By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
But Team Bloomberg remained just as secretive about the whys and wherefores of its mayoral documentary program. Every city-paid out-of-town trip is supposed to include an approval form signed by both an agency executive and a deputy mayor. The form has a large blank space at the top headed: "Purpose of Trip and Benefit to City." When the video trips were first launched in early 2006, someone wrote in this space that they were "part of the Charter mandated coverage of city activities and events." But several experts consulted by the Voice came up empty when asked where exactly in the city charter it states that mayoral junkets to Indonesia must be taped by city cameras.
At any rate, those filing the approval forms later dropped the city charter defense and simply noted that "The Mayor's office has requested NYC-TV staff to cover a media event. See attached e-mail." The e-mails somehow did not survive the records-retrieval process by city lawyers.
DOITT spokesman Nick Sbordone initially promised to have everything explained, including who authorized the trips (all signatures were blacked out on the forms), and why they were considered a necessity in an always cash-poor city. But the official spokesman then went AWOL. Instead, a statement was issued late Friday by City Hall. It ducked the travel issue but emphasized the liberating effects of recording the mayor's words for the masses: "NYC-TV is the public's television access to the Mayor's Office and City Council, providing a public record of city affairs," the statement read. "It records every one of the Mayor's public events and nearly all Council hearings."
Satisfaction was obtained on one question, however: Calls were made to former press aides to the last three mayors—Rudy Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Ed Koch—to ask if it had been their practice to assign city TV camera crews to follow their mayors wherever they went. Responses included the quizzical ("Not that I recall . . .") and the emphatic ("No way!"). Former Koch press secretary George Arzt was clear in his recollection. "No," he said. "We never had a camera crew on trips. The city has a camera crew?"