New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Press Coverage

Currently, it is not possible for New Yorkers to easily sign up to track updates on City Council meetings and legislative activities. But in fact, there could be an easy fix for the problem that could help transform how members of the public engage with their government. That is what emerged from a #PDF14 workshop that illustrated how the realization of visions for open government in New York often comes down to wonky nuts and bolts issues related to government web platforms, procurement and access to open data.

City Council member Ben Kallos, chair of the Government Operations Committee, hosted the session together with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in the spirit of "bringing government to the people." Also in the name of transparency, he arranged for a recording of the session.

 

They're among the busiest bus routes in Manhattan, shuttling more than 70,000 riders across town every weekday.

But riders at 15 stops along the westbound M66, M79, M86 and M96 will soon have one more way of finding out just where that next bus is.

The real-time bus signs are thanks to a city-funded measure pushed by an Upper East Side councilman in the city's latest round of Participatory Budgeting.

They're also coming to the southbound M31 on York Avenue.

"People from all over the district voted for bus clocks. It was something that they wanted and there was a need for,” said Councilman Ben Kallos.

 

Having a municipality’s laws online and easily available would seem to be a common first step for cities concerned with improving transparency. But Kallos said the issue of laws being inaccessible is more common in the U.S. than most people realize.

Kallos felt it has taken a long time for cities to address the issue, perhaps due to the revenue generated from selling publication of the laws to private companies.

“In my few months so far in office, I’ve stumbled across numerous places where the laws aren’t necessarily there to protect or serve the public, but a subset of the public,” Kallos said. “Often a special or corporate interest. And the legal publishing industry is huge.”

Looking ahead, Kallos noted that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Administration was “incredibly friendly” to what Int. 149 was trying to achieve, and was confident that the ideals in the legislation will at some point get codified and serve as a model for the country.

 

Residents as young as 16 would be able to take seats on the city’s 59 community boards if a movement in the State Legislature to lower the age of eligibility is successful.

This week, the City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee voted unanimously to approve a resolution introduced by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) at the suggestion of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer that calls on the full council to support a bill in the State Legislature that would amend the state’s Public Officers Law and would allow for a change in the City Charter to allow young people to serve.

 

The City Council passed a resolution Wednesday urging the state legislature to allow 16 and 17-year-old New Yorkers to serve on community boards.

"Twenty percent of our city is under 18, and our youth deserve a voice on their local community boards," Councilman Ben Kallos, lead sponsor of the resolution, said.

While the resolution passed, it doesn't actually allow the youngsters to be able to serve as appointed members of community boards yet - it simply urges the state Assembly and Senate to pass legislation.

The issue has bi-partisan support in Albany, Kallos noted, where a bill in the senate is sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island).

 

Aspiring policy wonks as young as 16 could serve on their local community boards under a resolution passed Wednesday by the City Council.

The Council is asking Albany to let 16- and 17-year-old serve on the local boards, which weigh in on zoning changes, liquor licenses, and sidewalk cafes in their neighborhoods.

Currently, the minimum age for the 51 local panels representing neighborhoods across the city is 18.

“Youth deserve a voice on their local community boards. These boards deal with issues that affect their daily lives and the neighborhoods that they live in,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor of the resolution.

 

El Concejo Municipal también evalúa una propuesta de ley del Concejal Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), que busca centralizar el proceso.

Actualmente las solicitudes FOIL son dirigidas por escrito a cada agencia municipal.

La iniciativa de Kallos está inspirada en un portal central, conocido como RecordTrac, que actualmente usa la ciudad de Oakland en California para procesar pedidos FOIL de todas sus agencias.

 “Cuando los neoyorquinos no pueden acceder a los documentos comúnmente solicitados a través de una búsqueda simple, eso es un problema”, expresó Kallos en un comunicado.

 

New York City spends $20 million a year on responding to Freedom of Information Law requests from the public, but it can save up to $13 million by centralizing all of the requests on a single website, according to a report released on June 6 by Reinvent Albany, a non-profit promoting government openness and transparency. The report was released in advance of a City Council hearing on a bill that would create a centralized FOIL website for New York City...

Kaehny was involved in drafting the bill, which is sponsored and by Council members Ben Kallos and James Vacca, and supported by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. 

 

A bill that would centralize all of the city’s Freedom of Information Law requests on one website was lauded by several City Council members and good government groups on Monday, but received surprise opposition, in its current form, from the mayor’s office. Two members of the media also testified expressing concern that such a website could compromise their competitive advantages.

The council heard public testimony Monday on a bill that would mandate the creation of a website which would list all Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests filed with the city, display the status of each request, and make the government’s responses public, among other features. New York State’s FOI law states that all government records are the property of the public and should be provided in a timely manner upon request...

Council member Ben Kallos, one of the bill’s sponsors, defended the government’s right to publish all FOIL requests. He pointed out that if such requests aren’t published in a timely manner, it would be impossible for the public and the media to tell if requests are being filled on time or filled at all.

 

The Council bill, as introduced by Council Member Ben Kallos, would require all city agencies to be on an Open FOIL portal within one year. The bill would require much more robust reporting from the City. As proposed, the bill would not show the name of the requester, but would have a status, date submitted and filled, as well as the data from the request.

 

While borough president, Stringer appointed 16-year-old Ehrlich to serve on the Upper East Side's Community Board 8 — where the teen served with Councilman Ben Kallos, who is now the chairman of the committee on governmental operations and co-sponsor of the resolution to open the doors to younger members.

Kallos was himself a comparatively young community board member, joining in his 20s.

“Sixteen- and 17-year-olds bring much-needed perspective, energy and commitment to their local Community Boards,” Kallos said in a statement. “I have been deeply impressed by the dynamism of the teenagers who have expressed interest in public service through Community Boards, and they should be empowered to assist their neighbors instead of prevented from participating in public life.”

 

Council Member Ben Kallos and the government operations committee he chairs are set to hold two interesting hearings on Monday. First, at 10 a.m., the committee will look at the issue of extending community board eligibility to 16 and 17-year-olds, considering a resolution recommending passage of a bill in Albany that would allow such an extension.

Then, the highly-anticipated Open FOIL bill will get its first hearing at 1 p.m. The bill, introduced by Kallos, would create an online portal allowing people to see the status of FOIL requests. One of the issues expected to be be brought up is whether the name and organization of the person submitting the request would be published. For the average citizen looking to obtain records, having their name on the portal will likely not be a big deal. But for journalists having their name and type of information they are requesting in an online portal could tip off their competition and jeopardize a story.

The government ops committee will be meeting along with the technology committee, chaired by CM Jimmy Vacca, and council members will be discussing Open FOIL and two other open gov bills.

 

New York City Council Member Ben Kallos recently introduced the Free and Open Source Software Act (FOSSA) that, if passed by the City Council, would require the City to look first to open source software before purchasing proprietary software.

Kallos, who represents the Upper East Side and chairs the Council’s government operations committee, also introduced the Civic Commons Act, embracing the notion that government should be sharing technology resources by setting up a portal for agencies and other government entities to collaboratively purchase software.

 

New York City is on the cusp of a complete overhaul on how software is purchased and distributed by public agencies in the Big Apple.

Benjamin Kallos, a council member representing Gotham’s Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, has authored legislation that mandates a preference for using free and open source software and computer code for city IT projects. Another bill establishes a code-sharing portal for agencies to share that open source software with each other.

On May 29, Int. 366, the Free and Open Source Software Act (FOSSA), and Int. 365, the Civic Commons Act, were introduced, and are open for public comment and amendment. They are part of an extensive package of technology billsfrom Kallos, who is a software developer.

 

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side) urged the city to re-think the whole plan.

“It is time to re-imagine our solid waste management plan to reduce, reuse and recycle, instead of putting Marine Transfer Stations in densely residential neighborhoods,” he said. “A forward-thinking plan for a greener city will provide relief to over-burdened neighborhoods and protect the thousands of residents and students within feet of these proposed marine transfer stations.”

 

As part of a raft of bills on government data and transparency, Council Member Ben Kallos has introduced legislation that would require the city to release and map data about where NYPD issues moving violations, among other things. The bill would open up new traffic enforcement information to the public...

 

New York City councilor Ben Kallos has introduced the Free and Open Source Software Act that would require the city to use open source software before purchasing proprietary software.

 

On Thursday, a pile of tech-centric legislation was dropped on the New York City Council. When it passed its major open government legislation in 2012, New York’s was the most ambitious law of its kind of any U.S. city. Taken together, these new bills look a lot like an attempt to simultaneously tune up what some see as the jiggly bits on how the city approaches challenges on data, transparency and participatory government. Here, then, is a quick guide to what the bills would do, complete with a short-hand version of why they might be needed, provided by Councilmember Ben Kallos, the Upper East Side lawyer and technologist who, after just five months in office, is sponsoring or cosponsoring each of the bills.

 

"New York City Council Member Ben Kallos (KallosEsq), who also happens to be a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) developer, just introduced legislation to mandate a government preference for FOSS and creating a Civic Commons website to facilitate collaborative purchasing of software. He argues that NYC could save millions of dollars with the Free and Open Source Software Preferences Act 2014, pointing out that the city currently has a $67 million Microsoft ELA. Kallos said: 'It is time for government to modernize and start appreciating the same cost savings as everyone else.'"

 

On Thursday, Council Member Ben Kallos will introduce the Free and Open Source Software Act that, if passed by the City Council, would bring the requirement to New York. The law would require the City to look first to open source software before purchasing proprietary software. In addition, Kallos, chair of the Council's government operations committee, will introduce a Civic Commons bill to create a central site to store all of the open source software the City uses which could promote sharing among cities.

"Free and open-sourced software is something that has been used in private sector and in fact by most people in their homes for more than a decade now, if not a generation," Kallos said by phone on Wednesday, May 28. "It is time for government to modernize and start appreciating the same cost savings as everyone else."