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About Ben Kallos

Confronted with corruption in Albany, Ben put voting records online so New Yorkers could finally hold politicians accountable. Since then he's run a government reform organization that successfully removed corruption from government and served as Policy Director for former Public Advocate Mark Green.

Ben grew up on the Upper East Side with his mother, who still lives in the neighborhood, and his grandparents, who fled anti-Semitism in Europe. A Bronx Science graduate, Ben knows that our public schools are more than just budget line.  He attended SUNY Albany and SUNY Buffalo Law School, where he paid his own way through.

In the City Council, Ben chairs the Committee on Governmental Operations, where he promotes transparency to ensure every dollar gets spent to improve your quality of life--from affordable housing to senior services to better schools.

Updates

Press Release
Thursday, May 5, 2016
New York, NY – After more than 120,000 voters in Brooklyn were reported to have been disenfranchised the City Council passed legislation today authored by Council Member Ben Kallos that could have helped avoid confusion on Primary Day by providing voters with the information online and on their phones necessary to participate in elections and verify their votes were counted.
 
The Mayor sought to implement this new policy last week by offering $20 million to the Board of Elections, which the Board of Elections has rejected. The City Council is now mandating many of these reforms, which if signed by Mayor de Blasio, would have the force of law.
 
“Voters shouldn’t have to continually check their status before casting a ballot. But unless Albany finally updates its archaic and disenfranchising election laws, the onus is on voters to verify their eligibility before each election,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Voter registrations should not be an obstacle that leads to disfranchisement.”
 
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Press Coverage
Politico

Councilman Ben Kallos will introduce legislation today to make budget information accessible in a format that is searchable and accessible to third parties who want to build applications that could make the city's $82 billion in spending more transparent.

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Press Release
Thursday, May 5, 2016

 New York, NY – How New York City spends $82 billion is about to get more transparent, with a city budget that is searchable and computer readable instead of printed or in lengthy PDFs, through legislationfrom Council Member Ben Kallos that would require the budget to be searchable, posted in open formats, and available for third parties to “build an app for that.”
 
“New Yorkers should be able to search the city’s budget to see how every penny of their tax dollars is being spent,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, a software developer and open data advocate. “Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito and Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, for their partnership in advocacy for an Open Budget.”

 

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com
NEW YORK CITY — The city's Rent Guidelines Board voted Tuesday to consider rent freezes for the city's nearly 1 million rent stabilized units.

The preliminary vote to raise rents for one-year leases between 0 and 2 percent passed 5-4, with the members who represent tenants' and owners' interests all voting against it, the Board's executive director, Andrew McLaughlin, told DNAinfo.

Over the next several weeks, the nine-member board will also consider raising rents on two-year leases between 0.5 to 3.5 percent — following last year's first-ever freeze for rent-stabilized apartments.

The board based its proposal on an RGB study that showed that the price of operating for rent-stabilized apartments decreased 1.2 percent this year, mostly due to the fact that fuel costs decreased 41.2 percent. Another study found that the city's unemployment rate fell in 2015 by 1.5 percent. 

The changes would take effect on all lease renewals after Oct. 1, 2016.

Board member Sheila Garcia, who represents tenant's interest, proposed a rent decrease instead of a freeze, which is why she voted against it. 

"The data this year merits a [rent] rollback," said Garcia, referring to lowered fuel costs. "I didn't think [the rent freeze proposal] was radical enough. The board has over-compensated landlords over the years."

"We see that we are evicting less people but more people are homeless because they can't afford to live in NYC." 

Upper East Side council member Ben Kallos joined advocates calling to lower rent for rent-stabilized apartments. 

 

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Press Coverage
DNAinfo.com

Parents at P.S. 183, who worked with Councilman Ben Kallos to increase the total seats on the Upper East Side from just over 123 to 515 since 2014, say they are relieved to have more pre-K seats because it can be tough getting a spot in the neighborhood.

"As an Upper East Side parent, I am concerned not only about the chances of my own child obtaining a pre-K spot in the neighborhood but also about the children of my friends and neighbors," resident Ariel Chesler said. "That is why I have been speaking out about the insufficient number of seats in the area."

For more than a year, members of the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network, which advocates for more than 500 families' needs, also worked to get more free pre-K seats on the island, according to member Eva Bosbach.

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Press Coverage
Gotham Gazette

As Mayor Bill de Blasio is mired in controversy over his fundraising activities and proximity to lobbyists, the City Council is moving on bills to reduce the possibility of ‘pay-to-play’ campaign financing and make significant tweaks to strengthen an already-robust public-matching system.

The Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing on Monday to examine a package of eight bills that would reform campaign finance rules and improve the city’s public matching funds program, which, though it has some critics, is often held up as a national model.

The bills, introduced in November, aim to implement recommendations made by the New York City Campaign Finance Board (NYCCFB) after the 2013 city election cycle. Perhaps most notably, the bills would eliminate public matching funds for contributions bundled by people who do business with the city, provide earlier public matching funds to candidates, and improve disclosure requirements for companies or people that own entities that do business with the city.

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Press Coverage
New York Post

A bill by Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), discussed at a hearing Monday, would prohibit campaigns from accepting public matching funds off money raised by lobbyists who bundle unlimited contributions from other donors.

By law, lobbyists, contractors and others doing business with the city can give no more than $400 to a mayoral candidate. But a loophole allows those same individuals to bundle unlimited amounts from others to the same candidates.

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Press Coverage

“The city should not be providing public dollars to amplify the already strong voices of special interests,” said Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan), the sponsor.

In the 2013 citywide election, 19% of all bundlers were doing business with the city - and they brought in 24% of all bundled funds, he said.

The city Campaign Finance Board backed the changes.

Allowing lobbyists and contractors to bundle unlimited gifts and get matching funds is “a loophole that undermines the intent of the law to prevent or limit the appearance of ‘pay to play’ corruption,” said executive director Amy Loprest.

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Press Coverage
Roosevelt Islander
Monday, May 2, 2016

Ninety more 4-year-olds will have free pre-kindergarten seats on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island thanks to the efforts of Council Member Ben Kallos who organized parents and children to identify new providers to which parents pledged to send children.

Of the 90 new seats, 54 will be at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery and 36 seats will be at the Manhattan Schoolhouse in the Upper East Side. This is an increase over the 425 seats previously offered on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island for the school year starting in September of 2016 to 515.

Parents can apply for Round 2 of Universal Pre-Kindergarten starting on May 2, 2016, including families who already applied, accepted an offer, or have not yet applied.

“Universal Pre-Kindergarten means having a seat for every four year old in their neighborhood where children can get an education and parents get the help they need in order to afford to live, work and raise a family in the city,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Thank you to Eva Bosbach of the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network as well as Ariel Chesler and Jack Moran of P.S. 183 for working with me, parents, children, providers, and the Department of Education to bring Universal Pre-Kindergarten to the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.”

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Press Coverage
The Chief-Leader
Monday, April 11, 2016

City Council Speaker Me­lissa Mark-Viverito has separately proposed a parallel system of handling violations for certain quality-of-life crimes, including public drink­ing and littering, with administrative summonses that would be adjudicated by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

That system would remove those violations from the criminal courts and avoid the threat of warrants issued for people who don’t keep their court dates. Ms. Mark-Vi­v­erito has said that the NYPD will set guidelines for when summonses would be handled administratively or criminally.

Some bills have already been introduced by Ms. Mark-Viverito and Council Members Ben Kallos, Rory Lancman and Vanessa Gibson.

 

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