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Comptroller Launches Website That Sheds Light On City Spending

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TWC News: Comptroller Launches Website That Sheds Light On City Spending
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City Comptroller John Liu launched a new initiative Wednesday aimed at shining a light on city spending. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

The city comptroller wants to make the city budget a bit more detailed and user-friendly.

On Wednesday, he launched a new web site called Checkbook 2.0, which allows New Yorkers to scroll through what each city agency is spending its cash on.

"With out-of-control cost overruns and a growing public sense that tax dollars are not funding real priorities, this application could not have come sooner," Liu said.

Users who visit the site can type in "take out" and see that people at the New York City Department of Education crave Chinese.

Wonder how Hurricane Sandy increased overtime costs for the New York City Department of Sanitation? That's there, too. Users can see the spike in November.

How many helicopters does the city own? The answer: six.

The site won praise from advocates and elected officials.

"It is probably the best open dashboard showing public dollars anywhere in America," said Phineas Baxandall of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

"With the click of a mouse, we can learn about contracts, government spending," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

Even after the comptroller hit one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's soft spots: a scandal-ridden payroll contract.

"Now if we had this tool 10 years ago, it's very conceivable that we would not have had to endure the debacle of CityTime," Liu said.

The mayor still praised the site on Wednesday.

"I just wanted to take a moment to thank Comptroller John Liu for putting together a new website, Checkbook NYC 2.0, that provides a lot of new data on city spending," he said.

Users can search the site by a particular agency or by a specific contractor. The comptroller's office said it will be updated every day.

But Checkbook 2.0 doesn't necessarily have everything. Spending by the New York City Housing Authority is not listed, because it doesn't use the city's billing system.

Much of the spending by the New York City Police Department is also blocked. Liu's office said that's for security reasons.

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