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Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union
 

Ben Kallos

Ben Kallos

  • de Blasio retirement savings

    (photo: Demetrius Freeman/Mayor’s Office)


    Through a recently-signed resolution, President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have struck a death blow to New York City’s plan to become the first city in the country to establish a retirement savings program for private-sector employees.

    After advocates and elected officials identified a crisis in the limited amount most workers have saved for retirement and started calling for government action, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his February 2016 State of the

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  • kallos council

    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: @NYCCouncil)


    A bill heard by the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations on Thursday aims to further limit the influence of big-dollar donations and special interests in city elections. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the committee, would tweak the city’s public campaign finance system by removing a cap on public funds disbursed to candidate campaigns by the Campaign Finance Board (CFB).

    The city’s campaign finance system is held up as a national model that incentivizes small

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  • Ben Kallos City Council

    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)


    Although Mayor Bill de Blasio promised after taking office that he would do away with the practice of underfunding city agencies in the preliminary budget only to later provide them with full funding, one agency that seems to suffer from this each year is the New York City Board of Elections. The budget process for fiscal year 2018 is no exception.

    The mayor’s

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  • de blasio aides courtyard

    Mayor de Blasio & aides in a courtyard (photo: Mayor's Office on flickr)


    The investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration have cost the city $10.5 million in outside legal defense spending so far, and might cost millions more, said Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter at a City Council preliminary budget hearing on Monday.

    Carter, who heads the city’s Law Department, testified before the Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations that the state and federal investigations into the mayor

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    Council Member Ben Kallos (Photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)


    A critical study by a fiscal watchdog on the city’s annual performance report has led to renewed calls for city agencies to base their budgets on the efficiency of services.

    The Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, released an analysis earlier this month of the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR),

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  • Tony Shorris City Hall City Council Rivington

    First Deputy Mayor Shorris testifies (photo: William Alatriste)


    The de Blasio administration is bringing in a new chief administrative officer to work under First Deputy Mayor Tony Shorris starting January 1. Laura Anglin, who comes to City Hall after serving as president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities for the last seven years, “will support the work of a number of City agencies,” according to the December 15 press release announcing her hire.

    Those agencies include several within Shorris’ 30-agency

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  • city council chambers balcony

    City Council chambers (photo: Sofie Hecht/Gotham Gazette)


    The City Council is rushing through a package of bills to reform the city’s campaign finance system. About a dozen bills driven by Council members’ frustrations with the Campaign Finance Board and its rigorous reporting system are being moved through the Council at an almost unseen pace, raising eyebrows.

    There are actually two packages of bills that will be passed through the Council this week: one that has been sitting idle for months after a hearing, which will go through the

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  • bdb facebook computers

    Mayor de Blasio at Facebook (photo via Mayor's Office)


    If there’s an undeniable takeaway from the 2016 presidential election, it’s that social media can play a crucial role in how candidates for public office communicate. Nationally and locally, political candidates and elected officials have for years recognized the role that platforms like Twitter and Facebook can play in public engagement and influencing traditional media.

    For New York City’s three citywide elected officials -- Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Scott Stringer and

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  • mmv nypl

    Speaker Mark-Viverito (photo: @NYCCouncil)


    Within the next two months, the City Council is expected to vote on a large legislative package that would alter the city’s campaign finance system in a variety of ways and regulate donations to political nonprofits, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said this week. Some of the proposals and the timing of their likely passage have raised concerns, though, that the Council is weakening the city’s model campaign finance system, pushing some reforms through after too long a wait and rushing other, newer bills through just in time for the next

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  • de blasio register to vote brooklyn

    De Blasio registers a voter (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    As Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio strongly pushed for voting reform in New York, but as Mayor, it has not been high on his list of priorities. Last month, with Election Day around the corner, that seemed to change as de Blasio renewed his call for a system that will encourage voting in a state with one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country.

    The advocacy comes just ahead of de Blasio’s re-election year and is spurred in part, the mayor said, by the

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  • greenfield city hall alatriste

    Council Member Greenfield and colleagues at City Hall (photo: William Alatriste)


    The bundling of campaign contributions by elected officials for fellow candidates in New York City is not new or illegal, but it raises questions about an unexplored area of campaign finance law, especially as the City considers updates to the rules of its heralded campaign finance system.

    In New York City electoral campaigns, individuals often lump together contributions from multiple donors to show their support

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  • de blasio podium

    Mayor Bill de Blasio (photo: Ed Reed, Mayor's Office)


    With the impending departure of the head of the city’s campaign finance regulatory body, good government advocates say Mayor Bill de Blasio must be careful about who he chooses to fill the position as the city heads into an election year.

    “The chair of the campaign finance board is probably the single most important player in government ethics,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney at the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government reform organization.

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  • borelli council hearing

    Council Member Joe Borelli (photo: William Alatriste)


    The dysfunction that has seemed to define the New York City Board of Elections this year was again on display Tuesday when its executive director first declined to testify at an imminent City Council oversight hearing and within hours reversed that decision.

    With just two weeks to go before the November 8 general election, the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations scheduled an oversight hearing for Wednesday to gauge the BOE’s preparedness -- something

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  • de blasio mccray arrive to vote

    Mayor de Blasio & First Lady McCray arrive to vote (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    City Council Member Joe Borelli, one of three Republicans in the 51-seat City Council, on Tuesday called for a hearing on voter fraud and said that he supports a statewide voter identification law to combat potential fraud. Borelli’s calls came after the release of a secretly-recorded video that showed a Democratic

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  • Shorris Rivington

    First Deputy Mayor Shorris testifies (photo: William Alatriste)


    Over the course of a Thursday oversight hearing lasting more than six hours, top officials from the de Blasio administration attempted to explain to the City Council all the missteps that led to a Lower East Side AIDS hospice being sold to a luxury condominium developer with virtually no public benefit.

    Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, said early in the hearing, “Something went very wrong here and we must address issues

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  • Kallos

    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: John McCarten for the City Council)


    At least three City Council members have made requests to the Council’s bill drafting unit to formulate legislation that would regulate political participation by and with “social welfare” nonprofit organizations. These are political advocacy, or lobbying, groups, which have been the subject of intense scrutiny in New York City of late due to the Campaign

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  • MMV hearing flag mic

    above: Melissa Mark-Viverito; below: Ben Kallos (photos by William Alatriste)


    New York City’s campaign finance system, particularly its public matching funds program, is considered a national model, and it stays that way by being regularly updated and modernized. The Campaign Finance Board issues reports following each election analyzing ways to plug holes in the system and bolster the already-robust provisions of the relevant law.

    But, the next city election cycle, in 2017, may come and go without any

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  • MMV deed restriction presser

    Chin, Mark-Viverito, Brewer (l-r) at Wednesday's presser (photo: William Alatriste)


    Armed with the findings of a newly-released investigation that faults City Hall for a “lack of accountability,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Margaret Chin called for reform to the city’s deed restriction removal process at a press conference on Wednesday outside City Hall.

    In a show of strength and seriousness, Brewer and Chin were joined by Public Advocate Letitia James,

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  • de Blasio voting 2016

    Mayor de Blasio votes (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Many eyes will be on the New York City Board of Elections come Tuesday as New Yorkers head to the polls for the second time this year, casting their votes in congressional primaries. The first election, April’s presidential primaries, was so problematic it prompted multiple city and state authorities to launch investigations into

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  • 27083071523 4affcb6e87 z
    City Council chambers (Sofie Hecht for Gotham Gazette)


    Hundreds of times a year, City Council members vote on pieces of legislation, including the city’s budget, land use matters, and a wide variety of bills and resolutions. Members almost always vote “yes” or “no.” But sometimes, Council members choose to abstain, actively deciding not to declare they are for or against what is in front of them, and in the 51-seat City Council, abstentions are used by members to widely varying degrees.

    In the New York State Assembly,

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  • powherny rally 3 

    photo: @PowherNY


    During a recent panel conversation at The New School, only two people in a crowd of about 50 raised their hands when the audience was asked if they were confident there is no gender pay gap in their workplace. The panel, called “Getting Even,” was organized by the Center for New York City Affairs to discuss the causes of the pay gap between men and women and the steps New York City can take to close it.

    “When men go into traditionally female occupations, they get paid more. So gender is the only differentiator

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  • DCAS testimony May 13

    DCAS testimony (photo: William Alatriste)


    With four agencies testifying over the course of several hours, a Friday executive budget hearing held by the City Council’s governmental operations committee, along with the finance committee, had a lot of ground to cover on important issues like election administration and law department function. Two of the agencies testifying have even been sources of controversy in recent months and the hearing was an opportunity for Council members to air their concerns and get some answers. At many points during the hearing, however,

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  • bill de blasio voting april 2016

    Voting (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    When the presidential primaries hit New York last month, they landed with a frenzy and, in New York City, something of a thud. Not only did the Democratic and Republican contests include candidate competition around the city and state, but the city Board of Elections added an entirely other bit of far less welcome drama.

    Over 100,000 missing Brooklyn Democratic voters from the rolls and widespread complaints of mismanagement - ...

  • kallos computer

    Council Member Ben Kallos (photo: William Alatriste)


    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 ...

  • bdb voting

    Mayor de Blasio voting (via The Mayor's Office @BilldeBlasio)


    On Tuesday, April 19, thousands of New Yorkers cried foul about how the city was running the state’s most consequential presidential primary elections in decades. Polling sites opened late. Ballot scanners failed. About 125,000 Democratic voters were purged from the Brooklyn rolls while others found their party affiliation had inexplicably changed. While many pointed to what is seen as typical city Board of Elections dysfunction, complaints from across the city prompted a strong official response.

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