It would be tough to find something people like to complain about more than politicians. Now, thanks to New York City's Participatory Budgeting project, we get to do part of their job for them.
With the fast flow of information these days, the average citizen can easily be just as informed as any local politician or policy wonk. So why do we need politicians to spend our tax dollars for us? Especially when it comes local communities, people have a visceral and intuitive understanding of the changes they want to see.
City Councilman Ben Kallos slammed the Board of Elections in a letter Wednesday for its blame-dodging response to a scathing Department of Investigation probe.
Kallos, chair of the Governmental Operations committee, had told to board to hand in a plan on how they’d fix a slew of problems identified by DOI, which found the board was riddled with nepotism and allowed dead people to vote.
Instead, officials at the problem-plagued agency sent in a response that dismissed most of DOI’s recommendations as outdated and vague.
The City Council’s Progressive Caucus, the left-leaning coalition that sparked the liberal shift of the council this year, has elected new leadership.
Councilmen Donovan Richards and Antonio Reynoso have been elected co-chairs of the caucus, replacing Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is now speaker of the body, and Councilman Brad Lander, now a deputy leader of the council. The two councilmen beat out Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez in a vote taken last week, according to caucus spokeswoman Mary Tek.
NEW YORK, NY -- The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council announced new leadership for the 2014-2017 legislative session today. The five officers were determined by majority vote of the Progressive Caucus members, and are as follows:
Co-Chairs: Council Member Donovan Richards (CC 31, Queens) and Council Member Antonio Reynoso (CC 34, Brooklyn)
Vice-Chair for Policy: Council Member Ben Kallos (CC 5, Manhattan)
Vice-Chair for Budget Advocacy: Council Member Helen Rosenthal (CC 6, Manhattan)
Treasurer: Council Member Margaret Chin (CC 1, Manhattan)
“I look forward to working with the Progressive Caucus to advance a bold and innovative agenda so the city serves every New Yorker, no matter what background or neighborhood,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Through collaboration and with input from all members, the policies of the Progressive Caucus will translate into better education and jobs, more affordable housing, and greater government accountability.”
Roosevelt Island's NYC Council Member Ben Kallos spoke to the March 26 meeting of the Roosevelt Island Women's Health Organization. In addition to celebrating Women's History Month by presenting aProclamation honoring 5 Phenomenal Roosevelt Island women, Mr. Kallos also described the constituent services available to the Roosevelt Island community through his office.
This April, you can vote on how to spend $1 million in your neighborhood. This program, participatory budgeting, has been piloted with great success in many neighborhoods around the world and here in New York City.
It has been a busy month of budgeting, oversight and advocacy on your behalf. As always, my office is a space for you to meet your needs and interact with the major issues in your neighborhood. Scroll to the bottom of this newsletter for events from my office and the community.
For those of you celebrating this month, I wish you a joyous Easter or Pesach, a chance to celebrate the beliefs we hold dear. As we gratefully welcome the spring, let's renew our spirit of engagement and work together on the issues that face our community.
Council Member Ben Kallos
District Five: Upper East Side, Midtown East, El Barrio and Roosevelt Island
City Hall – City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members today released locations where New Yorkers can cast a ballot in the week-long 2014 Participatory Budgeting vote. Launched in 2011, with the goal of making budgeting decisions more transparent and to give New Yorkers a greater say in how their tax dollars are spent, Participatory Budgeting has grown to encompass 10 Council Districts, allowing New Yorkers to directly decide how allocate more than $10 million dollars for neighborhood projects.
“Participatory budgeting helps engage New Yorkers with the Council by empowering community residents to make decisions about how City funds are spent,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I’m proud to have helped start this important initiative and encourage all New Yorkers in participating districts to cast their ballots for the projects they would like to see funded in the year ahead.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and over a dozen members of the City Council distributed flyers at subway stations across the City this morning to alert New Yorkers about the first day of the Earned Sick Time Act going into effect.Passed by the City Council in February and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio last month, the Earned Sick Time Act provides paid sick time coverage for all businesses with five or more employees.
New York, NY – City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and over a dozen members of the City Council distributed flyers at subway stations across the City this morning to alert New Yorkers about the first day of the Earned Sick Time Act going into effect.
Passed by the City Council in February and signed into law by Mayor de Blasio last month, the Earned Sick Time Act provides paid sick time coverage for all businesses with five or more employees.
Beginning today, New Yorkers will start accruing paid sick time that can be used when either they or a family member falls ill. Speaker Mark-Viverito and Council Members Koo, Ferreras, Miller, Espinal, Kallos, Johnson, Dickens, Chin, Levine, Dromm, Rosenthal, Crowley and Richards marked the inaugural day of the Earned Sick Time Act by distributing flyers outlining the new regulations to commuters.
Council Member Ben Kallos Commends Mayor's Choices for City Rent Guidelines Board
New York, New York -- Council Member Ben Kallos (District Five, Manhattan) released a report today entitled, "Improving Community Boards in New York City: Best Practices in Recruitment and Appointment to New York City’s 59 Community Boards," containing dozens of recommendations for reform to New York City's community boards. Kallos' recommendations include instituting term limits for community board members, requiring applicants to disclose conflicts of interest, requiring borough presidents to report to the City Council on the appoint process, banning the appointment of members of the executive committees of political parties or political staffers from joining community boards, and creating standardized online applications for those who wish to join boards.
In a 20-page rebuttal to the December DOI study, BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan said many of the DOI's reform recommendations are inconsistent with how the Board is forced to operate under state law.
He also chewed out the investigators for sending undercover agents -- a move DOI officials have called a standard procedure in a probe of this nature -- to pose as dead or otherwise disqualified voters, and said in the majority of the cases, the city Board had no way to know the people whose names were used at the polls shouldn't or couldn't vote.
The City Council is considering a measure that would lower the minimum-age requirement -- from 18 to 16 -- for anyone serving on NYC's 59 community boards.
Sixteen-year-olds may have the unfortunate reputation of being too self-absorbed, even being troublemakers. At 16, I was definitely of the troublemaking variety.
The head of the city Board of Elections stunned City Council members on Tuesday by claiming that the long-battered agency was purposely shorted funds by the city so it would fail.
BOE director Michael Ryan made the conspiracy-laden accusation as part of a pitch to secure a whopping $55 million in additional funding from the city’s coffers, even as his agency remains under investigation by the city.
The Board of Elections is pushing a $6.8 million plan to turn old voter machines into voter information kiosks, but the chair of the City Council committee overseeing the agency dismissed the scheme as too costly.
The machines, costing $4500 a piece, would transform the old lever machines into massive computers where poll workers could check in for work, voters could get directions to their poll sites, and election results could be transmitted at the end of the night.
Councilman Ben Kallos asked the city's Law Department today to help investigate what he estimates could be nearly “$4 billion in overspending, on $6 billion worth of contracts."
Kallos, chairman of the Government Operations Committee, made the request during a budget hearing this morning at City Hall, citing a 2012 law that required the City Council to be notified if contracts had significant cost overruns.
Check out this video of New York City Council Member Benjamin Kallos coolly picking apart an element of Bloomberg's old trash plan that has gone out of control.
The collection and disposal of trash in New York City, but particularly in Manhattan, is achieved through a mixture of poorly regulated private trash vehicles and relatively well-maintained and environmentally sound government ones. Recycling rates are embarrassingly low, 15 percent compared to up to 75 percent in other cities.
Reporters and good government advocates who have grown tired of poor response times to FOIL requests from city agencies may soon find sweet relief. Speaking at a City & State sponsored technology event on Thursday night, City Councilman Ben Kallos said he is interested in revamping the FOIL system. Kallos hopes to simplify requests by allowing online submissions, as well as a way to track the request’s progress online. A draft of the legislation is currently being written and the details have not fully been worked out, but Kallos said he hopes it passes the Council quickly.
New York, NY -- Council Member Ben Kallos joined the Committee on Solid Waste Management Preliminary Budget Hearing today, where he testified on the irresponsible budgeting and bad policy of the Upper Manhattan Marine Transfer Station. A hotly contested exchange with outgoing Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty revealed the out-of-hand costs and poor environmentalism of the old waste disposal model -- particularly the Marine Transfer Station in Upper Manhattan, which would shift from waste disposal in New Jersey to burdening Manhattan's East Side and Staten Island.
Upper East Side Residents of District 5 have just been handed a blank check.
Councilman Ben Kallos announced his office is taking part in an abbreviated participatory budgeting program with $1 million available to spend.
Under normal circumstances, a council member taking part in participatory budgeting – where constituents vote on how to spend a certain amount of money in the district – gets seven months to hear and vote on proposals from the community. Because Kallos took office in January, however, the process is being expedited.