of New York City.