New York, NY– Council Member Ben Kallos, author of the “Universal E-Hail App” bill today testified before the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) to call for innovation and open competition in the TLC’s e-hail rules (the video will be available online and testimony is attached). The TLC is considering new rules for a permanent e-hail marketplace. As proposed, the rules expand the ability of cabs to accept e-hails and make it safer for them to do so, but do not include an Open Application Processing Interface (API) or a NYC TLC E-Hail App.
New York, NY – An “Anti Tenant-Blacklist” City Council bill to be introduced today would protect tenants named in housing court from being placed on “blacklists." The legislation, sponsored by Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman, Alan Maisel, and Mark Levine would prevent landlords from using the information to discriminate against tenants when they have satisfied the terms of an order issued in housing court. The so-called blacklists contain an estimated hundreds of thousands of names of would-be renters.
High School students in public and private schools will be required to receive voter registration forms during class under new legislation that would improve upon the decade long-unenforced Young Adult Voter Registration Act (YAVRA), if Council Members Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal and Fernando Cabrera have a say.
New York, NY – Following the New York Court of Appeals' decision in Wallach vs. Town of Dryden and Cooperstown Holstein vs. Town of Middlefield to allow municipalities to ban fracking within their limits, Council Members Ben Kallos, Helen Rosenthal and Costa Constantinides have introduced a bill for New York City to stand in solidarity with Otsego County’s Middlefield and Tompkins County’s Dryden in banning hydro-fracking. The move is a strong statement from New York City against fracking in the city, surrounding areas and the state.
According to FracTracker.org, New York City would be joining 80 municipalities with a ban, 100 with moratorium in place, and 87 making a push for a ban or moratorium. Though there are many unknowns about hydrofracking, it has already been shown to pose serious dangers to human health and the environment, including:
New York, NY – New Yorkers may soon be able to vote early, according to a bill being introduced today by City Council Members Ben Kallos and Costa Constantinides with support of members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus. The bill would allow residents to vote in municipal elections early, from the second Tuesdayprior to the election to the Friday prior to the election from 8am-8pm during the week and from 9am-5pm on the weekend in at least one polling place in each of the fifty-one council districts.
Two-thirds of US States and Washington, D.C. offer early voting to residents. New York State, however, currently only allows early voting through absentee ballots with an excuse such as an unavoidable absence or an illness. In those cases, one can vote by mail or in person at the Board of Elections Office. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, 27% of nonvoters said that the reason they did not vote was because they were too busy or could not get time off.
“New Yorkers should be able to vote when it is convenient for them, not when it is convenient for elected officials,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations, which oversees the Board of Elections. “It should be easier for more New Yorkers to participate and to vote, so we can raise our city’s participation rates from one of the lowest in the nation. One step is removing the barrier to voting created by having elections on only one day.”
Democracy must be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Today, that means freeing government from the chains of a bureaucracy intentionally created to maintain the status quo. Digital democracy can help facilitate a more agile government that is as responsive to the needs of its people as the private sector is to its clients. In so doing, digital democracy cannot simply replace more traditional forms of record-keeping and communication, but must meet the people where they are, and to open democracy up to new possibilities.
Digital democracy can provide new tools to support making laws, representing citizens, scrutinizing the work and performance of government, encouraging citizens to engage with democracy, and facilitating dialogue amongst citizens. While implementing digital democracy, the Digital Democracy Commission has an opportunity to build free and open source software tools in the United Kingdom that can be shared with localities as well as globally.
The recent experience of legislators in New York City, New York State, and the United States of America has illustrated the importance of several key components of a digital democracy:
- Law is a constantly changing code, and we must treat it as such when designing publication platforms. The free and open source software model can inform the principles by which the law is created and disseminated. If residents are presumed to know the law, then the law must be published for free online for anybody to access.
- Legislation should be treated as a work in progress, which can be drafted, commented on and followed by any interested resident.
- Representing citizens can be improved using a customer relationship management (CRM) software as well as a single point of contact such as a phone number like 311 or platform with an open API like open 311 for non-emergency government service requests and tracking of those requests until issues have been resolved.
- Scrutinizing the work and performance of government is essential but dependent on underlying laws that provide for open meetings along with their video and webcast, freedom of information law, open 311, open legislation and law, along with placing public notices and data online in a human and computer readable formats available through open application program interfaces (API) in as close to real time as possible.
- Encouraging citizens to engage with democracy can be improved upon by local government officials and agencies by using a combination of low- and high-tech tools to communicate with and serve citizens.
- Facilitating dialogue amongst citizens through programs that encourage and allow substantive resident involvement in government decision-making, such as Participatory Budgeting, result in better understanding of the decisions of government.
The solutions offered and those that the Digital Democracy Commission will ultimately recommend should be scalable and versatile both horizontally and vertically across democracies everywhere at all levels of government. The Commission has an opportunity to continue and maintain the digital democracy brand as a convening point for the sharing of free and open source software tools and knowledge globally.
The following statement can be attributed to Council Member Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan):
New York, NY – City Council Member Ben Kallos today introduced a bill to create a free Universal E-Hail App to allow New Yorkers to e-hail any of the 13,637 yellow cabs and 6,000 green cabs that participate. The Universal E-Hail App would be contracted or created by the Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). It would not alter existing apps and would also allow for any third party app like Uber or Lyft to e-hail yellow and green cabs.
“City taxis need an app of their own to compete, and New Yorkers need to be able to get a cab in the rain without having to worry about surge pricing.” said City Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer who used his expertise to propose the app called for in the legislation. “New York City must support our tech sector: Instead of making new technologies illegal, or regulating them out of business, we should provide a level playing field with fair competition so that companies, drivers and riders all win.”
Statement From Council Member Ben Kallos on Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision
New York, NY -- An Expanded Agency-Based Voter Registration bill passed the City Council today. The bill adds seven more agencies to those required to provide voter registration forms and strengthens the mandate to assist residents in filling out and mailing the registration forms to the Board of Elections.
New York State’s Pro-Voter Law, passed in 2000, required 18 agencies to keep the forms and did not mandate agencies to actively assist residents. An additional bill, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, to improve reporting and compliance with the 2000 law, also passed the Council.
"America is a nation of immigrants, from the pilgrims to today. We have always welcomed 'your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free' from all over the world to our nation of opportunity. We must continue to give our newest residents an equal opportunity to achieve the American dream," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "I am glad that this nation, that once provided safe harbor for refugees from Anti-Semitism, like my wife and grandparents, will become a safe haven once again."
Letter from elected officials on the lack of safety plan for the MTS construction site written by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and signed by Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Dan Quart, Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez, Council Member Dan Garodnick and Council Member Ben Kallos.
New York, NY -- Council Member Ben Kallos released the following statement applauding the MTA today for releasing more data sets for developers to use: "Historical Bus Time datasets released today demonstrates a government empowering New Yorkers to use data to improve our lives. Thanks to the MTA for prioritizing open information, which I have been working with them and the Civic Tech community on using to improve service," said Council Member Ben Kallos, a civic free and open source software developer.
“Rebuilding and resiliency for HHC hospitals are essential investments for a City prepared to take on the next Sandy,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents Coler Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island. “Senator Schumer and Mayor de Blasio merit recognition for their leadership in securing FEMA federal funding and investing it in our public hospitals.”
Skyrocketing costs of waste disposal at the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station have shot up to $632.5 million over a 20-year period, nearly three times the amount of the current waste disposal method, according to an independent report released today. The Independent Budget Office (IBO) issued the report in response to an April 8 letter from Council Member Kallos requesting update from a 2012 report to previous Council Member Jessica Lappin. The 2012 IBO report showed that the cost of waste disposal through the 91st St. Marine Transfer Station would be at $238/ton. It has since shot up by $40 per ton, to $278 per ton. Download the IBO Report
New York, NY– Today, Fifth Grade Students from PS290, in partnership with the office of City Council Member Ben Kallos, took part in a mock election in advance of tomorrow’s election. New York City has one of the lowest turn-out rates in the nation. In the 2013 general election, a mere 24 percent of registered New York City voters cast a ballot. There are 1.1 million public school children in New York City and 4.3 million registered New York City voters. Studies show that increased civic participation through activities like mock voting increase engagement and participation later in life.
The students received a lesson on civics, voting and the candidates and offices. Then, they filled out their own printed ballots in order to absorb the value of voting and to practice. The students used their arithmetic skills to tally the votes and then discussed the results as a class.
Council Member Kallos plans to expand mock voting to schools district-wide next year. He has also championed a “Vote with Kids” initiative, encouraging parents to bring their children with them to vote.
Digital Divide Would be Greatly Diminished by James/Kallos Proposal for Free and Low-Cost Internet for Millions of New Yorkers
New York, NY– Public Advocate Letitia James, Council Member Ben Kallos and elected officials today called on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to guarantee universal broadband and consumer protections in the prospective Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger, which the PSC will approve or reject on November 13. The coalition of 22 state and local elected officials argued that for such a merger to be in the public interest, it would require key public benefits.
The merger of the two cable giants would provide Comcast with Time Warner Cable’s 2.5 million customers in New York State and 40 percent of Internet subscribers across the nation. The FCC has delayed a decision on the merger, but states such as New York State and California are conducting their own review processes.
The New York coalition demanded specific guaranteed public benefits for the Public Service Commission to consider the merger, including, but not limited to:
- Universal broadband to bridge the digital divide, providing free wi-fi programs to NYCHA, senior, youth and community centers, and expanding affordable broadband services to all who qualify for means-based federal, state and city subsidies;
- Improvements in infrastructure, transparency, and customer service to keep New York competitive and ensure residents have effective and reliable cable by reducing wait times, vastly improving service and reducing consumer complaints;
- Increased transparency around interconnect transmission data to ensure compliance with Net Neutrality standards and a commitment to an Open Internet.
The standards were outlined in a letter sent to the Public Service Commission today, with a broad coalition including State Senator Kevin Parker, State Senator Jose Peralta, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Karim Camara, Assembly Member Walter Mosley, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Council Member Donovan Richards, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Deborah Rose, Council Member Paul Vallone, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Danny Dromm, Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Council Member James Van Bramer, Council Member Carlos Menchaca and Council Member Alan Maisel.
New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Alta Bicycle Share incoming CEO Jay Walder, and Citi Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs Edward Skyler today announced an agreement between the City of New York and Alta Bicycle Share to operate, improve, and double the size of the largest bike share program in North America. A $30 million infusion of private capital from Bikeshare Holdings LLC, a group of private investors acquiring Alta, supported by an increased sponsorship commitment from Citi of up to $70.5 million extended through 2024, and a $15 million increase in the credit facility from the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group will allow for the expansion and ensure the long-term stability of the system, making it more reliable and accessible for the thousands of New Yorkers who rely upon it. New Yorkers currently take more than one million trips every month on Citi Bike.
Intro 508 to allow New York City residents to register online was introduced today by Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Committee on Governmental Operations and Progressive Caucus Members Co-Chairs Antonio Reynoso and Donovan Richards, as well as Council Members Danny Dromm, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Stephen Levin, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez, Debi Rose, and Carlos Menchaca. The bill requires the Board of Elections to provide a secure website for registration. Twenty four States offer online voter registration in some form, many with a fully paperless process that can be submitted directly online. New York City consistently struggles with voter participation and turnout.
New York, NY--Oct 7, 2014--A City Council bill introduced today by Council Member Julissa Ferreras and co-sponsored by Councilman Ben Kallos aims to improve transparency at the Environmental Control Board (ECB). The outstanding debt to the City of New York for ECB judegements is $1.5 billion, of which 84% is over 24 months old.
New York, NY– A crowd-sourced safe streets report released by the office of City Council Member Ben Kallos today consolidated public feedback identifying dangerous intersections, street corners that have become inaccessible to the disabled. The report also features necessary improvements to transit and the streetscape such as desired areas for bike racks and seating. The two-part report follows a mailing by the Council Member to 60,000 households in the district (available on the bottom of the release), five forums and numerous public appearances seeking to empower residents to improve their streets.
Resident feedback in the report shows:
- Dangerous intersections in District 5 from Midtown East to the Upper East Side, including a top ten list;
- Bus transit remains a priority, despite cuts in service, as seniors in the district are too far from other transit options;
- High demand for bus shelters, benches and countdown clocks;
- Streets and corners are poorly maintained in certain locations, making some corners inaccessible for walkers and wheelchairs while other conditions contribute to trip and falls;
- Bike lanes remain highly controversial in this area of Manhattan.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today unveiled Digital.NYC, a first-of-its-kind online platform that will serve as a centralized hub for the City’s tech ecosystem, providing information and resources to help turn ideas into businesses, deliver valuable tools for digital startups, and connect New Yorkers to opportunities in the City’s tech ecosystem.
NEW YORK -- Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn) was joined City Councilman Ben Kallos and Trudy Mason, Manhattan Representative, MTA Citizens Advisory Committee as she presented a check to Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President, MTA Capital Construction for more than $203 million in federal funds appropriated for the current fiscal year.
The East Side Access Project will be the first major expansion of the Long Island Railroad in generations. The project will create a stop at Grand Central Terminal which would reduce the burden on Penn Station and afford faster, easier access to the East Side. Presently LIRR passengers have to go all the way to the West Side and then take a subway back to the East Side.
"East Siders will travel more freely when East Side Access opens and the Second Avenue Subway opens. Federal funds are integral to these important transit projects, and I applaud Congresswoman Maloney for her efforts to secure resources," said City Council Member Ben Kallos.
The following statement can attributed to Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee (which oversees the Board of Elections) following a City Council hearing to consider Board of Elections Commissioner appointments:
New York, NY -- New York City has added its to voice to the growing call for a National Women’s History Museum in DC, after a resolution in support passed the City Council today. The Council, under the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito, passed Resolution 354, calling for the Senate to end delays and pass legislation advancing the museum's formation on the National Mall. Congresswoman Maloney successfully passed legislation to move forward with a National Women’s History Museum in the House of Representatives 383-33, but two Senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are holding up the companion bill in the Senate, which has the support of all 20 women senators.
Council Members Ben Kallos and Laurie Cumbo, Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, co-sponsored the resolution in support of federal bill H.R. 863 by Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and urging passage of its companion bill in the Senate. The museum would be supported through donations already being raised by 501(c)3 organization, National Women's History Museum.