The public advocate wants to track how long it takes Bloomberg to release data

Bill de Blasio. (Azi Paybarah via flickr)
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his fortune providing information to Wall Street. As mayor, he's used data and hard facts to drive many of his decisions.

But criticism over access to some of the city's facts and figures is prompting Public Advocate Bill de Blasio to push for a bill that would monitor how city agencies and the mayor's office responds to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests.

So far, the mayor's record, like that of many public executives, has been mixed. His administration took months to find a photograph they had in their possession of Sarah Palin's visit, a delay possibly attributable to Palin's political toxicity in New York. Requests for daily schedules of Bloomberg's top aides can go for months, if not years, without any official acknowledgment. To be fair, the daily schedules of Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey and Patti Harris were released, but only after repeated requests from reporters.

The administration has argued in the past that releasing unfettered access to the huge, unwieldily swamp of information in their possession would simply confuse average New Yorkers, at significant expense, and ultimately not inform them. The city has preferred to release data that has been curated and translated into more digestible forms. The administration also doesn't believe, generally, in releasing information the public hasn't expressed a desire to see. But, as City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, a technology advocate, has said, most people don't know what information even exists, therefore, they don't know what to ask for. The only resolution, she has argued, is making all of it available.

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Whether de Blasio's plan to track FOIL requests will lead to any major change is uncertain. Reporters who don't want to tip off the competition have their own transparency issues, and may not want to say what requests they have made of a city agency, eliminating the public-exposure aspect that normally forces government entities to respond to FOILs in the first place.

Some links:

The Alfred E. Smith Dinner is tonight at the Waldorf. [alsmithfoundation.org]

There will be a spike in the number of New Yorkers who lose unemployment benefits. [Paul Tharp]

"[M]ajorities share Occupy Wall Street’s inclinations on many issues, including the need for the wealthy to pay more in taxes." [E.J. Dionne Jr.]

NYPD Spokesman Paul Browne said "police stops saves lives, especially in the minority community." [Rocco Parascandola]

"We should train officers to make street stops more constitutional and less confrontational." [Scott Stringer]

"The question for Cuomo and Foye is how to get out of the mire while making smooth, on-budget progress at Ground Zero and sparing motorists as much pain as possible." [Daily News]

Editors praise the man Cuomo ousted at the Port Authority. "Maybe when [the audit of the Port Authority is] finished there will be cause to criticize Ward's tenure; until then, we're simply sorry to see him go." [New York Post]

Cuomo will tap Joe Lhota to run the MTA. [Erik Kriss]

Unions find a way to spend unlimited amounts of money. [Jacob Gershman]

Handicap accessible cabs guzzle gas and cost more than regular taxis, said Bloomberg. [Ken Lovett]

Voters support Bloomberg's calorie count and salt reduction, but oppose his idea to ban soda from list of items you can buy with food stamps. [Kate Lucadamo]

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wants to monitor how city agencies respond to FOIL requests. [Kate Taylor]

The new effort could provide "tools for shaming." [@emmawolfe]

Since most reporters don't want to tip off the competition, there's doubt they'd publicly say what FOIL requests they've made. [@adamlisberg]

An unnamed source says Adolfo Carrion Jr. may challenge Ruben Diaz Jr. for Bronx Borough President if Diaz doesn't run citywide. [Bob Kappstatter]