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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/20/19

NYC Public Advocate Race: Jumaane Williams, Activist Political Leader

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Jumaane's been an advocate for the public for the last 20 years as both a New York City Council Member and passionate community organizer. Now he's vying to be NYC's next Public Advocate. The sometimes combative politician has consistently been out front on issues including criminal justice, affordable housing expansion, workers' rights and protections, and more. He was voted the most productive sitting member of the Council having passed 53 pieces of legislation, proving effective in combining activism and legislation to create meaningful change in the city.

But exactly what does the Public Advocate really do?

"Aside from the Public Advocate's role and mandate as set out by the City Charter, the style and substance of the office have largely been defined by its occupant. However, the Public Advocate is first the government watchdog who serves the interests of and works for the over 8.5 million residents of New York City to oversee the workings of this large municipality and to draw attention to any issues or developments that run counter working people's interests. The Public Advocate is the voice of the voiceless. The Public Advocate also serves as an ombudsman for the people," Jumaane told CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS.

Originally, the public advocate also presided over the City Council, but that responsibility was transferred to the council speaker after the 2002 charter revision. While the public advocate can sit in meetings and introduce legislation, she or he has no voting power. Lacking control over any aspect of the government, the public advocate can simply bring attention to issues in hopes that someone else would take action.

And what qualifies City Councilmember Jumaane Williams to be the next Public Advocate?

"As a son of immigrants who came here from Grenada to achieve the American dream, I've always worked hard, called out injustices, and created solutions for issues that affect New Yorkers. In addition to being voted the most productive legislator in the City Council, I've likely been arrested for civil disobedience the most as well," said Jumaane. "I have no problem challenging the people in power. I also have no problem making sure that there are effective policy changes. I'm proud that I can do both."

As Public Advocate Jumaane plans to focus on creating safe, affordable income-targeted housing and bringing transparency and accountability to city government-- particularly around the broken MTA, city agencies, the NYPD among other things. Jumaane hopes to bring the voice of everyday New Yorkers to city government and help make New York City a truly progressive beacon for all.

Last September 13, Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor of New York, prevailed in the Democratic primary, beating back a strong challenge from Jumaane, a three-term New York City councilmember. Ms. Hochul got 768,029 votes accounting for 53.4% of all votes cast. However, the hardworking Brooklynite amassed 669,068 votes or 46.6% of the total votes cast, decisively trouncing her in Brooklyn, and picking up huge name recognition that has propelled him to the top of the 17-candidate field to fill the vacancy left by Letitia James, the first female, and Black state Attorney General. If Jumaane wins the Public Advocate race it will be a Brooklyn Political Trifecta the mayor, public advocate and attorney general.

You could say that it's been quite a remarkable and eventful journey for the 42-year old Williams who was a community organizer before former President Barack Obama made it cool and sexy. In fact, after college in 2005, he worked with nonprofit organizations in the Flatbush and Bedford Stuyvesant sections of Brooklyn, as a community organizer. In 2008 he became the executive director of the New York State Tenants & Neighbors advocating for tenants in Section 8 buildings facing higher rents and forcible buyouts.

"Until Barack Obama was elected president people had no idea what I did when I told them that I was a community organizer. My mum has a much easier time explaining what I did to people after that," Jumaane explained. The son of Grenadian immigrants Patricia and Gregory Williams who arrived in the United States in 1967, Jumaane was born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn. His father obtained a medical degree and completed a residency at Harlem Hospital Center in obstetrics and gynecology, and later practiced in New York and North Carolina. His mother is a pharmacist who worked at Abbott Laboratories for over 30 years.

Since announcing his campaign, Jumaane has secured the most endorsements in the race, including labor unions, political organizations, and elected officials. Councilmember Jumaane Williams earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's degree in urban policy and administration from CUNY-Brooklyn College.

His professional experience includes work as the executive director of New York State Tenants & Neighbors, the interim executive director of the East Flatbush Community Development Corporation, the housing director for the Flatbush Development Corporation, and the assistant director of the Greater Flatbush Beacon School. Jumaane has served as the vice chair of the city council's Black, Latino and Asian Caucus and a founder of the council's Progressive Caucus.

"As Public Advocate, I will be the voice for change while effectively making that change. I hope to earn your vote on February 26th" - Jumaane D. Williams. To learn more about Jumaane visit

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