New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Good Government

As founder of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wikilaw.org/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>WikiLaw.org</strong></a>, I believe that the Government and its body of law should be&nbsp;<strong>transparent</strong>&nbsp;for the people it governs. As founder of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.votersearch.org/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>VoterSearch.org</strong></a>, I believe that protecting your right to vote is essential to an&nbsp;<strong>accountable</strong>&nbsp;government. As former Co-Chair of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cb8m.com/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Community Board 8</strong></a>'s Communication Committee, I worked to&nbsp;<strong>open</strong>&nbsp;the community board by announcing<a href="http://www.mbpo.org/free_details.aspid=64&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>community board membership applications</strong></a>&nbsp;and ensuring they were widely available at meetings. I have continued my work with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cb8m.com/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Community Board 8</strong></a>'s Communication Committee and we have made its television show "<a href="http://cb8mspeaks.blip.tv/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Community Board 8 Speaks</strong></a>" available online.<br><br>As your City Council member I will continue the work of making City Hall&nbsp;<strong>transparent</strong>&nbsp;by making its business available online through the web, PDF, podcast, and YouTube like videos. I will&nbsp;<strong>open</strong>City Hall by creating NYC.OpenLegislation.org, a local version of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.opencongress.org/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>OpenCongress.org</strong></a>, where anyone will be able to share their views on all business, in support of the mission of the<a href="http://www.participatorypolitics.org/&quot; target="_BLANK"><strong>Participatory Politics Foundation</strong></a>. City Hall will become&nbsp;<strong>accountable</strong>&nbsp;to you the people as NYC.OpenLegislation.org, will let you track business before City Hall and how your representative voted on issues of importance to you.

Gotham Gazette Launch of Required City Reporting on Required Reports Shows Gaps in Reporting by Samar Khurshid

Launch of Required City Reporting on Required Reports Shows Gaps in Reporting

The New York City Council regularly passes bills mandating that city agencies create reports on their work, ostensibly as part of the Council’s oversight responsibilities. From city jail populations to hate crimes statistics to use of force by police officers, the Council has passed bills requiring a report be delivered to it.

The Council passes so many reporting bills that last year, it passed legislation that would help it track the number of total reports required under local law, the City Charter, or mayoral order. The bill compelled the city’s Department of Records and Information Services to create a central list of every single report required from every city agency, board, or office.

The result: a 57-page document that lists a whopping 842 required reports of various types due at a variety of time intervals. Of those, 490 are listed as not received by DORIS, despite some being producing by agencies on a regular basis, raising questions for Council members about whether agencies are refusing to comply with the law or are overwhelmed with burdensome reporting mandates.

New York Daily News NYC spends millions on cheap, single-ply toilet paper by Anna Sanders

NYC spends millions on cheap, single-ply toilet paper

New York City is literally flushing millions down the toilet.

The city has spent at least $8.8 million on cheap toilet paper since June 2013 – and the costs are piling up under Mayor de Blasio.

Around $1.58 million was wasted on toilet paper last fiscal year, a 12% bump since 2014, according to records obtained by The Daily News. Last month alone, the city bought $126,000 worth of toilet paper rolls.

The city uses about four million rolls every year, buying only cheap, single-ply toilet paper, according to the Citywide Administrative Services. An average of $1.45 million was spent on potty paper annually over the last few years.

City and State What NYC Charter Amendments Didn’t Make It On The Ballot? by Rebecca C. Lewis

What NYC Charter Amendments Didn’t Make It On The Ballot?

New York City voters will have a lot to decide on this November, with five questions and 19 proposals in total to change the city charter. But even with that large number, there were still a number of proposals that did not make it onto the ballot in the end, including comprehensive city planning and democracy vouchers. With their omission this time around, it could fall to another revision commission or the New York City Council to make any additional changes. 

Silive Upper East Side councilman calls for investigation after BOE spokeswoman sends errant political text to Advance reporter by Sydney Kashiwagi

Upper East Side councilman calls for investigation after BOE spokeswoman sends errant political text to Advance reporter

CITY HALL -- An Upper East Side councilman is calling for an investigation after a spokeswoman for the New York City Board of Elections sent an errant political text message to an Advance reporter inviting the reporter to a campaign fundraiser at her home for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for mayor.

“I know you are swamped but wanted to invite you. It’s a fundraiser for Ruben for mayor, BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez-Diaz wrote to the reporter via text. “He will be joining us for a meet and greet.”

Gotham Gazette Fixing the City's Broken System that Puts the Social Safety Net at Risk by Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal

Fixing the City's Broken System that Puts the Social Safety Net at Risk

The recently-passed New York City budget greenlights billions of dollars to some of the most vital programs across the five boroughs. These dollars will help to fund homeless shelters, emergency food pantries, senior services, mental health services, and early childcare for the most vulnerable New Yorkers.

The City of New York contracts with over 1,000 community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide these essential human services at a cost of $6 billion annually. But thanks to the City’s broken procurement system, CBOs are forced to wait a very, very long time to see their money. In fact, according to a recent Comptroller’s report, human service providers wait an average of 221 days before being reimbursed for services and labor they have already provided.

Gotham Gazette Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race by Noah Berman

Council Passes Campaign Finance Bill Roiling Early Mayoral Race

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a likely 2021 mayoral candidate, and City Council Member Ben Kallos, the lead sponsor of the bill, defended the legislation, including retroactivity that will make candidates return money raised in 2018 above new lower donation limits if they choose to opt into the newer of two programs that has more public matching.

That portion of the bill stands to benefit Johnson and hurt competitors like Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“We are literally doing something that is entirely consistent with what we did three months ago and now all of a sudden we are being criticized for it,” Johnson said at the press conference, referring to actions the Council took to make new campaign finance rules approved by voters last year apply to the special election for Public Advocate.

New York Daily News ‘Zombie’ political campaign committees and war chests would be outlawed under NY City Council bill by Anna Sanders

‘Zombie’ political campaign committees and war chests would be outlawed under NY City Council bill

A City Council bill could drive a wooden stake through the heart of “zombie” campaign committees and redistribute unused war chests to taxpayers.

“Let’s kill all the zombies, give war chests back to the tax payers, so incumbents are forced to do their jobs, and elections get more competitive,” Kallos (D-Manhattan) said. “Incumbents shouldn’t need a war chest, the best protection comes from working hard and doing your job.”

Gotham Gazette City Council Expected to Pass Bill Raising Cap on Public Matching Funds for Campaigns by Ethan Geringer-Sameth

City Council Expected to Pass Bill Raising Cap on Public Matching Funds for Campaigns

A City Council committee is expected on Tuesday to pass a bill aimed at reducing the influence of large donors on New York City candidates and elections by creating the possibility for candidates to essentially raise all smaller donations and earn enough public matching funds to fully reach the spending limit imposed by the city’s campaign finance program.

If adopted, the bill, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would lift the cap on the amount of public money a campaign can receive as a percentage of the spending limits on candidates who choose to participate in the matching funds system. If passed as expected on Tuesday by the Council’s governmental operations committee, the bill would then move to a Thursday vote of the full Council, where it would be overwhelmingly likely to pass.

City Land Council Member’s Legislation to Reveal Campaign Contribution Sources by May Vutrapongvatana

Council Member’s Legislation to Reveal Campaign Contribution Sources

Any contributions that do not include this information will not be eligible for public matching.

“In NASCAR you can see who is paying right on the hood of the car. A pie chart showing where politicians are getting their money from in a voter guide when you are deciding who to vote for is the next best thing. Too big a slice from real estate, and voters will know who the politician really serves. I’ve already included logos from labor union endorsements in mail to voters in my district, in fact most do. I believe with 869,000 union members in New York City having a nice slice from labor would become a benchmark to determine candidates in public service for our working families,” said Council Member Ben Kallos.

“Council Member Kallos’ bill will increase public awareness and education about where money is coming from to fund candidates for City office. A more aware public makes a big difference in having our campaign finance laws enforced and supported,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Gotham Gazette City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program by Samar Khurshid

City Council Hears Bill to Expand Public Match in Campaign Finance Program

That charter change was quickly implemented through local law, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, for all special elections before the 2021 general election, thus applying to multiple races this year.

Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, has also proposed increasing the public funds cap to roughly 89% of the spending limit, effectively allowing candidates to run their campaigns entirely on small contributions and the subsequent public match, and diluting the effect of wealthier, larger donors. And he hopes to put that reform into effect for the 2021 city election cycle, which will feature a massive number of local races, from citywide and borough wide posts through the City Council.

“I think this is a gamechanger,” Kallos said at Monday’s hearing, citing the recent citywide public advocate special election as proof that increasing the public funds match reduced big donations. He pointed to the latest campaign finance disclosures from all the campaigns, which showed that contributions of $250 or less made up 61% of all contributions, up from 26.3% of all contributions in the 2013 public advocate race, according to his office’s analysis of the numbers.