Three city lawmakers agree to take crowd-sourced questions

three-city-lawmakers-agree-take-crowd-sourced-questions
Gale Brewer. (William Alatriste/NYC Council)
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Council members Brad Lander and Ben Kallos, along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, are the first New York elected officials to sign up for a new online platform that allows the public to directly ask questions of elected officials.

The new site, called AskThem.io, is based on the White House’s “We the People” campaign, which lets the public petition the federal government, with a certain threshold that triggers an official response. 

“We have a page for every elected official nationwide,” said David Moore, director of AskThem.io, which launches next week.

Lander, Kallos and Brewer “agreed to be early leaders,” along with 57 other elected officials from around the country, Moore said.

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In a statement on Tuesday announcing the upcoming launch, Moore explained the site is "building a cultural expectation that when large numbers of people ask a question, public figures give a public response."

Lander, Kallos and Brewer has all demonstrated an interest in this sort of thing.

Lander, a progressive from Park Slope and Deputy Leader for Policy, has been advocating for more collaboration and transparency in government.

Kallos, a freshman who has worked on numerous transparency and open government projects in the past, is chairman of the Committee on Government Operations, where there is constant talk about using technology to improve government.

Brewer, during her three terms in the Council, fought to have the city government embrace tech innovations, like texting campaign donations, live-streaming Council hearings and making government data more easily accessible available to the public.

Electeds who join the effort agree to answer one or two questions per month, based on popularity. In order to be answered, questions have to reach a minimum threshold of support. Also, if there is significant support for a question to a lawmaker who is not currently signed up for the site, Moore said AskThem.io will reach out to the official for a response.

When an answer is posted, the questioner, and all the people who supported the question, will receive an email alert with the response, Moore said.

The site also allows users to insert their address in order to find who is representing them on the city, state and federal level.

There will also be an option to search questions by topic, so you can find lawmakers who the public has identified as significant players on various issues.

The site launches February 10.