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Andrew Yang gets bytes cred in the Big Apple

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Dec. 6,

Then-Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Dec. 6, 2020.

Daily Point

Yang could be NYC’s first "tech" mayoral candidate

New York City’s modern tech scene has been growing for years, but no leading mayoral candidate has come out of the sector.

Michael Bloomberg arguably comes close, but his terminals were more typically identified with the media and business worlds. Other mayors and hopefuls came up through politics. Mayor Bill de Blasio has often brandished his flip phone.

So is Andrew Yang the closest to a tech frontrunner the city has had? He founded the failed charity website Stargiving, launched a nonprofit to seed small-city startups, and wrote a 2018 TED Talk-style book about automation, "The War on Normal People."

And he appears to be winning the largesse of many Big Apple tech workers, a sector that is due to flex its political muscles given that it grew more than three times faster than the rest of the private sector between 2010 and 2016.

Campaign finance filings tell the story here. Yang has logged far more donations from people whose occupation includes the phrase "tech" or "software" than any of the leading mayoral fundraisers: 307 for "tech" and 671 for "software."

That’s much more in raw numbers and as a percentage of total donations than opponents Eric Adams, Ray McGuire, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley, and Shaun Donovan. Consider that Wiley, who has the second-most of those types of donations and isn’t far behind Yang with more than 15,000 total donations, had less than 200 contributions from people with "tech" or "software" occupations combined. (The filings for all candidates often include repeat donors.)

Naturally, this is a rough metric — "tech" word searches include some outliers like vet tech. And Yang has sometimes pushed back on the perception of him as a tech candidate. Co-campaign manager Chris Coffey told The Point that he’s not sure tech "sums it up" for Yang, who also is known for work on test prep company Manhattan Prep.

But Yang’s tech background and technologically savvy reputation could be a boost, whether it’s from the very online Yang Gang to New York tech workers to other New Yorkers who might see him as an attractive candidate "because he’s not a quote, unquote, insider," said Fordham University associate professor of political science Christina Greer. The downside is that he could also be seen as a "move fast, break things" tech person, she said.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Local opt-outs on pot sales is very hazy

The new Albany marijuana law gives localities the choice of opting out of marijuana dispensaries or consumption sites by adopting a law — a hot political decision on Long Island, where some communities are on the fence about legalization and some are whipping up opposition.

But a secondary political question looms on the horizon for those politicians. If, say, Riverhead or North Hempstead towns opt out, as the law allows, the same law also allows residents to petition for a referendum to overturn that decision.

That would put the marijuana question on the ballot, potentially a ballot shared with the very politicians who opted the locality out.

There are lots of unknowns here. How would turnout for a marijuana referendum affect a staid local general election? Would it boost the candidates who voted for opting out, or would it hurt them? It’s uncertain that enough signatures would be collected to get the issue on the ballot in the first place. The marijuana law points to New York municipal home rule law requiring signatures from 10% of the total number of votes cast for governor in the locality during the last gubernatorial election.

There’s some confusion about whether or not town and village governing bodies could put a referendum directly to the public without requiring signature gathering, something that could give them political cover. Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) told The Point that villages have that authority and towns may, and he planned to introduce a bill Wednesday that makes clear towns have the same authority as villages on this front.

And there’s no single election day when these referendums would be held. On this, the marijuana law also refers to municipal home rule law, which sets a vote of this type for the next general election of state or local government offices not less than sixty days after the petition is filed (with a small chance for a special election). So it could be a town election this year when supervisors or council members are up or perhaps the 2022 gubernatorial general election in certain places.

The upshot? Which election day hosts a referendum and which offices will be on the ballot that day seems to depend on when localities opt out and petitions are filed.

Long Island localities have until the end of the year to decide whether to opt out and adopt a local law to do so. The elected officials who make those choices will consider very carefully when to do it, if they do.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Give mom a hug

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Final Point

View from the Hamptons — it remains good

The recent announcement by the federal government of offshore wind-energy areas in the New York Bight that would be included in its upcoming lease sale was as notable for areas that were excluded – specifically, two areas known as Fairways North and Fairways South, where turbines 15 miles from shore would be seen from the tony South Fork coast.

State officials said they agreed with the decision by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a point reiterated by Doreen Harris, president and chief executive of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, when she made a virtual presentation last week to the Long Island Association on the state’s offshore wind efforts.

Harris told the business group that the two areas "were, frankly, too small to be economic" and said they "also were significantly conflicted from a fisheries, environmental and transit perspective." And, she added in a kind of coup de grâce, that "they also did have the potential for visual impacts from the coastline that other areas that were advanced by BOEM did not."

The other areas to be leased, she said, should fill what she described as a 6,000 megawatt gap between the wind-energy goals of New York and New Jersey and the power that can be produced by existing lease areas. But that deficit had The Point parsing Harris’ language closely for any Hamptons-related hedging.

Harris said the feds removed the Fairways areas "at least for the purpose of the near-term leasing" and that New York agreed with the action "taken to at least for now to remove" the Fairways areas from leasing consideration. All in all, Harris concluded, "we took the view that those areas were not worth pursuing at the moment."

Could a site offshore from the Hamptons appear in a lease plan down the road? Or with a topic as mercurial as wind, was Harris simply realizing the wisdom of that old political bromide: Never say never.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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