City and State News Rising Stars 40 Under 40: Ben Kallos by Jon Lentz
Executive Director, New Roosevelt Initiative
When Ben Kallos goes to bed each night, he asks himself whether he made the world a better place than it was when he woke up. In between, he tries to meet that lofty standard.
Kallos founded the Open Government Foundation, posting state legislation online and shining a light on lawmakers’ votes. Another website he created helped over 50,000 New Yorkers verify their voter registration.
And in one of his proudest—and more partisan—accomplishments, he helped mobilize voters to oust the scandal-tainted Pedro Espada Jr. from the State Senate.
“I don’t do it for the recognition but because it’s the right thing to do,” said Kallos, who traces his commitment to public service to his elementary education at Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School.
“While I was there, they taught me some important Jewish values. One of the most important values is tikkun olam, a Jewish value and concept that you have to repair the world,” Kallos explained. “That was ingrained in me as a child.”
Kallos nurtured his career during stints with Sen. Chuck Schumer, former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Assemblyman Jonathan Bing and Mark Green, the former public advocate.
Now at the New Roosevelt Initiative, Kallos’ job is to ensure New York’s Legislature is “the best in the nation.”
His organization is “one of the few places you get to focus on redistricting and fiscal responsibility, and those sorts of esoteric issues, so we can actually get New York where it needs to be.”
How did your past jobs get you to where you are now?
“Working with Mark Green, we came up with one hundred ideas to make New York City better, and a whole bunch of them were adopted by Mayor Bloomberg, which was great.”
What will your business card say in five years?
“It would hopefully just say ‘Benjamin J. Kallos, public servant.’”
If you weren’t in politics, what would you be doing?
“I would be doing law and Web design, and I’d be working in my spare time doing public policy consulting, and working with nonprofits and the Democratic Lawyers Council to make sure that we had better laws.”
What would the title of your autobiography be?
“Tikkun Olam: How I Used the Law, Technology, Politics and Public Policy to Make the World a Better Place.”