Remember when Bill de Blasio, the People’s Mayor and not at all one of those imperious out-of-touch/out-of-town billionaires, promised a new era of transparency in city government?
Now that he’s in charge, he’s about as transparent as oak.
This week the Press Club of New York blasted de Blasio in an open letter that said, “You have departed from a precedent set by at least eight mayors before you, which has been to take questions in open press conferences without restriction as to the subject matter.”
That doesn’t sound like the Billy Blazes we were promised.
“I will increase transparency with a series of reforms of the Freedom of Information Law,” candidate de Blasio told the New York City Bar in an interview published in 2013.
“I will include FOIL [Freedom of Information Law] statistics in the Mayor’s Management Report . . . I will also levy fines and penalties against city agencies that regularly duck and delay FOIL requests, and proactively post online information that is most-frequently sought by FOIL request . . . I have continued to go beyond the current laws when it comes to transparency and disclosure and will continue these practices when Mayor.”
These days, though, de Blasio has established an alarming habit of walling off reporters from his public appearances. By May he had already logged 83 events at which journalist access was restricted or barred.
At press conferences, he bristles when asked a question he doesn’t want to answer, telling the hacks that they’ve gone “off topic,” a phrase de Blasio evidently hopes sounds less self-incriminating than “no comment.”
The trick is this: de Blasio holds a presser, warns everyone to stay on topic, then answers questions on anything that comes up. Until he is presented with a question he doesn’t like: Then he swats it away for being “off topic.”
Meanwhile, the unanswered FOIL requests are piling up.