One Police Plaza

Mr. Transparency

August 24, 2015

So City Hall will now review all requests of public records of any city agency that could “reflect directly on the mayor.” That is, Mayor Bill de Blasio will control all Freedom of Information Law queries not just from journalists but also from watchdog groups and the public.

It sounds like an overly broad decree, with ramifications that are not yet clear from someone who promised to be the most transparent mayor in city history. 

Still, let’s put de Blasio’s directive in perspective. His desire to control the flow of information is nothing compared with, say, North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un, who last week threatened war because South Korea was blasting anti-North Korea propaganda over loudspeakers at the demilitarized zone.

And de Blasio is hardly alone in wanting to control what’s reported about him. What politician — or dictator — doesn’t want to look good? [Just think Gov. Andrew Cuomo or President Barak Obama when we talk about control.]

De Blasio’s message and image have taken hits in the 20 months he’s been mayor. A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month poll showed his worst approval rating since taking office.

“He’s running scared,” said a longtime political consultant who asked for anonymity because he has dealings with City Hall. “He’s circling the wagons because he feels vulnerable. He has had a rough summer, from the Uber taxicabs, the Legionnaire’s Disease, his feud with Gov. Cuomo and the seminude female panhandlers in Times Square.”

From the get-go, de Blasio has had a rough time with the media. He has dispensed with his first press secretary. When his current one, Karen Hinton, recently criticized Cuomo, de Blasio cut her off at the knees, saying she was speaking only for herself.

More recently, mayoral press aide, Ishanee Parikh, offered the ridiculous explanation that the mayor’s FOIL directive was actually designed to enhance transparency, not thwart it. The mayor, Parikh insists, is ensuring FOIL lawyers didn’t unnecessarily redact portions of requested documents.[LOL!]

Ironically, after a disastrous start, the one agency the mayor has settled in with lately is the NYPD. After proclaiming for his first 18 months that the NYPD needed no additional cops — despite Commissioner Bill Bratton’s statements to the contrary — de Blasio said two months ago he was hiring 1,287 cops. But he refuses to say what changed his mind. That’s transparency?

Unfortunately for him, he will probably be remembered for an iconic image: that extraordinary scene last July 31 at City Hall following Eric Garner’s “chokehold” death, with Bratton on one side of him and Al Sharpton on the other. No mayoral directive can erase that.

Last week we reported that the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s former spokesman, Andrew Case, said that former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik had gotten a bum rap from the feds — and credited Kerik with suspending more cops for misconduct than either Bratton or Ray Kelly.

“Say what else you will about him, Kerik was the last police commissioner to impose serious discipline based on CCRB investigations — in one year (2001), he suspended 66 officers based on CCRB recommendations. In 12 years, Kelly suspended annually, on average, only 15. And last year Bratton only suspended seven,” Case said.

Well, this week Kerik was lauded from the other side, by retired PBA trustee Walter Liddy. “I do not believe that Bernie suspended 66 cops, period, during his brief tenure as the PC, let alone 66 based on bull.. CCRB investigations,” Liddy wrote in an email.

“Like all of us Bernie had his flaws,” wrote Liddy, “but he was, based on my 23 years as a delegate and trustee, by far the best PC the PBA ever dealt with.”


Copyright © 2015 Leonard Levitt