By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
While Bill de Blasio is busy running for mayor, his former deputy is trying to move up the ladder to take his job as the city’s public advocate. Reshma Saujani formally launched her campaign on April 23 by starting a tour called “Opportunity for All: Five Boroughs in Five Days.” Her Brooklyn stop took place at Polytechnic Institute of New York University, where she met with students to discuss technology and innovation.
Saujani, the city’s former deputy public advocate, said she could relate to the students because technology has always been a passion. She is the founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that works with leading technology and engineering companies like Twitter, Google, eBay and General Electric to teach teenage girls how to design websites. “It helps these girls gain the valuable skills they’ll need to find jobs in high-tech industries,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“There is a growing tech sector here in Brooklyn. I would support that as public advocate,” Saujani, a lawyer, said.
The former deputy public advocate said she’s running to ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income level, are served by city government. “There are so many New Yorkers living below the poverty line. I will fight for job creation. We need a public advocate who knows how to get things done,” she said.
“We have a responsibility to make sure that all New Yorkers who work hard and play by the rules have access to the American Dream,” Saujani said. “I’m running for this office because New York deserves a public advocate who isn’t just another politician, but a leader who advocates, delivers and gets things done for New Yorkers,” she said.
Saujani, the daughter of Indian-American immigrants, has a degree from the University of Illinois, holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and is a graduate of Yale Law School. She previously worked as a lawyer in the financial sector. She is no stranger to politics. During the 2004 presidential race, she founded South Asians for Kerry to mobilize the South Asian community’s support for John Kerry’s bid. In 2008, she served on the National Finance Board for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Saujani, 37, said she admires the job her old boss has done as public advocate. “Bill has done a tremendous amount of work for the people of New York City. I have learned a lot from him,” she said.
Bill deBlasio is in a crowded field of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor. Similarly, Saujani is one of several candidates running for the Democratic Party’s nomination. State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights), Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Fort Greene), Cathy Guerriera, and Noah Gotbaum are all running for public advocate.
She is aware of her underdog status, she said. “We are building a grass-roots campaign from the bottom up,” she said.
Still, she’s getting help from people in the field of technology. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, appeared at a fundraiser for her last week.
Saujani said she has a four-pronged strategy on how she would serve: 1) Fighting for Women and Families, including advocating for expanded child care tax credits to reduce the burdens on working parents, and fighting for pay equity so that women no longer earn less than men for performing the same job; 2) Building a First-Class Education for all New Yorkers; 3) Expanding Access to Safe, Affordable Housing, including holding landlords and developers accountable for their responsibilities under the law; and 4) Supporting Job Creators and Growing our Economy, including helping immigrant, minority and women-owned small businesses access city services and building partnerships between employers and educators to develop the work force that can attract new private sector jobs to the city.
“I want to create opportunities for the most vulnerable of our population,” she said.