A new report from the city’s public advocate’s office shows that New York City government isn’t quite as transparent as it could be. The new “Transparency Report Card,” finds many agencies have failed to obey the law and make records public. At the NYPD and Housing Authority, which both received an “F” rating on the report card, nearly a third of Freedom of Information requests went altogether unanswered.
Across all agencies, 1-in-10 requests to the fell through the cracks—a clear breach of Freedom of Information Law. The City doesn’t make it easy to even file a request; nearly half of agencies fail to post any information online about how to file one.
Just two weeks ago, de Blasio sued the City for failing to turn over information on students needlessly sent to the emergency room from schools because of mental health issues—costing parents and taxpayers thousands of dollars. The suit follows another in 2012, filed when several agencies refused to release records on small business fines. When finally secured through a court settlement, that data revealed a bias in enforcement and fines against outer-borough businesses by City agencies.
De Blasio’s report is a snap-shot of more than 10,000 Freedom of Information requests made to the City during a three-month period. The Report Card is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of how agencies’ FOIL responses measure up, evaluating 18 agencies and awarding grades based on timeliness of response, requests left unanswered, and the ease of filing a request.
In the report, De Blasio is calling for measures to hold the Mayor accountable for transparency failures, in addition to fining agencies that fail to comply with public information disclosure laws. He also wants to see the city be more proactive in releasing frequently requested data. CivSource has reported on efforts by the city to improve open data access, although much of that has come through app contests relying on safe data sets like transit times. App contests in of themselves do little to solve real transparency issues like those outlined in the report.
De Blasio is currently a contender for Mayor of New York.