Council Member Ben Kallos Applauds City Council Digital Roadmap

New York, NY -- Council Member Ben Kallos applauded the new City Council digital reforms announced today, which he worked closely with other Council Members and civic technologists to craft. Under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, the Council 2.0 digital roadmap includes a plan for more engagement and innovative tools, changes to the City Council website and an Open Application Processing Interface (API) that allows app-makers to create their own tools with information from the City Council’s legislative website. Kallos helped shape the open technology plan that was part of rules reform, alongside Council Members Lander, Williams, Cabrera and Greenfield.

Highlights of the Council 2.0 plan include:


·         A “Council Labs” website to test innovative tools to launch in the fall

·         Public engagement through texting for participatory budgeting and other programs

·         A more accessible legislative database with an open API


Council Member Kallos worked with the Free Law Founders (FLF) a national group of elected officials and activists promoting open government, to advocate for the open API in New York City and nationally. The FLF pushed Granicus—the private company behind the New York City Council’s website—to open the API in Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. Kallos also advised in the participatory budgeting reforms—including text message outreach, digital pollbooks and digital ballots.

He additionally applauded the public-private partnerships that will enable the Council’s tech plan. Kallos’ City Record Online bill, which became law in 2014, sets the model for productive public-private partnerships by working with civic hackers to unlock fifty years’ worth of public records.

“Government is going mobile first, from a click away to a swipe away. Inclusive government means using every tool at our disposal, now and in the future, to engage New Yorkers where they’re at, whether by text message or online,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Rules Committee Chair Brad Lander, who opened up the rules reform process to provide a voice for members, the civic tech community and the Free Law Founders for their technical assistance in implementing an open API for Open Legislation in New York and nationally. I look forward to working with Council Labs, Civic Hall, the public tech team and New Yorkers online to provide a place to test new ideas and tools as we seek to improve upon this experiment we call democracy.”

“This is a big win for open, accountable and interactive government, not only in New York City, but for every municipal government wrestling with the challenges of doing civic business in the Internet Age,” said Seamus Kraft, Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation and member of the Free Law Founders coalition.  “The New York City Council’s digital roadmap marks significant progress towards our shared goal of delivering citizens the user-friendly access to information and voice in government they deserve.  We applaud today’s news, and look forward to working with Council Member Kallos and the broader New York City community to ensure timely, cost-effective and replicable implementation."

 “We not only take care of daily errands using mobile devices, we also use our phones and tablets to research the issues that matter most to us.  Active constituents want to be able to access government on the go. As we work to make cities more accessible and open, these types of innovative applications help us better serve our communities and bring us another step closer to where we need to be,” said Chicago City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza.

"Finally, after five years of wrangling and waiting, official government data about NYC legislation and local laws will be fully accessible to the public, in close to real-time.The Open Legislation API is important, first of all, as a nation-leading marker in the ongoing argument that government information must be open & digital in order to be deemed fully public. Second, NYC's Open Legislation API will unlock the immense potential of NYC's technical community - also, civic hackers nationwide - to create new tools and data analysis and insights on top of this open data,” said David Moore, Executive Director of the Participatory Politics Foundation.

"By addressing both the need to use technology for public access and the need to be aware of any potential negative public impacts, the New York City Council is demonstrating strong national leadership and a useful example of what governmental public engagement looks like in the 21st century,” said Emily Shaw, National Policy Manager at the Sunlight Foundation.