Mike Bloomberg, mayor and media mogul, “is a big believer in transparency in government,” he assured listeners this spring in a radio talk. This still didn’t stop him from cutting the Mayor’s Management Report, the city charter-mandated index of city business, in half, reducing its “indicators” — such as the number of shooting victims – from 2500 to 1200.
Those dueling points are included in a review out today by City Limits of public information policies in the age of Bloomberg (“Truth and Consequences: Bloomberg and the Press”). For a pro-transparency kind of guy, it’s a decidedly mixed record. On the one hand, Bloomberg has placed a slew of accessible information on city Web sites. On the other, as Robert Freeman, director of the state’s stellar Committee on Open Government says, getting a freedom of information request is a bit of a crap shoot. And even Times columnist Jim Dwyer says that he gets “flacks” — not policy makers — on the phone when he’s trying to find out what’s going on.
As an ex-Bloomy flack tells City Limits‘ Jarrett Murphy, that’s because not all commissioners can be trusted to handle an interview: “Do they put their foot in their mouth? Do they say too much?” Now there’s a legitimate concern.
Info access at NYPD headquarters has gotten worse, says state watchdog Freeman. “There are some city agencies that I believe are quite responsive and others that seem not to care,” Freeman says. “The NYPD is terribly unresponsive, and in my opinion creates excuses to avoid not only disclosing, but even looking for, the records to determine if they are available to be released.” Freeman credits Bloomberg with reducing the need for FOI requests by putting more data on the internet, but says things at the Cop Shop have gotten worse: “My personal feeling is that in the case of the police department, the treatment of requests under FOIL has deteriorated.”
Just to prove the point, NYPD deputy commissioner Paul Browne declined to respond to City Limits‘ request for comment.