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 is a 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 border.
And de Blasio is hardly alone in wanting to control what’s reported about him. What politician — or dictator — doesn’t want to control the flow of information to his or her benefit?
De Blasio’s message and image have taken hits in the 20 months he’s been mayor. A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month recorded a 44 percent approval rating — his worst showing since taking office.
“He’s circling the wagons because he feels vulnerable,” said a longtime political consultant who asked for anonymity because he has dealings with City Hall. “He has had a rough summer, from the Uber taxicabs, the Legionnaires’ disease, his feud with Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo and the seminude female panhandlers in Times Square.”
De Blasio has had a rough time with the media. He 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. The mayor, Parikh insisted, is ensuring that FOIL lawyers don’t unnecessarily redact portions of requested documents. LOL.
Ironically, after a disastrous start, the one agency de Blasio has settled in with lately is the NYPD. After proclaiming for the first 18 months that the NYPD needed no additional cops — despite Commissioner Bill Bratton’s statements to the contrary — de Blasio said recently 1,287 cops would be hired. But he refuses to specifically say what changed his mind.