Tech Experts Suggest Reforms to NY City Council

Tech Experts Suggest Reforms to NY City Council
Top technology experts testify at City Council Rules Reform Hearing

 New York, New York – Today, technology experts and open data leaders Andrew Rasiej, Noel Hidalgo, John Kaehny and David Moore testified before members of the City Council on innovative technology reforms that will improve the transparency, openness and accountability of the legislative body. The reforms focused on improving legislative transparency, constituent services and the discretionary funding process using technology. 
Proposals included:
·       Improving constituent service with interactive tools that empower Council Members and residents to have more open communication;
·       Transparency for the legislative process so that it is more publicly accessible, with all information centralized and easy to find.
·       Opening the City Council Legislative website’s API (the code that allows programmers to share information and build new applications) so anyone can access the information however they wish, using software that the Council is free to improve upon and redistribute;
·       Supporting Participatory Budgeting with a standard technology and communications infrastructure to encourage more residents to vote on how capital funding is spent in their neighborhoods; and
·       Transparency for the application and distribution of discretionary member item grants to community organizations.
 
Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer, organized the panel with in close coordination with Council Member Brad Lander, the Chair of the Committee on Rules, Privileges, and Elections, as part of panels on a series of reforms to improve the fairness, transparency and efficiency of the New York City Council.  Last October, more than 30 Council Members signed on to Rules Reforms, which this hearing aims to implement.
 
Andrew Rasiej of Personal Democracy Media and Sunlight Foundation, David Moore of the Participatory Politics Foundation, Noel Hidalgo of Beta NYC, and John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany are international, national and local advocates for increased participation and open information in government through the lens of technology. 
 
“We commend the City Council for taking this time to review and adapt its rules for the 21st century. For a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, FOR the 21 century, the City Council needs to embrace the role of a Chief Information Officer who is empowered to adapt 21st century tools and business practices,” said Hidalgo. “In 2009, the New York State Senate created such a team, and I was honored to be a part of it. Using modern, safe, secure, open-source tools, we were able to adapt tools to increase transparency, efficiency, and participation for all New Yorkers. Now, it is the time for the City Council to embrace that same business practice and tools to make NYC the true digital capital of the world."
 
"We hope this hearing is the first step in a new process of continuous improvement, and public outreach, which will allow council to better harness the speed of light changes in technology. In particular, from today's hearing, we'd like to see the Council recognize the huge opportunities in mobile and two-way text technology to reduce the digital divide,” said Kaehny. 
 
“My experience with OpenCongress.org shows that there is a huge public appetite for accessible information about what's happening in government. By making its legislative data fully accessible to the public, the New York City Council has an opportunity lead the nation in open government,” said Moore.
 
"New Yorkers are now competing in a 21st century global economy where access to real-time online information resources is a prerequisite for success,” said Andrew Rasiej, Chairman of NY Tech Meetup and founder of Personal Democracy Media. "The New York City Council has a responsibility to operate in ways that make sure all New Yorkers have a 21st century government that is transparent, accountable, and truly representative of the modern and fast changing world in which they now live.”
 
Council Member Ben Kallos said: “These top minds in the technology field have always been innovators, and their solutions for the New York City Council are no exception. Along with my colleagues, I am excited for real change in the way the Council operates—making it a more effective, open body where the best ideas rise to the top. After posting state legislative records online, I saw the benefits of opening information to the public so they can hold representatives accountable. Since then, I’ve been fighting to reform government through technology that improves communication between government and the people we represent.”
 
Noel Hidalgo has explored the creative spaces and innovative technologies that link us together for the past 15 years. His work has focused on entrepreneurial ideas that have changed the world. Currently, he is the co-founder and Executive Director of BetaNYC, the Nation's largest open government and civic technology meet-up.
 
John Kaehny, executive director and founding board member of Reinvent Albany, is the co-chair of the New York City Transparency Working Group.  In that role he helped create New York City’s Open Data Law.  John has been immersed in New York freedom of information, open government and public participation issues for decades.
 
David Moore is Program Director for the Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF), a non-profit organization building Web tools for civic engagement. PPF created OpenCongress.org, which allows people to track legislation online, andAskThem, a site where elected officials take questions from the public.  
 
Andrew Rasiej is a futurist, social entrepreneur, and Founder of Personal Democracy Media, which produces Personal Democracy Forum and other events about intersection of technology and politics. Among its offerings is TechPresident.com. He is Chair of NY Tech Meetup, a 35,000-member organization of technologists, venture funders, marketers, representing start up and more mature companies and more mature companies using technology to transform themselves, New York City, and the world.
 ###