Ben Kallos will be sworn in to the City Council this week, taking Jessica Lappin’s seat representing a broad swath of the Upper East Side, Midtown East and Roosevelt Island. His victory in the race was a surprise – he was running against current Assembly Member Micah Kellner, who was endorsed by all and largely thought to be an easy favorite to win. Kellner’s campaign fell apart, however, when past allegations of sexual harassment of an Assembly staffer came to light, and Kallos scooped up votes that had been dropped in disdain. He presented himself as the fresh, new, uncorrupted choice for city council, and voters bit.
Now Kallos will need to show his chops in the council, which, according to campaign promises, he intends to do through promoting technology as a good government tool and finding out-of-the-box solutions to long entrenched problems. Some of those problems are citywide, but some, like the need for more middle school seats, hit right in his Upper East Side district.
Kallos has the potential to channel his youth and energy into productive partnerships with other council members, which is what is required to get things done in city government. But he must also be aware of the needs of his constituents, many of whom are elderly and have problems that may not be solved strictly by new technology. Based on 2010 estimates, 17 percent of the population on the Upper East Side is 65 and older, versus only 12 percent citywide. Jessica Lappin is the outgoing chairperson of the council’s Committee on Aging and worked closely with the aging population in her district; Kallos would be wise to do the same, while also paying equal attention to the young families worrying about public school education and middle class housing options.
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