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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lest We Forget: Quinn, Bloomberg and Secrets (2009)

The Secret Bloomberg Administration

Mayor Bloomberg, with City Council's Christine Quinn standing behind him

I wonder why citizens of New York want a Mayor that closes the door to public scrutiny of all policy determinations. Bloomberg's disdain for accountability is obvious to anyone who has tried to obtain information about him, and/or his staff pursuant to the freedom of information law.

If you read the new website of the Committee on Open Government, you will read about the many violations of FOIA and FOIL by both Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Joel Klein. More about Mr. Klein's violations in a later article. So let's go now to the New York Times' requests for information on Mayor Bloomberg's successful campaign to get himself into a third term as Mayor, as you can see in the Times' article posted below.

By the way, I have heard that any New York City Council member who can win a third term on the Council gets free health insurance paid by the New York City taxpayer for the rest of his/her natural life. This is good to know, isnt it?

Wake up, New York.

Betsy Combier

April 25, 2009
E-Mail Sheds Little Light on Term Limits Campaign in City Hall

“Many thanks.”

In the middle of the pitched battle over Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to re-engineer the city’s term-limits laws, those are the only two words that the first deputy mayor, Patricia E. Harris, (pictured below with Mayor Bloomberg) wrote about the topic.

Or at least those are the only two words that City Hall will allow the public to see.

On Friday, six months after The New York Times requested copies of all e-mail messages about term limits sent or received by six top aides to the mayor under the Freedom of Information Act, the Bloomberg administration released 66 pages of correspondence.

Much of what the city released amounted to fan mail for the mayor, from businesspeople, friends of his aides or ordinary citizens.

“My husband and I fully support your bid for a third term,” a husband and wife wrote the mayor. Their names were withheld.

In an e-mail message to the mayor, Edward B. Ryder IV, from Farmington, N.Y., wrote a ringing endorsement of the third-term plan. “If there was a case to be made for lifting term limits, I’m sure you will make it and make it well,” he wrote.

The Times sought e-mail messages written or received by Mr. Bloomberg; Ms. Harris; Edward Skyler, deputy mayor for operations; Kevin Sheekey, deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs (pictured below); Stu Loeser, the mayor’s press secretary; and James Anderson, communications director.

The administration did not release any e-mail messages written by Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Skyler (pictured below)or Mr. Anderson.

The mayor’s office released 17 e-mail messages that encouraged him to change the law and seek a third term, and four others opposing the move. The remainder consisted of press releases, poll results and inquiries about Mr. Sheekey’s young twins. None of the messages reflected discussions of strategy, support-building or organizing the broader campaign around the issue, which consumed the administration for months in the second half of 2008.

In a letter to The Times, a lawyer for the mayor, Anthony W. Crowell, said the administration was withholding other correspondence because it falls under an exemption for “interagency or intra-agency” materials.

Gene Russianoff, (pictured at right) a senior lawyer at the New York Public Interest Research Group, which also sought the records, said that the city’s release of the e-mail messages “can’t be the full story.”

“It sounds like a very selective release of memos and that support for term limits was spontaneous combustion,” Mr. Russianoff said. “It’s hard to believe this was conceived by spontaneous combustion. People on the scene felt like it was well orchestrated. But you can’t orchestrate without an orchestra.”

A spokesman for the mayor, Jason Post, said on Friday afternoon, “We released all the e-mails that were subject to disclosure.” He noted that Mr. Bloomberg did not personally respond to many of the e-mail messages on term limits.

Even those e-mail messages that offer a window into City Hall’s thinking about term limits are long on logistics and short on substance.

An e-mail message to Mr. Sheekey from an official at 32BJ, a union representing custodial workers in the city, bears the subject line “Term Limits.”

The union official wrote: “Are you back in the U.S.A. for good? Want to talk on this A.S.A.P.” Mr. Sheekey responded: “Just back this a.m. Let me know where/when to call you.”

And even while citing the exemption for correspondence between agencies in City Hall as a reason for not disclosing other messages, the administration nevertheless included one e-mail message from Mr. Loeser, sent on Oct. 3, 2008, in which he forwards the result of a poll to his City Hall colleagues, including Ms. Harris, Mr. Sheekey and Mr. Anderson. The poll found that most New Yorkers backed the idea of a third term for Mr. Bloomberg.

Mr. Post said that because the e-mail message contained “final statistical tabulations,” the city determined it should be disclosed.

Still, the documents do provide a glimpse of the ego-stroking and subtle hierarchies that govern the political world.

When writing last October to Patrick Gaspard, (picture at right) a Barack Obama campaign aide who is now deputy political director at the White House, Mr. Sheekey urged him: “Focus on winning the national election. If you can take some time out from the transition, find some time for me.”

Then Mr. Sheekey quoted the character Leo McGarry, the White House chief of staff on the television series “The West Wing.” (Picture at left is actor John Spencer as Leo McGarry).

“We have the ability to affect more change in a day at the White House than we will have in a lifetime once we walk out these doors. What do we want to do with them?”

Mayor Bloomberg's e-mail stormed by New York voters - pro and con - after OK'd 3-term bid
Saturday, April 25th 2009, 1:09 AM

3rd time's the charm

How do you feel about Mayor Bloomberg running for a 3rd term?

Great - He's doing the best he can - all he needs is another chance.

Disappointed - I've lost hope in him - we need a new mayor.

Angry - I belive in term limits - you should only get two terms.

Mayor Bloomberg got an earful from New Yorkers last fall when he tossed term limits so he could run for reelection, according to e-mails released Friday by City Hall.

"This is a sad day for New York City. How dare you?" wrote one disgruntled citizen to Bloomberg the day after City Council voted to make the change in October.

Another urged him not to run for mayor again because "fatigue can set in," while a third wrote, "The way this is being handled is hurting you - it really is."

Others were more encouraging.

"We are thrilled to hear the news about the third run. THANK GOD," Mara Manus of the Film Society of Lincoln Center e-mailed the mayor.

"We only regret you didn't run for President," an enthusiast e-mailed after urging him to seek a third term.

The exchanges between City Hall and outsiders suggest Bloomberg was trying to line up labor support days before the Council voted on the controversial measure.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey was arranging meetings in early October to discuss the term limits debate with Stuart Applebaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (at right) and Peter Colavito of SEIU 32BJ, records show.

"Want to talk on this ASAP," Colavito wrote.

Sheekey also appeared to discuss the issue with President Obama's political director, Patrick Gaspard, who wrote on Oct. 21 he "wanted to talk term limits."

Gaspard was previously an operative at SEIU 1199, which opposed term limits. Bloomberg is now courting the union for a reelection endorsement.

The Council narrowly voted to extend term limits for itself and citywide elected posts on Oct. 23 despite opposition from good-government groups and several politicians.

Bloomberg received support from Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum chief Bill White, who ended his e-mail with, "Hope to see you at the Intrepid for the Grand Reopening."

Adrian Flannelly, chairman of Irish Radio Networks, wrote after the vote, "Congratulations. We look forward to your leadership of New York City for the next five years."

The e-mails were provided to the Daily News through a Freedom of Information request, though the names of most e-mail senders were redacted.