Juamaane Williams – Democrat – Citizens Union’s Endorsed Candidate
Occupation: New York City Public Advocate
Education: Brooklyn College, BA; Brooklyn College, M.A.
Jumaane Williams has served as the New York City Public Advocate since March 2019, and for almost a decade before, as a Council Member for District 45 (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood, Marine Park, and Flatlands). In the Council, Williams prioritized community policing and combating gun violence. In 2018, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for New York State Lieutenant Governor. Before becoming a Council Member, Williams worked as a community organizer with various nonprofits and served as executive director of Tenants and Neighbors. His general election campaign reiterates the same themes from the February Special Election, with a focus on representing the “people’s voice” in city government and acting as an “activist-elected official.” In his first seven months as Public Advocate, he has shifted the office’s focus from litigation, as it was under his predecessor, to an organizing-based approach. He created five Deputy PA roles, each in charge of coordinating activities around a policy area, and has used the position as a bully pulpit to advocate for issues like housing, criminal justice, and immigrant rights. He also co-sponsored and passed several bills dealing with workers’ rights and social services. Williams has stated that he would focus on keeping city agencies accountable, acting as a “charter cop,” by issuing reports on government services and promoting relevant legislation. Citizens Union endorses Williams because of his commitment to the reform agenda, his passion and knowledge on these issues, and the impressive work he has done so far. Williams demonstrated thoughtful consideration about organizing the Public Advocate office to address the issues he wishes to promote and has begun staffing it accordingly. Given the recent increase in the office’s budget, Citizens Union expects Williams will be able to expand on that work and continue to press for accountability in city government.
Juamaane Williams Questionnaire
Devin Balkind – Libertarian
Occupation: President, Sahara Software Foundation
Education: Northwestern University, B.S.
Devin Balkind is the president of the Sahana Software Foundation, a nonprofit organization that produces open source information management system for disaster relief and humanitarian aid. He is a tech entrepreneur that works with organizations and governments to leverage open source technology to advance their missions, and his campaign follows similar goals for New York City. He advocates for city government to incorporate digital transformation methodology and open source approaches to its services and operations, and envisions the Public Advocate’s office as an innovation lab that leads the City’s effort on the technological and organizational sides. Some of his immediate priorities would be to create a 211 service (a directory for welfare, social, and human services around the city); to make the city’s capital budget more accessible; and to support a digital transformation community inside city government. Balkind focuses on transparency and technological innovations as mechanisms to redesign government bureaucracy, facilitate services delivery, increase accountability, and promote civic engagement. The Chair of the Brooklyn Libertarian Party, he also ran for Public Advocate in 2017. Citizens Union was impressed by Balkind’s vision of digital transformation in government and his pursuit to adopt best practices in the field, and hopes that he will find audience and collaborators in city government to promote these ideas.
Devin Balkind Questionnaire