Mayor Chooses Civil Rights Leader as Chief Counsel

, New York Law Journal

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Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and racial justice activist, has been appointed counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio. Wiley, 50, was most recently president of the Center for Social Inclusion, a nonprofit that advocates for policies addressing racial inequality.

Before founding the center in 2002, Wiley was a senior advisor on race and poverty to the director of U.S. Programs of the Open Society Institute, now known as Open Society Foundations. She has also worked for the American Civil Liberties Union National Legal Department; in the Poverty and Justice Program of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.; and in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District.

De Blasio said at a Tuesday press conference that Wiley will serve as his chief legal advisor on all matters involving the mayor's office and its staff. "What I'm looking for in this role is someone who will constantly reinforce our focus on fighting inequality," he said.

De Blasio said he expected her to fill typical duties, such as coordinating his office's efforts in judicial nominations. He added, "When we're having discussions on policy initiatives, it will be her role to pass judgment on if they're legally sound, or if there's questions that have to be resolved. It will be her role to work with different agencies to create some of that quality control," he said.

But he said, "This is very much a policy role, very much a role driving some of the core pieces of our agenda." De Blasio said she will lead efforts to expand broadband access in the city. "Particularly when it comes to Verizon, we have not gotten some of the movement we expect," he said.

Wiley told reporters, "We can't be a twenty-first century city … if our city's children actually have to go to McDonald's to get online."

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