New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Ben Kallos

City Limits CityViews: NYC Ought to be Fighting for More Than Just 140 Speed Cameras by Ben Kallos

CityViews: NYC Ought to be Fighting for More Than Just 140 Speed Cameras

There are dangerous intersections in every neighborhood. The ones we dread crossing every day, the ones we take the long way to avoid, the ones where we ask loved ones to hold our hands while crossing.

These intersections are a perfect storm of outdated traffic design, millions of vehicles competing with pedestrians and cyclists to move around the city each day, drivers who flout the traffic laws, and the limits of asking 35,000 uniformed police and 3,000 traffic enforcement officers to police 6,000 miles of city roadways.

Residents frequently complain of dangerous drivers not receiving tickets, of police writing tickets for one moving violation but not others, or of an intersection that is made safe for only part of the day, during an officer’s shift.

City and State NYC public employees need paid parental leave by Ben Kallos, Antonio Reynoso

NYC public employees need paid parental leave

Four years ago, after being elected to the New York City Council, we both learned what it means to be a public official the only way you really can: on the job. Now we are learning on the job in a very different role, with our families, as fathers of new children. As we experience this once-in-a-lifetime moment alongside our respective partners, we are excited and, perhaps like all parents, more than a little nervous. Helping to settle our nerves is the fact that we’re able to stay home with our families as we navigate this new stage in life. We are both lucky: As elected officials, our leave is at our discretion. We have both decided to take the time to be with our families.

In the United States, new parents seeking time with their child face both a legal and cultural challenge. There is no national mandate for paid family leave. Even where it is offered, fathers remain a lot less likely than mothers to take full advantage. As elected officials and as fathers, we hope that taking leave will help empower other new fathers who are considering their leave options to take time as well.

Crain's New York New Yorkers could see the stars, if only lawmakers could see the light by Ben Kallos

New Yorkers could see the stars, if only lawmakers could see the light

How many kids grow up in the city without realizing what the night sky really looks like? But it’s not inevitable that this continue for generations to come. If only the city would tackle light pollution. The potential benefits of reducing light pollution are enormous, ranging from the pragmatic (saving energy) to the fantastic (inspiring the next Einstein).

Knight Foundation Blog Civic tech class will help communities create tools to improve government by Ben Kallos

Civic tech class will help communities create tools to improve government

Before I became a City Council member, I was a civic technologist and activist seeking to make government better through technology.  In one such action, I FOILed Albany voting records and posted them online for the public to see, prompting the legislature to follow suit. Because of this background, I am especially looking forward to helping other civic technologists create tools that will make government more transparent, efficient and engaging.

These tools have great potential to be tools that the next generation of citizens actually uses to engage with their local officials. The funding from Knight Foundation will allow me to assist teams in doing just that, with firsthand knowledge of how governments use technology.

Our Town Op-Ed: Helping the Homeless by Ben Kallos

Op-Ed: Helping the Homeless

Here is how you can help: If you see someone sleeping on the street whom you think is homeless, please call 311 within one hour and ask for them to dispatch a “homeless outreach team.” The operator will connect you with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) who will ask about where you saw the person, what they looked like, and offer you a call back to report on the status of your call. The whole process should take less than five minutes.

Our Town Op-Ed: Kallos on Bike Safety Vests by Ben Kallos

Op-Ed: Kallos on Bike Safety Vests

Walking, driving or biking in the neighborhood, you may have noticed an increase in the number of safety vests worn by delivery bikers. This is in large part a result of my BikeSafe program, designed to empower residents through partnership to play a role in making their own neighborhood safer.

The steps of the BikeSafe program are as follows:

1. Educational Forum: We delivered free Safety Vests, bells and lights for the 80 stores that RSVPed and attended.

2. More Safety Vests: If you see or receive a bike delivery from a person with NO safety vest displaying business name and ID number, report it to the business, 311 and my office.

3. Report Unsafe Biking: If you see wrong way or unsafe biking, remember the business name and identification number from the safety vest then report it to the store, 311 and my office. Tell the store that you can wait longer for deliveries so bikes can be slower and safer for everyone.

4. Enforcement: When you call 311, DOT and NYPD will be notified and will take the appropriate steps to resolve the issue.

Huffington Post The Power of #GivingTuesday -- December 2, 2014 by Ben Kallos

The Power of #GivingTuesday -- December 2, 2014

As Americans, we have much to be thankful for. We live in a great nation with services that support us and our loved ones. As a City Council Member representing the East Side of Manhattan, I am also deeply thankful to be a New Yorker. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the many blessings that we have, and #GivingTuesday is a time to give back.

On November 25, just before Thanksgiving, I was proud to join New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to declare December 2, 2014 to be #GivingTuesday. This is a day for us to give back to the organizations and charities that are important to us. #GivingTuesday is a natural outlet for our generosity and an antidote to the shopping frenzy of the days just prior.

Huffington Post Merger Offers Opportunity to Bridge Digital Divide by Ben Kallos

Merger Offers Opportunity to Bridge Digital Divide

The digital divide grows wider every moment and, with it, income inequality -- but we have a chance to significantly decrease it by requiring free and affordable universal broadband and consumer protections from the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. New York State's Public Service Commission is voting on whether such a merger is in the "public interest." The approval of New York State, home of the nation's top media market, New York City, is essential to the current merger.

City and State News Upgrading Our Laws by Ben Kallos

Upgrading Our Laws

Code runs our world. Whether legal or software lines of code, we live by rules that dictate what can and cannot be done. While software code has grown exponentially more advanced in recent years, our legal code lags behind. Courts struggle to resuscitate laws as living by applying them to facts and technologies that were not possible when those laws were written. The Legislature must stand up to the challenge of upgrading our legal code and systems to keep pace with our software code—to build a government as modern and innovative as the rest of the world we live in.

New York City— the largest in the country—is in a unique position to lead on the most exciting developments in technology and transparency

Free Law Founders Freeing NYC’s Laws by Ben Kallos

Freeing NYC’s Laws

New York City recently took exciting steps to free our laws and public information. Two bills, Open Law (prime sponsored by Council Member Brad Lander) and City Record Online, which I sponsored, were recently signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio into law. Now, the City’s law, the best versions of which have been inaccessible on for-fee sites, and New York’s City Record, a complete version of which has only been in print and distributed to a set group, will be open to the public and easily accessible.

“Open Law” requires the city to post a continuously updated version of the charter, administrative code and rules of the city of New York, while “City Record Online” will put the paper City Record on a public website. New York City plans to go even further than the law requires, and will unlock past City Records in a machine-readable format. To do this, New York City will leverage public-private partnership with civic technologists BetaNYC, Civic Technologists, Dev Bootcamp, Ontodia, Socrata and the Sunlight Foundation.