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Reclaim New York launches website that tracks LI government spending

In an effort to bring more transparency to government spending Reclaim New York, on Thursday Oct. 6, 2016, launched New York’s first searchable online database of local government spending Credit: Howard Schnapp

A government watchdog has launched a database that allows the public to review how nearly 200 Long Island governments, including counties, towns, cities, villages and school districts, spent taxpayer dollars in 2014.

Reclaim New York, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, on Thursday announced the New York Transparency Project, an online searchable database that includes spending data for 175 municipalities in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The site, which also includes spending by hundreds of government entities in the Hudson Valley, will grow to include more than 3,400 governments statewide and be updated annually, said Brandon Muir, Reclaim’s executive director.

“It was time that New Yorkers finally saw how their tax dollars are being spent,” Muir said at a news conference in the Mineola office of Nassau Comptroller George Maragos.

In 2014, Maragos became the first Long Island government official to voluntarily post contract data online, including vendors’ names, contract amounts and project descriptions. Maragos, a former Republican, is seeking the Democratic nomination for Nassau County executive in 2017.

Reclaim this year submitted Freedom of Information Law requests to 253 Long Island governments, including 97 villages, and 125 school districts.

The towns of Babylon and Islip, along with 34 other local municipalities, have refused to provide their contract and expenditure information. Inclusion of information from 42 others was delayed because they did not respond electronically or faced technical problems providing the data.

The project is modeled after a contract database created in Ohio by Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel. “This information belongs to the people, not the government,” said Mandel, who attended the news conference.

Reclaim New York has common leadership with Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Stephen K. Bannon, the Trump campaign’s chief executive and the former chairman of Breitbart News, a conservative website, has since taken a leave of absence as Reclaim’s vice chairman. Rebekah Mercer, who has close ties to Bannon, is Reclaim’s chairman and treasurer. Mercer and her father, hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer of East Setauket, are both prominent Trump donors.

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