In a year with so many crucial elections, there’s no race New York’s tech community can afford to ignore. This is especially true of our state’s attorney general opening, which has a number of highly qualified candidates vying for office. While it might sound surprising, the AG can play a crucial role when it comes to the tech industry - making it vital we know all the candidates’ positions.
Last night we made an effort to do that, hosting a first-of-its-kind tech forum for the candidates with Axios and WeWork. Held at WeWork’s Bryant Park building in Manhattan, we gave four candidates (Tish James, Zephyr Teachout, Sean Patrick Maloney, and Leecia Eve) a unique chance to share their views and talk with voters. With questions from Axios’ Mike Allen and over a hundred Tech:NYC and WeWork members in attendance, the forum flowed like an interactive conversation — which was exactly the point.
The candidates addressed a range of topics, spanning federal and local importance. In the case of the former, speakers mostly focused on Washington’s repeal of net neutrality and the consequences of that decision going forward. On the latter, they talked about everything from creating a more inclusive economy to the New York City Council’s recently passed cap on rideshare companies. The specifics of what each candidate said have been reported elsewhere, but all-in-all it was a thorough and productive discussion.
While the viewpoints of each candidate matter, most important is the sheer fact that this conversation happened. The AG carries a lot of influence on New York’s tech scene. From patent law to regulatory precedent, the AG plays a major role deciding the tone and scope of our state’s tech policy. This significance will only increase down the road, putting the AG in a powerful position to determine how much we grow or stagnate. For that reason, dialogue is necessary, and local startups need several tools to interact with the person who’ll make decisions that affect them.
A candidate forum is one such tool, but there’s still more to be done. As New York tech continues to boom, it’ll become increasingly important for our community to be on the same page as elected officials. With increased growth, lawmakers will aim to pass regulations and promote economic fairness, while tech companies will be focused on creating new innovations and making societal contributions. For these goals to align, each side needs to be engaged with the other, making it vital to have more town halls, meetings, hearings, and exchanges of ideas.
We thank the candidates, along with Axios and WeWork, for helping make this happen. Events like last night’s aren’t just good opportunities for the tech sector. They are signs of a healthy democracy, and we are already thinking about future forums. We will continue to keep a close eye on this race, and encourage the tech community to keep getting involved with the democratic process.
If you missed the conversation, you can watch the full video here.
Photo credit: Trey Bohn for WeWork