Remember Member Items?

Monday, August 11, 2014

The discretionary funds process was overhauled this year by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. We dig into the data to see how different council members spent their (your) money with Jeff Mays, DNAinfo political reporter. Nigel Chiwaya, DNAinfo visual journalist, dug into (and visualized) the data set of every discretionary fund to identify patterns and will help listeners do the same in the open data set on our site.

Want to Help Investigate Council Member Items?

We're working with DNAinfo to take the huge data set of council discretionary spending, and asking you to look into it and tell us what you find. Here's how.

1) Using the widget below, generate a random number (1-52) for yourself. These correspond to council members (which we've organized alphabetically).


Council member assignments for WNYC/DNAinfo project

2) Go into the open google doc and find your assigned number, which corresponds to a council member. Find the Google doc here

Curious about who each council member is? Here's a full list of this year's members

3) Look at the items related to your assigned member, and tell us what you find. Things to look for:

  • Patterns in the spending. (The DNAinfo guide above also helps on this front)
  • Particularly interesting groups.
  • Vague-sounding organizations.
  • Outliers - either very large or very small donations.
  • Anything else that catches your eye!

4) In the "Add Notes" column of the Google doc, add your thoughts. Or, post in the comments page below.

And thanks! We'll see what we find, and follow up accordingly.


Nigel Chiwaya and Jeff Mays

Comments [8]

Thank You Brian, Jeff, and Nigel for your hard work! This is an amazing tool that most of us are seeing for the first time. In my amateur (non-scientific) opinion, the spreadsheet is very well formatted, transparent, revealing, and very timely. I am digging into my WNYC assigned Council Member's spending as well as also studying my City Councilman's spending. The information is incredibly timely and helpful as my City Council District's first working PARTICIPATORY BUDGET DISTRICT COMMITTEE meeting is this week.

Aug. 13 2014 10:25 AM
Jill in Windsor Terrace from brooklyn, kings 11215

I got Karen Koslowitz from Queens. Her choices reflected unwavering support for seniors (from food to classes & arts programming), youth, arts in education, clean streets and lots of money for food pantries. She had one big distribution to the Doe Fund for community improvement project in many different areas. It seemed to be spread out throughout the district, and given their mission also provides a livelihood for people who wouldn't have one.
The one weird one is for the Department of Sanitation for $6000. Why should the city council be picking up the tab for extra garbage pick ups?

Aug. 11 2014 07:28 PM
sasha from Cobble Hill

I just added some notes for Lander. One thing that stood out was $31,500 for Prospect Park. Why so much money from one Council person? How much does everyone else put in?

Aug. 11 2014 12:18 PM

Can't gt your interactive site to work. I want spending of Mark Levine D 7, I can only get the sample you put onair. Book!

Aug. 11 2014 10:59 AM
Anne from Astoria, Queens

Costa Costantinides: $90,835 to the same organization in two different categories; Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens; under Local initiative $75,835 - under Youth $15,000. Seems like a lot of money!!!

Aug. 11 2014 10:56 AM
Michael S Seltzer from Greenwich Village

Hi Brian,

It is important to mention in this conversation how several New York City Council members have adopted a form of civic budgeting. Residents are given the opportunity to organize themselves into committees and decide on how member funds should be allocated in their districts. It is the modern-day equivalent of the original New England town meeting. The model that is being piloted in our city was adopted from Chicago, who in turn adopted it from communities in Brazil. It is a wonderful example of democracy in action!

Michael Seltzer
Distinguished Lecturer
Baruch College
School of Public Affairs

Aug. 11 2014 10:53 AM
Dave from Irvine, CA

I was randomly assigned Councilman Ulrich and I must say, I was relatively underwhelmed by his spending. It all seemed pretty appropriate and apolitical until I found that he gave $25,000 to the Queens Economic Development Corporation for "graffiti" removal. I'm going out on a limb here, but I wonder if perhaps this is to curry favor with small business owners in Queens; just a thought.

Aug. 11 2014 10:50 AM
Michael in Brooklyn

More interesting than a randomly selected council member, I looked at my own council member's spending and was quite impressed. Everyone one of the grants appeared reasonable and consistent with community values. Nothing suspect or questionable. It actually bolsters my support for this person (not mentioning who or the district number).

Aug. 11 2014 10:50 AM

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