City Councilman Jumaane Williams was elected Tuesday as New York City’s next public advocate, the bully pulpit that holds no enforcement power but can amplify issues deemed important to New Yorkers.
Williams, who has been on the City Council since 2009, was considered a frontrunner in the special race to fill the spot left vacant by now-Attorney General of New York State Letitia James. He will have to campaign again in a June primary and November general election.
He has not named education as a priority for the public advocate’s office, instead focusing on government transparency and accountability, and the overhaul of New York City’s criminal justice system as a couple of his top issues.
If Williams pursues an education issue, he’ll likely focus on school funding or will push for more diverse schools and faculty.
“We need the governor and leaders across the state to stop the politicking and realize that our number one job is to adequately prepare our kids for their futures, and that means not shortchanging them when it comes to aid that the federal, state, and local governments owe them,” Williams said in a candidate questionnaire for Chalkbeat, specifically showing support for the much-debated lawsuit that developed a formula to send more state dollars to high-needs districts.
Williams said he would primarily pursue school diversity by working with community education councils and the administration. He would also “work with advocates” to recommend policies for city and state lawmakers to adopt.
On the hot-button issue of diversifying specialized high schools, Williams has stopped short of supporting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to get rid of the sole admissions exam in lieu of offering spots to the top 7 percent of students at each middle school.
Williams is a graduate of one of the specialized schools, Brooklyn Tech, and in an NY1 debate earlier this month said the admissions test was the only reason he got into the elite high school. De Blasio’s plan has earned backlash, including from the Asian community — Asians make up 62 percent of enrollment at these schools.
Williams said he does support multiple criteria and access points for admissions.
Here’s how Williams answered our candidate questionnaire.