Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at September 2014 NY Tech Meetup

September 9, 2014

Mayor de Blasio: You know, most people don’t call me Your Mayorness.

[Laughter]

I want to give our friends at Heat Seek credit for novel presentation.

First, I want to thank Jessica Lawrence for her great leadership. This is an extraordinary organization, an extraordinary gathering of people, and she has done so much to help it grow. But also, we have turned, in my administration, to Jessica quite a bit to help guide us in our efforts to deepen our connection to the tech community and where it could take us all together. So let’s thank Jessica for all she does.

[Applause]

So, congratulations. Tenth anniversary of the Meetup – pretty extraordinary – and it’s something that people should be proud of how far you’ve come and what it means. I think I’ve hit the wrong button, yes. In government, it’s important to know when you’ve hit the wrong button.

[Laughter]

But, I have to say, part of what I’ve heard about the Meetup and what I’m valuing this very evening is the notion of incredible ideas being presented to people who can think together and work together on them. It’s something all of us in government need to do more of, and you do it here all the time – and that’s incredibly admirable. And I am absolutely moved by what I saw from Heat Seek. So let’s give Heat Seek another round of applause.

[Applause]

First of all, I have to say, you know, the name says so much. You know, we’re in a society of so much information and first impressions really matter. So the name Heat Seek is quite striking. If my staff would allow me to say, “That’s a badass name,” I would say it.

[Laughter]

But, I’m sure that wouldn’t be allowed. So, let me thank, Jared and William and Harold for what they’ve done and their obvious heart that they’ve brought to this. Let me offer as a small, immediate response, in all of my grand and glorious mayoralness –

[Laughter]

– that I would like to guarantee them a meeting with the housing commissioner and the general manager of our housing authority so they can present the idea directly.

[Applause]

And their efforts remind me deeply of efforts we’ve put together with tenants and activists – something we created several years ago when I was public advocate called the Worst Landlords Watchlist. That became a real organizing tool for people to see where the violations were, which landlords were breaking the law, and helping tenants to find each other, organize together, apply the full force of the law to people who were doing the wrong thing. It actually got us to the position where a lot of bad landlords were forced out of business and people ended up with their buildings in better hands. And so, anything that organizes and supports tenants – particularly those not being given the services they deserve – I’m a believer in. So, thank you, Heat Seek. Clap for them again. That’s a good thing.

[Applause]

The Meetup, now over 41,000 people – an absolutely extraordinary forum for the growth of the tech community, for the growth of great ideas, for the growth of this city. Clearly what’s happening here is an example of where this city is going – and it’s powerful to me to see the creativity and to understand what it’s going to mean for the future of this city.

I have had a lot of people who have helped me to understand what’s happening here and all the things we need to do to work more closely with the tech community. One of them is Andrew Rasiej, who has guided me for years and years – I bet he’s guided a lot of people in this room as well. I’d like to thank Andrew for all the inspiration that he’s given me and so many members of my administration.

[Applause]

I’d like to thank Nate Westheimer, who has been the board president, and Scott Heiferman and Dawn Barber, who are cofounders, everyone who’s helped to make this what it is – thank them all.

[Applause]

And I will be brief but I just want to mention – a lot of people in this administration are excited to work with the Meetup and the larger tech community, and they include – many of them are here tonight – and they include our Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen; my counsel, Maya Wiley; the president of our Economic Development Corporation, Kyle Kimble; our small business commissioner, Maria Torres-Springer; our information technology commissioner, Anne Roest; our digital director, Jesse Singleton; my tech and innovation advisor, Jeff Merritt; and the director of our workforce development effort, Katie Gaul-Stigge. All of them want to work closely with the Meetup and the larger community – and there’s a real commitment in this administration to doing it. I know a lot of other elected officials feel the same way. Gale Brewer, our Manhattan borough president, is here and she is a true devotee.

[Applause]

So the Meetup played a central role, particularly over this last decade obviously, in the growth of the tech sector in this city. It is an incredible story, an underrated story, a story that we have to understand better to know where we’re going, but right now, clearly, the fastest growing sector of our economy – in many ways, the sector that’s providing the highest paying jobs. 291,000 jobs in the tech sector in this community in this city – that is amazing.

[Applause]

And we are unquestionably the second largest tech community in the country now, and growing. And we want to work with you every step of the way for a lot of reasons.

It is in part – yes, because we have to grow our economy, but also because this community, from everything I’ve seen, believes in economic growth that also helps to uplift all of us, that also helps us to fight inequality and create economic inclusion – and that’s inspiring to me. I’ve seen that in countless encounters with people from the tech community. The way people are thinking is a way that truly brings in every kind of people – and we want to foster that.

It’s also because this community understands and is devoted to the strengthening of our educational system in a way that’s very urgent, very immediate. And that partnership we want to forge with you to help strengthen education is crucial.

This is a big moment in New York City history. I’m very proud of the fact that we took a big step, just in the last week, towards universal pre-k for every child in this city, which is going to be a game-changer.

[Applause]

We’re going to do a lot more. We’re going to expand after-school programs, we’re going to create community schools that bring the whole community into the education process, deepen the role of parents, bring physical health and mental health programs into our schools – there’s a lot of things ahead – and a big commitment we’ve already made to fostering the kind of educational efforts that will help people enter the tech sector. We have devoted, this year, $20 million for STEM programs at the City University. That will go up to $50 million next year.

[Applause]

And we’ve said clearly – and this is something we have to do with everyone in this room – our goal is that, in eight years, the majority of skilled tech jobs in this city will be filled by people from New York City, meaning our schools produce the talent this community needs.

[Applause]

We have a great new initiative to support that goal of bringing up our own talent – the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline. Today we announced Kristen Titus as the founding director of the Pipeline.

[Applause]

Kristen’s cheering section is here. Everyone knows she has an extraordinary record at a very early age already – led Girls Who Code, named by Time Magazine one of “30 People Under 30 Changing the World” – that’s kind of cool. And we are so happy that Kristen has agreed to come in and lead this effort, which is going to help us reach every kind of New Yorker and bring them into this community.

Now, we know that’s one piece of the puzzle. We know that infrastructure is a huge challenge. We must have full universal access to high-speed, low-cost Internet citywide, period – every borough, every neighborhood.

[Applause]

We believe we have a lot of tools in city government that we’re just beginning to brandish to use the powers of the city government – the legal and purchasing powers and economic powers – to change the way this game is played and to push much harder on some companies in the private sector that need to do more to create universal access. We’ve also made very clear – a lot of people are paying close attention to proposed Comcast merger – that we expect a lot more from Comcast if they come into this city in terms of providing more universal access. I think governments all around the country need to speak up more on broadband access, need to speak up more on net neutrality. It’s time for a common front of local governments speaking up for these needs.

[Applause]

You will be called upon by us – I guarantee it. We want it to be very much a two-way street. We want to hear the great ideas coming out here and see how government can foster them and support them and engage them, but we also want your help. And one of the things we want the most is for you to engage this Tech Talent Pipeline, to engage this effort to reach across the city and bring up talent.

We want to get you involved in our schools – our high schools, our middle schools. There’s an endless need for mentorship, internships – the things that will show our young people that there’s a real pathway to this sector. We’re going to ask you time and again to engage that process – and in the process, help improve our school system. Everything we’re trying to do in the vein of education, each piece supports the next. Pre-k, afterschool, community schools all help build up a school system, but your involvement – your deep involvement – in our schools will make them more effective. And every time a young person believes there’s something up ahead they will be a more engaged and hopeful student – and we need you to be a part of that.

So, that’s what I came here to say, but, I have to say, in the spirit of today’s announcement by Apple, I’m going to channel Steve Jobs for a moment, and end this presentation with the proverbial quote unquote “one more thing.” And the one more thing is a really good and important thing. For the first time in the history of New York City government, we are going to have a Chief Technology Officer.

[Applause]

The notion of being the inaugural person in a role, the person who has to create the role, would be daunting to some, especially on one of the biggest stages in the world, but it is not daunting to Minerva Tantoco. And I am certain she will take this role on from the beginning and develop it into something that will powerfully affect not only all of city government, but all of the deep connection we need to have between the tech community and city government.

The goal of the CTO is to develop and implement a coordinated strategy for technology and innovation, for how this city as a whole is going to approach the role of technology in our everyday lives, in our economy, in our schools, in our civic participation. There’s no question to me that we’re only scratching the surface of what technology can mean for a re-democratization of our society, for a much greater involvement of our citizens in all matters of civic life – the ability to access government, the ability for government to hear – Heat Seek just showed you a great example – the ability of government to know what’s happening and act on it in a way that’s not been imaginable before. Minerva will be charged with looking for all these ideas and helping to bring them into action and giving us a 21st century government more deeply connected to all our people – certainly deeply and readily connected to idea-generating people and people who want to help us reform and improve the work of government. We want that to be seamless.

Minerva is someone who comes to this with the things we were looking for. We wanted a great technologist, we wanted someone with a lot of experience, but we wanted someone with a lot of energy and ability to create from scratch – and we wanted a true New Yorker. We found all of them in Minerva Tantoco. Raised in Flushing, Queens – if you’re from Queens you can clap at that –

[Applause]

– went to high school at Bronx Science.

[Applause]

Okay. In 1985, at the age of 20, moved to the Silicon Valley, founded a tech start-up; has spent 17 years as a CTO for some important and leading companies and has a deep concern for the public good; has been an outspoken advocate for the need for an increased role of women in the technology field – she is someone who’s going to help all of us to break down any gender gap. And we think that’s exactly the kind of person who can take our vision of fighting inequality and help us act on it using all the power of technology, and help us deepen our connection with the tech community in that work.

So with that, I would like to present to you, the soon-to-be CTO for the city of New York, Minerva Tantoco.

[Applause]

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