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.
City and State
72. Ben Kallos
New York City Councilman
This Upper East Side reformer has carved out a niche as a fierce advocate for increased government transparency and bolstering the city’s campaign finance system. This year, Ben Kallos has been grabbing headlines for his push to implement larger matching funds for political candidates, a measure that was approved on the 2018 ballot. The second-term councilman is also a champion of education, affordable housing and public health – and he invites constituents to engage him in conversation.
City and State City Council bill aims to impose prevailing wage on all city-subsidized projects by Jeff Coltin
New York City Councilman Ben Kallos is reintroducing a stalled bill that would require all construction workers to get paid the prevailing wage on any projects getting city subsidies.
Under state law, any project built under a government contract must pay workers the prevailing wage. Kallos’ bill would cast a much wider net, mandating the prevailing wage for not just direct government contracts, but for any projects getting grants, bond financing, tax abatements or any other sort of support valued over $1 million from the New York City government.
Corey Johnson and Bill de Blasio are not friends.
And for Johnson, the New York City Council speaker whose friendliness is his defining trait, that’s saying something.
Johnson didn’t even wish the mayor a happy birthday, something the speaker admitted at a City Hall press conference on May 9, the day after de Blasio turned 57. “I meant to, and I forgot. And now you made me feel bad,” Johnson said, with the obvious disappointment of somebody who puts a high value on such social currencies.
“Gale is 100 percent an honest broker. There’s no b.s. with her,” Banks said. “She tells you what’s on her mind, and she’s open to your ideas and suggestions and points of view.”
Brewer’s straight talk could easily come off as brusque, but people in politics who are used to hedging and circuitous language are quick to describe it as one of her best assets.
“People actually really appreciate somebody who just gives it to them straight and is honest and thoughtful about it,” Powers said.
“Gale Brewer gives me courage to be as honest as I am,” Kallos said. “She is one of the most honest people in politics, and I hope to be a close second.” Kallos emulates Brewer – “I want to be Gale Brewer when I grow up. I say it all the time” – and he means that in another way, too. He’s mulling a run to succeed her as borough president when she reaches the office’s term limit in 2021.
“Sadly it’s another case of Albany getting in the way of anyone having good elections in this state, or of Albany to fix the Board of Elections, give it back to the people and take it away from the party bosses.” – New York City Councilman Ben Kallos
“It’s interesting to see that the two people whose conduct was found culpable in Brooklyn lost their employment and yet the people involved in some of the other purges identified by the AG in Queens and Manhattan are still there. Why weren’t those people fired?” New York City Councilman Ben Kallos, a longtime critic of the city election board’s hiring system, asked rhetorically.
Not quite scapegoats, the two suspended Brooklyn clerks appeared to be more like settled-upon sacrificial lambs. A city Board of Elections spokeswoman recently described them both as “retired.” But in 2016, what they appear to have been doing was following orders.
City and State New campaign finance reform would return power to the people by Ben Kallos, Morris Pearl
On Nov. 6, New York City voters will have the chance to limit the corrupting influence of large political contributions by voting “yes” on Ballot Question 1, a proposal from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission to lower donation limits and increase public matching funds.
New York is already one of the few cities that matches campaign contributions up to $175, a system that empowers normal citizens – who do not have thousands of dollars to spare – to financially support their preferred candidates. By doing so, it reins in the influence of big money in politics, and most candidates in New York City participate.
City and State Can NYC increase local input without endangering real estate projects? by Rebecca C. Lewis
The New York City charter is being revisited by not one, but two revision commissions.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the first commission to review the city charter during his State of the City address in February. The stated intent of the mayor’s commission was to examine campaign finance and improve democracy in the city, but over the course of several public hearings, commissioners also examined local engagement through community boards and, in turn, the level of input that residents have in city land use decisions. That commission plans to wrap up in time to have proposals on the ballot in November.
Ultimately, substantial changes to the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure – the standard public review process for city land use decisions – are unlikely given the commission’s narrow focus and short time frame. In its recently released preliminary staff report, the commission acknowledged the complexity of the matter and recommended not pursuing it further. The report defers consideration to future commissions, and recommends they conduct more outreach on the issue.
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.
NO. 4: BEN KALLOS
Representing Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, Kallos has positioned himself as a reformer. As chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, he has proposed numerous good government measures and pushed for greater transparency.
Attendance: 98.1% (No. 5)
Bills introduced: 17 (No. 5)
Bills enacted: 9 (tie for No. 4)
Constituent response: 17 hours, 26 minutes (No. 14)
Communications response: 53 minutes (No. 10)
Google results: 54,700 (No. 9)
Twitter followers: 4,005 (No. 38)