Surviving a heated, crowded race – 17 candidates in all – City Councilman Jumaane Williams was elected New York City’s next public advocate. As a city councilman representing Brooklyn, Williams distinguished himself as a credentialed member of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, advancing tenant protections and championing police reform, among other issues. But Williams has a few tech positions up his sleeve as well.
In the past, Williams has criticized Airbnb for what he said was an attempt to keep the city from going after bad actors on the platform by elevating the voices of minority renters at pro-Airbnb protests, effectively shielding the platform’s bad actors with race. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his prioritization of affordable housing and arguments that the home-sharing company takes away affordable housing, Williams also supported the City Council legislation that became the Airbnb disclosure law – which is now the subject of a lawsuit.
Williams also voted for the cap on Uber, Lyft and other app-based for-hire vehicle licenses last summer. The cap is intended to allow the city to study the effect of these companies on the city’s congestion, although the financial strain that apps have put on taxi drivers and taxi medallion owners is an underlying driver of the bill, which ultimately passed – and which is also the subject of a lawsuit.
Aside from being second-in-line to the mayor, the role of the public advocate is to serve as both a government watchdog and ombudsman for New Yorkers. In this capacity, the public advocate’s central power is to draw attention to issues. That may not sound like much, but City Council hearings ahead of the planned deal to bring HQ2 to New York demonstrated that even opponents in the City Council – which had no approval authority over the deal – could prove loud enough to help push Amazon out.
There’s a long road ahead for Williams as he faces at least two more elections before the end of the year, but with a few established stances on the tech issues du jour, it’s likely he’ll shine a light on some of them in that time.
For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.
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