Samuels is running on a “five pillars of reform” platform (redistricting, member items, outside income etc. – the usual), but insists he’s not a protest candidate and is in the race to win. The one thing he won’t do, however, is fight dirty.
Samuels has hired Ben Kallos (that’s Mr. Open Legislation, to you) to do “research,” stressing that “research” does not mean “oppo,” which he finds “boring.” (Interestingly, Kallos last worked for Mark Green’s 2009 public advocate campaign, during which Green said he swore off oppo, too).
Mr. Kallos has kept himself busy, putting his knowledge of technology and geeky insights to use in local government. The result is a series of Web sites that take local political info out of dusty file cabinets and up online. One site lets people see if they’re registered to vote. Another lets users check the attendance records of state lawmakers. His latest creation: a crowd-sourced calendar for political events around New York City and the state.
Ben Kallos has launched NYCPoliticalCalendar.com, a social organizing site that lists political events and fundraisers.
Here's a new web site that is intended to serve as a public calendar for all those political events happening around New York.
“Here's a helpful tool: A New York City political calendar.”
Mr. Hoppin and his team will update the site by the end of the month with more information that "has never been seen before on the Internet," according to Mr. Hoppin, thanks to the rules reforms passed by the Senate in June. The data collected, which was previously only available by enacting the Freedom of Information Act, will include detailed transcripts of sessions, committee votes and committee attendance.
As the Observer reported in June, Ben Kallos, former chief of staff to Assemblyman Jonathan Bing who was working on Mark Green's campaign, launched NewYork.OpenLegislation.org, which allowed users see how each lawmaker voted on a particular piece of legislation and see whether lawmakers attended their committee meetings. Mr. Kallos and a few of his colleagues paid for the site out of his own pocket.
The state's moves to make this kind of data more available to the public are ahead of City Hall, where Gale Brewer, chair of the Council's Technology in Government Committee, is leading the open legislation charge.
New Technological Capabilities, Spanning All Aspects of City Services, Will Make City Government More Accessible and Accountable
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the Connected City Initiative, a series of technology programs to transform the ways in which New Yorkers can interact with – and expect the delivery of services from – City government. Building upon successful projects that have made New York City a pioneer in using technology to improve public services, the Mayor outlined a series of initiatives to make City government more accessible and accountable. They include providing a new iPhone application for New Yorkers to report issues and send photos to 311 with specific location details using GPS technology – an idea championed by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Gale Brewer; increasing the number of New Yorkers with access to Electronic Health Records; and eliminating many of the bureaucratic barriers to starting a small business. Additional aims include increasing the use of social networking to improve government efficiency; making the City more sustainable by consolidating data centers citywide and promoting the use of electronic mailings; and increasing broadband adoption among low-income New Yorkers. The Mayor made the announcement at the IBM SmarterCities Forum in Manhattan.
“Every day, new technological innovations help make information flow faster, systems work better and our lives a little easier,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But often, when it comes to adopting new technology, governments lag behind the private sector and even the casual consumer because they are unwilling or unable to try something new and change the way things have always been done. That’s small-minded thinking. In serving the public, government should constantly be looking for new and better ways to provide information and services. The creation of 311 was a major advancement in that effort, but we never stop looking for ways to improve. The programs of the Connected City Initiative represent the latest steps we’re taking to employ technology to serve New Yorkers better.
Kallos grew up in Manhattan and attended the State University of New York in Buffalo. He majored in psychology and communication and double-minored in philosophy and religion before going straight to law school.
Government transparency is all the rage these days.
Ben Kallos, former chief of staff to Assemblyman Jonathan Bing who is currently working on Mark Green's campaign, is launching a new Web site that allows users to search the attendance records of state lawmakers, making available information that the state isn’t so quick to provide. (Ask folks in the Albany press corps about that.)
“I hope to work on Internet strategy to make sure many New York City citizens can share their ideas and the website can get out to as many people as possible,” Kallos said.
As an attorney, Kallos has a background in information technology, having developed a registered voter database online and assisted the New York County Lawyers Association to improve electronic case filing.
Kallos was recently chief of staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing. He left that position to mount a campaign for Council Member Jessica Lappin’s seat when she entertained the idea of running for public advocate.
Ben Kallos, chief of staff to Assembly Member Jonathan Bing, is the first person officially running for the seat held by first-term Council Member Jessica Lappin.
An After-School Job That's Not Kids' Stuff;Wanted: Web Designers and Programmers; $25/hr.; Need Parents' Consent
The business side of being a teen-age computer consultant can be daunting. Age may not be a barrier to getting into the business, but it can limit the compensation. "People take one look at me, and they figure they're not going to pay this kid $50 an hour," said Benjamin Kallos, a 15-year-old at the Bronx High School of Science, an elite public school in New York City.
So the high school sophomore, whose home page on the Web proclaims "Kallos Consulting" in bold red letters, charges $15 or $20 an hour.
Some businesses in New York seem to regard the high school as a job shop for Web site work. Steve Kalin, an assistant principal, says small companies occasionally call the school looking for a student to make Web pages, and more are calling all the time.
"Even the kind of kids who would have worked on the school newspaper in the past are often more interested in electronic publishing now," Mr. Kalin said. "They're making Web sites."
At a hearing Monday, the New York City Council's Committee on Governmental Operations approved the latest drafts of two bills that enhance the responsibility of city agencies to conduct voter registration and a resolution calling for the State Legislature to pass similar legislation.
These measures are an attempt by the Council to improve the compliance of City agencies with Local Law 29, also known as the Pro-Voter Law, which was passed in 2000. The law requires 19 city agencies to handle voter registration applications for customers.
Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of what he called the "good government committee," introduced Intro 493 A which expands scope of the Pro-Voter law and sets a deadline of December 1, 2015 for agencies to integrate their forms with voter registration.
But the city is resisting, saying a pilot program in middle schools only increased lunch participation by 6%.
“We have an opportunity to make sure that 1.1 million children don’t have to worry about hunger, which would be huge,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan).
But Farina said it would have to show better results before getting expanded. “Our numbers are not reflecting this has made a major difference,” she said.
Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) asked the schools boss to conduct a mock election and let kids cast ballots for their presidential favorites as a way to boost civic engagement.
“It turns out that voting is hereditary trait, and social science has shown if parents take their kids to vote, they’re more likely to vote himself,” he said.
But Fariña was reluctant to endorse the idea, though she said she shares the same goal.
NYC business could lose their licenses for not paying fines under new legislation passed by City Council
Until now, a 311 complaint might result in a violation but those violations were rarely collected,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor. “Bad neighbors will have to improve their behavior.”
The move comes after Councilman Ben Kallos got a flood of complaints from residents about the pileup of garbage and reached out to the agency for help, he said.
"Every day, I hear from residents complaining about trash on 86th Street, calling, emailing and even Tweeting pictures," Kallos said. "The internet says 'Don't feed the trolls,' but you never know. This is an example of residents having an impact."
The chair of the City Council’s governmental operations committee, Council Member Ben Kallos, is hopeful that a package of eight campaign finance reform bills,introduced November 10, will move through quickly after they are heard for the first time next month.
The legislative package, scheduled for a hearing May 2, is aimed at making improvements to the New York City campaign finance system, including its landmark small-donor public matching program, ahead of the 2017 municipal election cycle.
While the system is already robust and held up as a national model by many, these bills aim to make it stronger. Among other things, the bills would prevent lobbyists who do business with the city from bundling contributions to candidates, provide public matching funds to candidates at earlier dates in the campaign cycle, and improve disclosure of donations from entities that do business with the city. The bills came out of recommendations that the New York City Campaign Finance Board made in its comprehensive 2013 post-election report.
“The city should not be providing public dollars to amplify the already strong voices of special interests,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor.
In the 2013 citywide election, 19% of all bundlers were doing business with the city - and they brought in 24% of all bundled funds, he said.
The city Campaign Finance Board backed the changes.
Allowing lobbyists and contractors to bundle unlimited gifts and get matching funds is “a loophole that undermines the intent of the law to prevent or limit the appearance of ‘pay to play’ corruption,” said executive director Amy Loprest.
A bill by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), discussed at a hearing Monday, would prohibit campaigns from accepting public matching funds off money raised by lobbyists who bundle unlimited contributions from other donors.
By law, lobbyists, contractors and others doing business with the city can give no more than $400 to a mayoral candidate. But a loophole allows those same individuals to bundle unlimited amounts from others to the same candidates.
As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.
The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine a package of eight bills that would reform campaign finance rules and improve the city’s public matching funds program, which, though it has some critics, is often held up as a national model.
The bills, introduced in November, aim to implement recommendations made by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) after the 2013 city election cycle. Perhaps most notably, the bills would eliminate public matching funds for contributions bundled by people who do business with the city, provide earlier public matching funds to candidates, and improve disclosure requirements for companies or people that own entities that do business with the city.
Parents at P.S. 183, who worked with Councilman Ben Kallos to increase the total seats on the Upper East Side from just over 123 to 515 since 2014, say they are relieved to have more pre-K seats because it can be tough getting a spot in the neighborhood.
"As an Upper East Side parent, I am concerned not only about the chances of my own child obtaining a pre-K spot in the neighborhood but also about the children of my friends and neighbors," resident Ariel Chesler said. "That is why I have been speaking out about the insufficient number of seats in the area."
For more than a year, members of the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network, which advocates for more than 500 families' needs, also worked to get more free pre-K seats on the island, according to member Eva Bosbach.
The preliminary vote to raise rents for one-year leases between 0 and 2 percent passed 5-4, with the members who represent tenants' and owners' interests all voting against it, the Board's executive director, Andrew McLaughlin, told DNAinfo.
Over the next several weeks, the nine-member board will also consider raising rents on two-year leases between 0.5 to 3.5 percent — following last year's first-ever freeze for rent-stabilized apartments.
The board based its proposal on an RGB study that showed that the price of operating for rent-stabilized apartments decreased 1.2 percent this year, mostly due to the fact that fuel costs decreased 41.2 percent. Another study found that the city's unemployment rate fell in 2015 by 1.5 percent.
The changes would take effect on all lease renewals after Oct. 1, 2016.
Board member Sheila Garcia, who represents tenant's interest, proposed a rent decrease instead of a freeze, which is why she voted against it.
"The data this year merits a [rent] rollback," said Garcia, referring to lowered fuel costs. "I didn't think [the rent freeze proposal] was radical enough. The board has over-compensated landlords over the years."
"We see that we are evicting less people but more people are homeless because they can't afford to live in NYC."
Upper East Side council member Ben Kallos joined advocates calling to lower rent for rent-stabilized apartments.
Councilman Ben Kallos will introduce legislation today to make budget information accessible in a format that is searchable and accessible to third parties who want to build applications that could make the city's $82 billion in spending more transparent.