To amend the New York city charter, in relation to the creation of a citizens’ forum online for the communal drafting, deliberation, and, where permissible, ballot qualification of proposed local laws.


Be it enacted by the people of the city of New York pursuant to the authority provided in Section 37 of the Municipal Home Rule Law as follows:


Section 1.  The New York city charter is hereby amended as follows, with new text to be added to the charter in italics, text to be removed struck through, and any other text, whether included for context, alluded to with ellipsis, or not appearing here, left intact. If at the time of inclusion in the charter the section or chapter numbers used here already exist, the next unused number shall be used, except that, if appropriate, the new chapter may be combined with an existing or simultaneously adopted chapter:


§ 24. o. The public advocate shall be responsible for discharging all duties assigned to his or her office in this charter related to the citizens’ forum. To advise and assist his or her office in these duties the public advocate may appoint a citizens’ forum advisory board made up of individuals with significant relevant expertise who, if accepting the appointment, shall serve without compensation. The public advocate shall additionally serve as a liaison and generally act to improve the quality of local legislation by facilitating both communication between the council and the forum and the accessibility of relevant available data and information to forum users, in coordination with officials and the city's libraries.


§ 38. Local laws; referendum. A local law shall be submitted for the approval of the electors … if it:

§ 38.17. Repeals or amends this section or any of the following sections of this charter; sections … sixty-five, one hundred ninety-one, …




§65. Citizens’ Forum.  a. Purpose and provision. The city shall provide a citizens’ forum publicly available on the internet, which shall serve as a multifaceted collaborative tool for the people to propose, consider, draft, deliberate, support, oppose, and track any proposed local law. To the extent permissible the forum shall additionally provide for any proposed local law that this charter or other law permits to be placed on the ballot by petition an alternative electronic method to prepare, circulate, and file such petitions to qualify for ballot placement.  The public advocate shall ensure that all the requirements of this section are met.

b. Definitions.  As used in this section the following terms shall mean or include:

1. “Active proposal” is any proposal on the citizens’ forum that any qualified city elector has taken any forum action on or in relation to in the preceding nine months.

2. “Alternative proposal” in the context of another proposal on the forum is any proposal on the forum that attempts to address the same or a closely related problem.

3. “Ballot measure” and “ballot proposal” is any question or matter that will appear on the ballot at the next election, other than candidates for elected offices.

4. “Electronic signature” is an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with an electronic record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent of signing the record.

5. “Formal proposal” is a proposed local law, or a version or draft of a proposed local law, whose drafting on the forum is being overseen by a primary drafter.

6. “Forum” is the citizens’ forum created by this section.

7. “Forum action” is any behavior resulting in any change or addition to forum content, or a tally of support for a proposal, including but not limited to any comment, edit, indication of support, calling of a meeting, post or edit of an argument or of any information, citation of evidence, or act of moderation.

8. “Primary drafter” is a qualified elector who takes on the editing oversight of a proposal draft on the forum.

9. “Proposal” is an idea for a local law, or an amendment to a local law, that has been suggested on the forum, whether taken up for drafting by a primary drafter or not.

10. “Public” when used as an adjective of forum activity or content means available to anyone accessing the citizens’ forum online.

11. “Qualified elector” for the purposes of this section is someone registered to vote in the city at the last general election.

c. Accessibility.  1. The city shall take all feasible steps to make the forum fully accessible to all of the city’s voters via all feasible means and mediums, though this mandate shall not necessarily oblige it to provide hardware beyond that required in §65(l) of this section.

2. The public advocate will coordinate with the local board of elections, other government agencies, organizations members of which are appointed by city officials, and city funded civic organizations and all willing entities to facilitate to the extent feasible outreach, user enrollment, identity verification, and access. Every September the public advocate shall publicize a list of any such entities that are both city funded and found by him or her to be unreasonably obstructive during the previous year to such coordination, which may include but is not limited to the use of any contact or communication between any part of the city’s government and any of its residents for informing the latter of the forum’s existence and how it can be accessed.

3. Use of the forum and user editing of forum texts shall not require knowledge of any computer language or mark-up text, and the forum shall be usable via all major browsers and operating systems. To the extent required by law, language translations and equivalent facility for non-English speakers shall be made available. Facility shall be provided for provision of paper versions of forum content and the acceptance and inclusion of paper versions of forum participation by residents for minimum fees to be set by the public advocate and waived with proof of indigence or when required by law.

d. Rulemaking governing forum participation.  1. The public advocate shall write and promulgate the rules governing conduct on the forum to enact the provisions of this section and to facilitate the forum’s limited purpose and that of each of its parts. Such forum rules shall be written in consultation with experts, the corporate counsel, and the public via an online collaborative drafting tool and public hearings. Though the responsibilities assigned to the public advocate under this section shall not be understood as making him or her an employee of any agency for the purposes of section 23 of this charter, he or she shall be bound by the rulemaking requirements for an agency under chapter 45 of this charter. The public advocate shall publish an initial draft of such rules on his or her office’s website no later than 14 months after this section's adoption.

2. Violation of the forum rules once enacted shall constitute a violation punishable by fines as defined by such rules according to the violation’s gravity, flagrance, or repetition and not to exceed two hundred dollars per violation, except in cases of deception, fraud, sabotage, or criminal behavior. Failure to pay these fines may result in suspension of account privileges at the discretion of the public advocate, the office of administrative trials and hearings, or a court with jurisdiction; the suspension may be contested in a court with jurisdiction.  Forum behavior that is otherwise illegal shall be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

3. Among the prohibitions the public advocate shall include in the forum rules shall be (a) failure to disclose that one has received or expects to receive any compensation in return for any forum activity, (b) arbitrary, bias or otherwise less than impartial moderation, (c) knowingly making false or misleading statements, (d) making clearly destructive edits to a communally drafted text, (e) adding public content that is not directly relevant to the drafting or potential adoption of the proposal being discussed, or to its tracking if adopted.

4. The public advocate may provide terms of use and task-specific guidelines to facilitate the purpose of this section and the forum’s functioning, but must provide users notice of any such terms and any change thereto, and facility on the forum for their discussion, and for the collaborative drafting of any proposed change to the rules, terms of use, and procedures of the forum.

e. Participation on the forum.  1. To participate on the forum in any way other than reading, a user must be logged into his or her forum account, except if participating offline as provided for in §65(c)3, in which case the other and subsidiary conditions provided for under this part shall all still apply as appropriate.

2. In order to get an account a user must:

(a) be a resident of the city, except that special facility shall be provided for nonresidents in good standing to submit facts directly relevant to a proposal’s drafting or deliberation for the consideration of users,

(b) have an identity verifiable in a method approved by the public advocate,

(c) have either an email account or other mechanism approved by the public advocate via which the user can reliably receive or retrieve automated messages at minimum cost from the forum,

(d) and be of the age of majority, unless permitted by the public advocate through pedagogical programs in consultation and coordination with educators.

3. In order to be a primary drafter of a proposal on the forum or for his or her support of a proposal’s ballot placement to be tallied in accordance with the provisions of §65(j), a user must be a qualified elector in the city.

4. User actions, identity, anonymity, user page. (a) All actions taken by a user affecting public forum content in any way, including all edits, suggestions, and moderation tasks, shall have the full name of the user and the action’s date attached to them and viewable by all logged in users, except that certain actions may be made anonymously by a user as required by law or determined by the public advocate.

(b) Except when limited by the public advocate pursuant to this section, a user may edit his or her own posts and comments at anytime. All such edits and resulting versions shall be timestamped and accessibly archived.

(c) Actions that can be completed anonymously shall not include signing in support of proposals or completing moderation tasks. Every anonymous action shall be screened by at least one random user in accordance with §65(i) for compliance with forum rules before appearing on the forum. The provision of anonymity shall incorporate measures to prevent the circumvention of the requirements of §65(e)5.

(d) Attribution of anonymous posts. If a user wishes to retain author access to moderation and editing of his or her anonymously completed action, it shall be attributed to “Anonymous user x” where x shall be an alphanumeric identifier common to all of that user’s anonymous actions and activity connected thereto, though a user may maintain multiple such aliases.  If the user is willing to forfeit access to moderation and editing of his or her anonymously completed action, the user may elect to have it be completely disconnected from and made untraceable to his or her user account, and be attributed simply to “Anonymous”.

(e) Where a user’s name appears on the site, it shall be hyperlinked to a page (“user page”) listing the council district in which the user is registered to vote and all of the user’s non-anonymous public forum activity, any of which if older than one year can be hidden at the user’s discretion. For a user who is logged in, his or her user page shall provide direct access to: the pages the user is active on; forum notifications; the capacity to adjust his or her email or other notification preferences; and any other appropriate function.

(f) User notification options.  Along with all the notifications and messages provided for by this section, each user shall have the ability to configure his or her personal notifications settings, including: notifications about any or select upcoming public meetings; messages from other users responding or relating to the forum activity of the user; and tracking various activity on or related to any or select forum pages of proposals the user supports or opposes, including, for example, the option of being informed whenever a new argument against any or a particular proposal the user supports has been added to the relevant deliberation page and survived initial peer review.

(g) Organizational affiliations.  A user may choose when making a forum action to have the name of one or more organizations appear next to his or her username for the action, provided that any organization so named shall have confirmed, by a method or mechanism approved by the public advocate, that the user is authorized to represent the organization.

5. Disclosure of compensation. Any user expecting to receive or having received compensation for any statements made on the forum must disclose that this is the case via a form on the forum and indicate all measures the compensation relates to and from whom it is being received. Any actions such a user takes related to any related measure shall provide access to this information and be clearly labeled as made by a compensated spokesperson in a way that is uniform throughout the forum for all compensated activities to publicly indicate their status as such. The public advocate may provide for additional required disclosures in the forum rules or terms of use in consultation with the conflicts of interest board, the campaign finance board, the corporate counsel, or the public. Nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the participation of council members or council staff on the forum.

6. Waiver of civil liability for legal advice given on the forum. Any suggestions or advice given on the forum by a forum user other than a public official acting in that capacity, whether about the drafting of a proposal or any other matter, and whether made or given by a legal professional or not, shall not constitute legal advice unless explicit agreement to retain legal services has been made. The public advocate shall incorporate into the forum’s terms of use a waiver of liability for any good faith advice rendered outside any such retention.

7. Security and privacy. Standard precautions for account security and signature certification shall be used in accordance with state law and as determined by the public advocate in consultation with the commissioner of information technology and telecommunications. The privacy of users’ information shall be respected and no such information shall be shared unless required herein or otherwise by law, and the forum’s terms of use must provide notice of such potential sharing, and a citation to any particular law requiring it.

f. Miscellaneous content requirements.  1. All incoming links to any page on the forum’s website and all attempts to initiate a forum session shall be redirected to the main forum page.  All forum pages shall provide direct access to the main forum page.

2. The main forum page shall provide direct access to, among other features:

(a) full forum search and browsing capabilities except as limited herein,

(b) forum rules,

(c) tutorials, including a comprehensive description of how to obtain a forum account,

(d) a randomly assigned moderation task for logged in users as per §65(i),

(e) a random feed of forum proposals active in the last year,

(f) a listing of all forum proposals sortable by date, topic, perceived problem it seeks to address, number of indications of support or electronic signatures, both valid and since voided by a change to the proposal, time of most recent modification to proposal draft, and any other quality determined by the public advocate to be of potential interest to voters, such as ratio of the number of those registering their support to the number of those registering their opposition or the percentage of users having viewed the proposal who support it,

(g) a sortable listing of (i)all notices for future public hearings published in the city record and (ii) any public meetings related to formulating or discussing any proposed local law properly noticed on the forum by any resident, including the meeting’s proposed agenda, location, date, time, and any process, rules, or protocol it will use to organize its discussion,

(h) and any other legal, informational, or other resources deemed useful by the public advocate for drafting local legislation, and the facility for forum users to assemble or create the same, including city public data, except that the city shall not by this section be obliged to provide any such resources requiring payment of subscriptions or membership fees and may at the public advocate’s discretion ration or discontinue any such resources that require such payment.

3. All results for forum searches of proposals shall include alternative proposals. Searching for names of individuals shall be disabled. Searches of names by external search engines shall be prevented to the extent feasible.

4. Standard measures to prevent the use of the forum for promotional or spam purposes shall be taken. To aid users ability to determine the  impartiality of  informational sources, the public advocate may, to the extent permissible by law, provide for labeling requirements for links to outside content indicating for example whether such content is political advertising or to provide facility for the rating of the perceived strength of any evidence cited by users and identified nonpartisan civic and journalistic organizations.

g. Primary drafter; idea space.  1. Each formal proposal may have its own drafting page, and the proposal’s primary drafter shall have ultimate control over whether the proposal can be edited and who has the ability to edit the proposal’s text as a co-drafter, and who among them shall have the ability to represent the drafters in forum communications. This control shall, at the primary drafter’s prerogative, be sharable.  The primary drafter may transfer such ultimate control to a new primary drafter, provided the transferee consents and is a qualified elector in the city.  Every such proposal shall be assigned a unique alphanumeric identifier upon creation of an operational forum page for its drafting.

2. The public advocate may require the payment of a forum drafting fee before the proposal drafting page becomes operational. Any such drafting fee to be set by the public advocate shall not exceed twelve times the cost of a single trip on the city’s public subway system, and shall be payable online or by mail and waived with proof of indigence.

3.  If a primary drafter merges his or her proposal with another proposal, notice shall be sent to supporters of the first proposal whose primary drafter is surrendering such ultimate control to the primary drafter of the second proposal.   A supporter of the first proposal shall not be counted as a supporter of the second proposal until the user confirms support of the second proposal.

4.  Idea space. There shall also be a feeless interface for the submission, discussion, and effective sharing of ideas for proposals that have not been taken up for drafting yet and the communal consideration and deliberation of local policy matters. Ideas for proposals shall be included in listings of proposals being drafted at the option of the user viewing such listing and may simply be the identification of a perceived problem that could possibly be addressed by a local law without necessarily proposing a law or other solution.  The idea space interface shall provide the facility for, but need not be limited to, collaboratively authored texts and argument maps, and the capacity to be organized and searchable by topic.

h. Drafting and deliberation.  1. The text of every draft proposal, its title, description, and summary, shall only be editable by the proposal’s drafter(s), as will be any statement of intent wherein proposal authors may determine the values and vision motivating their draft. Every forum page related to a formal proposal shall also provide access to: (a) a list of all political committees supporting or opposing the measure, and all organizations endorsing or opposing the measure via the forum, (b) all available information on related campaign donations and spending, (c) summaries of all submitted arguments for and against enacting the proposed law and the deliberation pages where such arguments are being assembled and discussed, (d) the proposal’s drafting page, and any reference, informational, or drafting resources related to the proposal selected by drafters or other users, (e) information about related public meetings, (f) current lists of all alternative proposals, whether on the forum or being considered by the council, sortable by any quality identified as useful or of interest to voters and for which data is available, and the facility for users to compare alternative proposals and summarize their differences.

2.  Deliberation pages. Using best practices, deliberation pages shall be structured to facilitate the collaborative authoring and refinement by all interested users of arguments for and against a proposal’s enactment and, until its ballot placement, its ballot placement. Such structure shall allow for the discussion of the best presentation of arguments by each side, informed by responses to each argument. The public advocate may, at the request of at least six users at anytime or unilaterally during the four months before a general election, require that edits to specific pages otherwise editable by all must each be screened by a random user for compliance with relevant forum rules before taking effect. In all cases, safeguards to prevent unilateral destructive edits shall be provided, including access to full revision histories.

3. Comments on pages. All drafting and deliberation pages shall include the capacity to receive suggestions and inline comments from any user, for other users to respond to comments in threaded discussions, and for all suggestions and comments to be either displayed or accessible. On drafting pages, every posted suggestion that has been acted on by the proposal’s drafters shall be accessibly archived as either: confirmed by its author as having been implemented, its implementation being unconfirmed, its having been rejected, or where there is disagreement, as its status being disputed. The total number of suggestions of each kind, along with the number of comments ignored or not yet acted upon by the drafters, shall be listed on each proposal drafting page, and as a user enters a comment or suggestion, the forum software shall offer any past comments or suggestions on the text that it has identified as possibly similar or related for the user's information. Comments shall be sortable by factors including popularity and date and time.

4. In addition to registering support for a draft proposed law, a user may register opposition. When doing so the user may indicate which, if any, of the arguments against the proposal from the related deliberation page serves as a basis for such opposition. A primary drafter may message those users whose notification preferences permit, if changes have been made to the draft that he or she believes ameliorate a selected objection.

i. Moderation.  1. The public advocate shall provide for a forum moderation and appeal process, in consultation with the public, for the enforcement of forum rules by users. Moderation may result in the removal of content that violates forum rules and the fining of users violating forum rules, but all such content shall be archived pending appeal.  The appeal process shall include the participation of at least three forum users acting as moderators.

2. Any logged in forum user may flag the forum action, or a portion thereof, of another user for moderation and shall in doing so be prompted to select the specific part of the forum rules or terms of use that he or she believes the action violates. Users shall initially be encouraged to resolve disputes themselves, using guidelines and the forum rules. If either party is unsatisfied with the outcome of such unmediated process, such user may, after a period of time determined by the public advocate, enter the flagged action and related dispute into the queue of actions requiring moderation. The public advocate may establish various durations for such period according to the circumstance. If the flagging user agrees that an edit by the user who originally made the flagged action resolves the violation, then the flag may be removed from the action and the action removed from the moderation queue, but such history shall be accessibly archived. Pending moderation, the flagged action shall remain publicly visible, as does its status as flagged and any related justification.

3. Obligation to moderate. In order to perform a forum action, a user must have completed his or her share of moderation tasks, the amount of which shall be determined according to the amount of the user’s previous forum actions not including moderation tasks. The ratio of these two amounts shall at any time as much as possible be the same for all users and shall be programmed to vary over time as needed to guarantee the timely resolution of moderation tasks.  Different kinds of forum actions may be valued differently for the purposes of the above assessment, provided that such valuation or its basis shall be determined by the public advocate and made publicly available. All moderation tasks shall be assigned randomly, except that (i) to the extent it does not interfere with this paragraph’s purpose, no one shall be assigned to a task related to a proposal if he or she has been active on any forum pages related to the proposal or any alternative proposal, or has made a donation to any related political action committee, (ii) any user may pass on an assigned moderation task to be assigned another, and (iii) to the extent necessitated by the provision of any facilities to allow forum participation by non-English speakers, linguistic fluency may also determine moderation task assignment. Additionally, the public advocate may incorporate a published rating system for users based on users’ previous forum and moderation performance and may incorporate additional qualifications required by law or the forum rules.  Such rating system may serve as a partial basis for the assignment of moderation tasks based on their difficulty or where they occur in the moderation appeal process.

4. To the extent the public advocate deems it advisable based on forum performance, he or she may coordinate with educational institutions in the city to use the completion of moderation tasks by students as a teaching tool, and thereby reduce the frequency with which forum users are obligated to complete such tasks.

5. Within thirty days of a final decision reached through the forum's moderation appeal process, which shall incorporate the opinion of no less than three users acting in their capacity as moderators, an objection may be filed via the forum with the office of the public advocate by a user subject to sanction by such decision. Upon receipt of this objection, the office of the public advocate shall take all steps necessary to refer the matter forthwith to the office of administrative trials and hearings or, if appropriate, to the city’s criminal courts.

j. Signatures.  1. Any logged in resident user may at any time indicate his or her support or opposition on the forum for or against any measure’s placement on the ballot, and may at any time retract that support or opposition.  All such support and opposition for a proposal shall be tallied for the information of the public and the measure’s drafters.  Such support shall be deemed an electronic petition signature for the purposes of this section only if made both by a qualified elector and for a measure in compliance with the requirements of this part.

2. Equivalence of electronic signatures. (a) The electronic petition signature of a qualified elector, made on the forum in accordance with the requirements of this part in favor of a measure’s ballot placement, shall be equivalent, where such equivalence does not violate applicable law, to that elector’s valid signature on a petition for ballot placement of the proposal in accordance with this charter or other law, provided that such signature has not expired under applicable law or been voided, either by the elector or as a result of a change to that proposal’s content.

(b) The public advocate shall select an electronic signature certification method in accordance with state law.

(c) Provision for the acceptance of the electronic signatures of qualified witnesses to electronic signatures shall be made.  In addition, where it does not violate applicable law, the certification of an electronic signature may serve the purpose of a valid witness signature.

3. Where a provision of law under which a proposal may be placed on the ballot at a general election requires any submission for official review or certification of the petition or draft petition form or language, or payment of filing fees, or includes procedures for the withdrawal of a petition once filed, the forum shall, to the extent it does not violate such law, provide the facility for such filing(s) and actions, their preparation, any related collection of electronic signatures, and the publication of resulting determinations and findings.

4. The public advocate shall provide guidelines and standard petition language as needed to ensure proposals’ formal validity.

5. In order to collect electronic signatures on the forum valid for a proposal’s placement on the ballot, the text of the proposed law, its title or brief description, and summary must be final and fixed and the primary drafter must have indicated on the forum the completion of the proposal’s drafting.

6. Upon such indication of completion by the primary drafter and, where necessary, certification of the proposal for circulation, every qualified city elector having previously supported the measure shall receive notification, as per their preferences, that the measure now needs their electronic petition signature. Such notification shall provide direct access to versions of the proposal text highlighting the changes made to it since their previous indication of support, the arguments made for and against the proposal, and any additional related message(s) from the proposal’s drafter(s).

7. Any change to a proposal’s text, title, summary or description after certification by the public advocate and before the measure’s qualification for placement on the ballot shall invalidate all previous electronic signatures for the purposes of the proposal’s ballot placement, reverting them to simple support of the measure, unless such change is determined by the public advocate and the primary drafter to not materially alter the proposal, in which case detailed notice of the change shall be sent to all current signers.

8. Notice of expiry. Where another section of this charter or other applicable law places a time limit on how long a petition signature may remain valid, upon the expiry of such time period for an affected electronic signature on the forum, notice shall be given to the signer that reconfirmation of his or her signature is needed for it to remain valid for the purposes of ballot placement.

9. The web form for a voter to electronically sign a petition for a proposal’s ballot placement shall only be accessible via an intermediary web page briefly explaining the import of their signature and containing clearly identified links to: (a) the arguments that are being made against the measure, (b) all available sponsor and funding information, and (c) all alternative proposals.

10.  The forum shall provide the facility for a primary drafter of a measure in compliance with this part to file an electronic petition for the measure's ballot placement with the city clerk, who shall certify those to appear on the ballot in accordance with applicable law.  Once an electronic petition for a proposal has been filed with the city clerk, no additional electronic signatures shall be tallied on its forum page(s) unless the clerk finds the petition does not have sufficient signatures for ballot placement at the next general election.  After a proposal is filed with the city clerk, however, indications of support and opposition may still be registered and tallied. Notice of the latest time and date upon which a petition to place a measure on the general election ballot could lawfully be filed and qualify for that year’s general election shall be provided.

k. Resource for all ballot measures.  1. Deliberation of ballot measures prioritized prior to election. During the period between the qualifying for ballot placement of any proposal or question, whether originating on the forum, by paper petition, or elsewhere, and the election at which it will be voted on inclusive (“the period”), the forum’s main page shall provide access to the ballot proposal’s full deliberation by citizens on the forum, equivalent to that for proposals originating on the forum, along with at least all other facilitative and informational resources and tools other than proposal drafting provided for proposals under this section. Additionally, no later than five days before the election the forum may provide access to any media or materials, uploaded to the forum by clearly identified sources, designed to facilitate independent face-to-face deliberation of each measure to appear on the ballot. During the period, moderation tasks shall be assigned and structured so as to give priority to the full forum vetting and collaborative deliberation of all proposals to appear on the ballot.

2. Notice on the relevant forum web pages of the date on which texts produced shall be forwarded by the public advocate for inclusion in the voter guide and of any dates after which particular types of participation in the deliberation of ballot measures shall not be included in the guide or after which they shall be clearly identified on the forum as too late to ensure sufficient vetting before the election, shall be provided at least 21 days prior to any such dates by the public advocate.

3. Access to sample ballots once available shall be provided on the forum.

4. The main forum page shall provide access to a database of past initiative measures placed on the ballot and, if enacted by the people, their subsequent histories, including the full text of any judicial decision and the recorded vote of the council or any other body that amends, repeals, or otherwise affects the measure.

l. Software and hardware.  1. Requirements of software and hardware, and their selection and implementation. The software used by the forum shall emphasize in its design the best practices of: collaborative deliberation, user’s control, and ease of use. It shall securely and reliably provide at least all of the functionalities described or necessarily implied by this section throughout the first two years of its implementation in addition to any others deemed advisable by the public advocate, legally or logically necessary for its execution, its compliance with applicable law, or for coordination between relevant government agencies. It shall initially be selected within 22 months of this section’s adoption by the public advocate, in consultation with the commissioner of information technology and telecommunications, independent experts, and the public.  Such selection shall give preference to software that is free and open source.  All submissions of software for consideration made to the public advocate’s office shall be made public upon their reception by his or her office.

2. The public advocate, assisted by the commissioner of information technology and telecommunications, shall see to the provision of all needed computer hardware and software to be completed and fully operational within three months of the software’s selection.

3. The commissioner shall ensure sufficient redundancy to allow inspection without incapacitating the forum of all hardware and software, including all source code, machine code, compilers, or other code or mechanism involved in the processing or storage of forum data, on demand by members of the public at any time thereafter, during hours and using protocol available on the forum, as necessary to guarantee the computer hardware and software’s integrity and complete transparency.

4. The commissioner shall be responsible for the implementation of all routine software and security updates and fixes and all hardware maintenance, but all such measures must be approved by and may be stayed or reversed at the order of the public advocate and shall be documented on the forum. In all powers and duties arising from this section assigned under part (c) of section 1072 of this charter to the commissioner, the public advocate shall have oversight and veto power.

5. The public advocate may promulgate and, with the assistance of the commissioner, enforce requirements for any software used by or connecting to the forum and any server on which the forum is hosted or hardware or format used to store related data, to ensure the purposes of this section, other publicly available applicable law, and the ability of the public to ascertain the same. The forum shall provide access to, but need not integrate into the forum, showcasing and beta testing of any new features or alternative software meeting these requirements.

6. Any change to forum software that would likely result directly or indirectly either in a change in any aspect of the forum’s functioning as experienced by users or a degradation of its transparency or its security from fraud shall only be made either as ruled by a court with jurisdiction or, provided it does not impinge upon city electors’ communicative, deliberative, drafting, or petitioning capacities, (i) at the direction of the public advocate in consultation with forum users, (ii) by local law adopted in accordance with the provisions of this charter.

7. The public advocate shall: every June report to the people on the forum’s performance including an explanation of any and all changes his or her office has instituted or recommends; every September hold a public hearing about same; and every October give public notice on the forum, and elsewhere as required, of all changes to be implemented or having been implemented since the June report and of his or her response to the most popular and notable concerns voiced on the forum or at the hearing, relating to the forum’s transparency, function, and security from fraud.

m. Forum budget and financing; restricted fund.  1. The public advocate shall be responsible for administering the budget of the forum and preparing the related departmental estimates.

2. The public advocate may include in the forum rules provided for in part (d) of this section the fees described in parts (c)3, (g)2, and (j)3 of this section, and the fines described in parts (d) and (i) of this section. All revenues from such fees and fines, except those referenced by (j)3 but specifically allocated otherwise by law,  shall be deposited in a restricted fund established upon enactment of this section and maintained by the comptroller, the monies of which shall only be used in accordance with this part.  The public advocate shall publicize the restricted fund, which shall accept voluntary donations by the public, as soon as it is established. If any costs of establishing and maintaining the forum are not met through normal budgetary procedures, the monies from the restricted fund shall be used, provided that both the public advocate and the comptroller approve each specific expense as consistent with the purposes of this section.

3. To pay for the initial costs of establishing the forum and its ongoing costs if not met by normal budgetary procedures, revenues generated by the above fees and fines, or voluntary contributions, the public advocate shall upon adoption of this section coordinate with the commissioner of information technology and telecommunications to request bids on a revenue generating contract for limited advertising on the city’s websites. If the public advocate deems it necessary for the purpose of this part, he or she is authorized to enter the city into such contracts in accordance with this charter and state law, provided that the director of the independent budget office has within the preceding six months determined that the restricted fund does not contain sufficient monies and that sufficient monies have not been allocated to meet the minimum anticipated costs of establishing the forum and of its annual maintenance and operation. The director shall publish a report of his or her then current determination within 28 days of receiving a request for such determination from the public advocate at any time after the adoption of the first budget to be prepared after this section’s adoption. Any such advertising contract shall to the extent permissible prioritize serving the nonprofit, arts, cultural, educational, civic, and small business communities of the city, and no advertisement’s placement shall be permitted that could reasonably be interpreted as an electioneering message or as an attempt to affect support for or against any active forum proposal, pending council legislation, or decision by any city official, agency, or board. If any advertisements are placed on the forum, provision shall be made for flagging by forum users of advertisements in violation of the preceding prohibition for moderation and possible removal. All city revenues generated by any contract for the placement of advertising on city websites shall be deposited in the restricted fund.

4. Excess monies. Whenever the restricted fund shall exceed the anticipated annual cost of the forum, the excess shall be dedicated solely to the funding of projects that improve equal access of city residents to the forum and the availability of facilities for related public meetings. Beginning seven years after this section’s adoption, whenever the fund exceeds in value its total expenditures over the previous five fiscal years, the excess may be transferred to the city’s general fund by the public advocate or the comptroller.

5. Nothing in this section shall prevent the council, mayor, or any city agency or department from allocating monies to these funds or for similar or related purposes.


§ 1046. Adjudication. Where an agency is authorized to conduct an adjudication, it shall act, at a minimum, in accordance with the provisions set forth below. Neither the parking violations bureau nor any system of moderation and adjudication instituted by the public advocate for the citizens’ forum shall not be subject to the requirements of this section.


Section 2. This local law shall take effect on the first business day in May of the year immediately following its adoption. The public advocate in office at the beginning of that year is hereby authorized and shall be responsible, assisted as needed by the corporate counsel, for securing any preclearance required by applicable law.