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