Public advocate candidates debate tech

The candidates for the New York City public advocate debate.
The candidates for the New York City public advocate debate.
Holly Pickett for The New York Times/pool photos
The candidates for the New York City public advocate did their best to fill the stage.

Public advocate candidates debate tech

Animosity towards Amazon doesn't mean the candidates are hostile to tech.
February 7, 2019

The special election to elect New York City’s next public advocate is happening with more fanfare than might be expected for a job whose primary role is to act as a government watchdog. What draws so much attention – and so many candidates – to the race is the fact that the office is widely seen as a stepping stone to higher office, including mayor of New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, served as public advocate before taking on the city’s highest office, and Letitia James created the need for this special election when she vacated the role to become New York’s attorney general last month.

Ten of the 17 public advocate candidates qualified to participate in a debate on Wednesday night, where the conversation was dominated by the planned Amazon headquarters in Long Island City, as City & State’s Jeff Coltin writes. City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. came out against the deal during the debate, as did Assemblyman Ron Kim, who represents Flushing. But don’t take those positions to mean that all candidates are hostile to all tech.

Espinal Jr. is a sponsor of the Council bills proposing the legalization of e-bikes and e-scooters in New York City. That effort has been met with some pushback from de Blasio over his concerns about their safety. Another councilman with his hat in the public advocate ring is Ydanis Rodriguez, who has also been a staunch supporter of legalizing e-bikes. He has not only pushed for their legalization, but also for the creation of more protected bike lanes, which could address some safety concerns. Finally, there’s Benjamin Yee, a candidate who is on the ballot for the Feb. 26 election, but who did not qualify for Wednesday’s debate. Yee has industry cred, having worked for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign as a digital director for New York state, and launching two of his own startups.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.