Civic Tech for NYC Veterans Policy

by Olivia Meier

Olivia at Civic HallOn February 16, 2017, Olivia Meier, Operations Manager of the NYC Veterans Alliance, gave a short presentation at Civic Hall to share the Alliance’s mission and our partnership with Councilmatic. Below is a written version of her remarks.

Over the past two years, the NYC Veterans Alliance has had 4 main objectives: to maintain a hub of community information for NYC veterans, advocate for veterans & their families in NYC, create a nonpartisan training program to get veterans & spouses ready to run for office, and increase the level of civic engagement for our veterans community. All of this, while working to ensure that we are as inclusive an organization as we can be.

Members have told us that we are the first veterans organization that felt right for them, the first organization they felt welcomed and validated their service as a spouse and caregiver, or as a veteran who didn’t have combat experience, or who had a less-than-honorable discharge. Establishing a seat at the table for those who might’ve otherwise felt left out is a true strength, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because these folks bring with them a diversity of life experiences and opinions that are badly needed when considering new solutions to the issues facing the veterans community.

And that is what we are looking for in our advocacy—new solutions to these same issues. Our access to the civic tech community at Civic Hall is another way we find those new solutions. The civic tech community is at the vanguard of solving the problems facing the world, and by partnering with members of that community, we have been able to bring this new and exciting to work to our members and mold it to fit the needs of NYC veterans. Of particular note is our partnership with Councilmatic, which was an essential component in the preparation for our recent Lobby Week.

Civics class was a long time ago for some of us, and Councilmatic is a tool that makes it easy to jump back in as an advocate even if you don’t know all the ins-and-outs of the legislative process. Their website simplifies tracking and understanding what goes on at New York City Council, so users can then choose to keep track of a specific bill, Council Member, or issue. You can find out when a certain committee is meeting, comment on a piece of legislation, or just finally figure out what the difference is between an “introduction” and a “resolution.”

Councilmatic has been an incredible partner, and currently we’re featured on their website with a piece of legislation we are working hard to get passed. We’re asking people to head to and comment on the bill adding military/veteran (“uniformed service”) status to the NYC Human Rights Law. Make your voice heard. Your comments on this legislation are what we’ll take to City Council Members to show them exactly why that bill is important, so they can see the lives they will change by passing it.

Our Spring legislative agenda includes 4 pieces of legislation at the City Council, and with members adding their voices to our advocacy, we can get them passed:

Adding Veteran & Military Status to NYC Human Rights Law

Alternative (School Tax) Exemption for Veterans

Supporting Complete Passage of “Fairness for Veterans Act” Provisions

Providing Appropriate Protections for Veteran Street Vendors in “Street Vending Modernization Act”

We’ve seen so much success already, having already been influential in the passage of five local laws, and it is because of the commitment of our community of members and our partnerships with programs like Councilmatic that an organization as small as ours can have already left such a large footprint on the local political landscape.

I encourage all of our members to stay engaged with Councilmatic, and to share any other apps or websites you use to stay on top of the issues that are most important to you!