Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/freedom-of-information-law 2017-10-24T00:17:54+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Push for a Better Mayor's Management Report Continues 2016-04-07T19:34:38+00:00 2016-04-07T19:34:38+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6270:push-for-a-better-mayors-management-report-continues Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/311-cust-serv.jpg" alt="311-cust-serv" height="435" width="600" />&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held an oversight hearing on Wednesday to evaluate the structure and content of two annual city reports that measure everything from the wait times on 311 calls and the conditions of city parks to the number of unsheltered homeless people and traffic crashes in the city each year. These key performance indicators help the City Council and the public keep city agencies and offices accountable. Those agencies, in turn, rely on these reports to improve their policies and functioning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration releases two detailed reports each year - the <a href="https://data.cityofnewyork.us/report" target="_blank">Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report</a> (PMMR), two weeks after the January financial plan, and the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), in September. The reports include evaluations of annual goals set by 41 city agencies and 3 non-mayoral agencies that report directly to the Mayor, and whether these agencies are succeeding or failing to meet their objectives.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s hearing, the third one held by the governmental operations committee on this issue, gave Council members an opportunity to delve into the process of how agency goals are included in the reports and to reiterate their request for adding more data to future reports. Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, highlighted some of the key concerns the Council has about a lack of clarity in certain agency goals, agency indicators with no set targets, and the need to directly link agency performance with corresponding budget allocations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PMMR and MMR are produced over six to eight weeks by the Mayor’s Office of Operations (MOO). About 10 MOO staff members work with more than 150 senior staff across the agencies, including deputy mayors and agency commissioners, and coordinate efforts with City Hall to release the final products, which detail agency goals and indicators of whether those goals are being met year after year.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are 1649 metrics by which agency performance is tracked in the two reports. Examples include quality-of-life summonses issued by the New York Police Department, the number of people on the city’s cash assistance rolls, the average daily attendance in city schools, and the number of families entering the city’s homeless shelter system.</p> <p dir="ltr">The report tracked the NYPD’s goal to reduce the number of quality-of-life violations, a critical indicator without a set target. The four-month numbers (the timeframe for the PMMR) fell from 142,434 in Fiscal 2015 to 125, 685 in Fiscal 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the Department of Education’s performance, the report looked at average daily attendance in city schools, which surpassed the 91.7 percent target in Fiscal 2016 (93.2 percent) and Fiscal 2015 (93.5 percent). Similarly, the report showed that the Department of Homeless Services had been successful in reducing the number of adult families entering the shelter system from 521 families to 466.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data, which is available on <a href="https://data.cityofnewyork.us/report" target="_blank">an interactive website</a>, includes comparisons with previous years, five-year trends and a look at desired directions for performance. This year’s PMMR data was also available on the city’s Open Data Portal, providing public access to all the information collected under the report. Kallos, an ardent supporter of transparent and accessible information and technology, praised MOO for this effort.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We really take care not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to targets and indicators in the PMMR and MMR,” said Mindy Tarlow, MOO director, at one point during Wednesday’s hearing. “We try to see each indicator and each agency as a complex diverse case that’s in some ways reflective of the complex diverse city that we’re monitoring and reporting on.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members took turns questioning Tarlow and her colleague Tina Chiu, deputy director for performance management. The members usually stuck with issues germane to issue committees they chair or sit on, but the larger concerns voiced at the hearing were about the lack of targets for many critical performance indicators and the ways in which targets are set and the reports are improved.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the government operations committee, commended MOO for changes they had made to the PMMR based on recommendations from a December 2015 hearing about how targets were defined in the reports. This year’s PMMR included a more nuanced description of targets, which can be numeric or directional. Numeric targets set expected performance levels including a maximum that should not be exceeded or a minimum level that should be met. Directional targets indicate whether an indicator should go up or down. Many indicators had no target at all, which gave cause for concern to Kallos and Dick Dadey, executive director of government reform group Citizens Union, who testified at the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Kallos asked why certain indicators had no targets, citing the number of lawsuits brought against the city as an example, Tarlow clarified that many of these indicators are “neutral” statistics out of their control, such as certain population numbers, for which it’s impossible to set directional targets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Although the committee is pleased that some improvements have been made,” Kallos said in his opening statement, “our review of the most recent PMMR suggests that further changes could make both of these publications more helpful tools for the Council, the public, as well as &nbsp;the agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council, in its Monday <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/budget/2017/FY17-Preliminary-Budget-Response.pdf" target="_blank">response</a> to the mayor’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2017, identified 57 indicators across 18 agencies that they want included in the MMR going forward. Kallos brought this up at the hearing, specifically pointing to indicators for the Board of Standards and Appeals, which falls under the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is under Kallos’ committee’s oversight. He also mentioned a City Council data study that found 107 indicators (70 critical ones) where there was a 28 percent discrepancy over last year’s PMMR and average performance over the prior three years.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24798070415_78dcbdc95c_z.jpg" alt="kallos rules hearing" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="200" width="300" />Kallos (pictured*) also questioned Tarlow and Chiu about indicators relating to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the 311 helpline system and the Department of Homeless Services, but his main concerns were about holding people accountable for changes to the PMMR and MMR, further clarifying how targets are defined, minimizing the number of indicators without targets, and linking performance indicators in the PMMR to the corresponding allocations in the preliminary budget, as the City Charter mandates for the PMMR.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Who has ultimate responsibility for the changes that are being implemented?” Kallos asked Tarlow, frustrated that Council members’ requests for additional indicators in the past had been routinely agreed to by agencies but not followed through on. “Is it with the agency or Operations, and how do those changes actually end up happening?</p> <p dir="ltr">Tarlow stressed that the creation and addition of indicators was a collaborative process with agencies. “We don’t dictate play to the agencies and the agencies don’t just unilaterally make changes,” she said, agreeing to consider improvements in communication with Council members. She also said that they had started to work with the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget to cross-reference and link the PMMR with the preliminary budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kallos’ concerns were echoed by Dadey, who reiterated recommendations that Citizens Union had made in the past, which shows, he said, “a challenge that we face that we’ve been back here several times making the same recommendations and while some of them get adopted we think that some of the more common sense ones are not being embraced and we’re at a loss to understand why.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Dadey floated three specific proposals: setting targets for half the indicators in the report which had no metrics to judge them by (the number of indicators with no target increased from 948 to 961 this year from last); providing more budget detail alongside performance indicators; and expanded reporting on cross-agency initiatives to track transparency (for instance Freedom of Information Law requests) and voting registration programs at agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">He called the lack of targets for half the proposals “disconcerting” as “it indicates one of two troubling possibilities. Either the agency experienced difficulty in setting goals in coordination with the office of the mayor or that these goals have been established and are possibly being concealed from the public. Neither is satisfactory,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the administration’s credit, MOO has made effort to add sections on multi-agency initiatives, such as IDNYC, which was eventually folded into the report on the Human Resources Administration. “That’s what we want,” Tarlow said in response to questions from Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “To really feature a multi-agency new initiative and then have it be so routine that it becomes baked into the fabric of what we do on a day-to-day basis.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Menchaca wanted to know how the PMMR and MMR reports evolve and about efforts to make the report machine readable. His larger concern, as chair of the Council’s immigration committee, was that the data be accessible to New York’s immigrant communities. “What do you do to get the report out in other languages?,” he asked.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tarlow’s answer was unimpressive. “I actually don’t know,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lisa Neary, general counsel for the Independent Budget Office, also testified, although less about the content of the reports than the process. IBO had testified at the December 2015 hearing as well, recommending legislation that would require citizen surveys to be included in the reports. The idea has been championed for a long time by Baruch Professor Doug Muzzio and a relevant bill has been introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson, though it has not received a vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Neary focused on the timing of the two reports. She said the PMMR being released early in the year was inadequate since it only accounts for the first four months of the financial year (July to October).</p> <p dir="ltr">“With only this partial picture in hand,” Neary said, “the Council lacks crucial information that would allow you to link objectives to resources, and resources to outcomes.” She cited the current PMMR’s data on Department of Education programs, where at least a dozen critical indicators were listed as “not available.” She said the MMR’s release was “even more poorly timed,” and should be some time between January and June to have maximum influence on budget decisions.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Kallos asked her for suggestions, she said perhaps the MMR should be released with the executive budget in May and then a full accounting of the year should come out in October or November. “The key thing is to have as much information as you can at the time that you’re making resource allocation decisions,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the parks committee, questioned Tarlow and Chiu about PMMR indicators on park maintenance and capital park projects, as well as on the lack of information on eviction prevention and legal services. Council Member Vincent Gentile, in keeping with his position as chair of the oversight and investigations committee, asked MOO to consider tracking the performance of individual Inspectors General under the Department of Investigation. Tarlow had ready answers for both Council members and promised to discuss their concerns with individual agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p dir="ltr">*Photo of Ben Kallos by William Alatriste</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization to Citizens Union.</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/311-cust-serv.jpg" alt="311-cust-serv" height="435" width="600" />&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held an oversight hearing on Wednesday to evaluate the structure and content of two annual city reports that measure everything from the wait times on 311 calls and the conditions of city parks to the number of unsheltered homeless people and traffic crashes in the city each year. These key performance indicators help the City Council and the public keep city agencies and offices accountable. Those agencies, in turn, rely on these reports to improve their policies and functioning.</p> <p dir="ltr">The administration releases two detailed reports each year - the <a href="https://data.cityofnewyork.us/report" target="_blank">Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report</a> (PMMR), two weeks after the January financial plan, and the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), in September. The reports include evaluations of annual goals set by 41 city agencies and 3 non-mayoral agencies that report directly to the Mayor, and whether these agencies are succeeding or failing to meet their objectives.</p> <p dir="ltr">Wednesday’s hearing, the third one held by the governmental operations committee on this issue, gave Council members an opportunity to delve into the process of how agency goals are included in the reports and to reiterate their request for adding more data to future reports. Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, highlighted some of the key concerns the Council has about a lack of clarity in certain agency goals, agency indicators with no set targets, and the need to directly link agency performance with corresponding budget allocations.</p> <p dir="ltr">The PMMR and MMR are produced over six to eight weeks by the Mayor’s Office of Operations (MOO). About 10 MOO staff members work with more than 150 senior staff across the agencies, including deputy mayors and agency commissioners, and coordinate efforts with City Hall to release the final products, which detail agency goals and indicators of whether those goals are being met year after year.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are 1649 metrics by which agency performance is tracked in the two reports. Examples include quality-of-life summonses issued by the New York Police Department, the number of people on the city’s cash assistance rolls, the average daily attendance in city schools, and the number of families entering the city’s homeless shelter system.</p> <p dir="ltr">The report tracked the NYPD’s goal to reduce the number of quality-of-life violations, a critical indicator without a set target. The four-month numbers (the timeframe for the PMMR) fell from 142,434 in Fiscal 2015 to 125, 685 in Fiscal 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the Department of Education’s performance, the report looked at average daily attendance in city schools, which surpassed the 91.7 percent target in Fiscal 2016 (93.2 percent) and Fiscal 2015 (93.5 percent). Similarly, the report showed that the Department of Homeless Services had been successful in reducing the number of adult families entering the shelter system from 521 families to 466.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data, which is available on <a href="https://data.cityofnewyork.us/report" target="_blank">an interactive website</a>, includes comparisons with previous years, five-year trends and a look at desired directions for performance. This year’s PMMR data was also available on the city’s Open Data Portal, providing public access to all the information collected under the report. Kallos, an ardent supporter of transparent and accessible information and technology, praised MOO for this effort.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We really take care not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to targets and indicators in the PMMR and MMR,” said Mindy Tarlow, MOO director, at one point during Wednesday’s hearing. “We try to see each indicator and each agency as a complex diverse case that’s in some ways reflective of the complex diverse city that we’re monitoring and reporting on.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council members took turns questioning Tarlow and her colleague Tina Chiu, deputy director for performance management. The members usually stuck with issues germane to issue committees they chair or sit on, but the larger concerns voiced at the hearing were about the lack of targets for many critical performance indicators and the ways in which targets are set and the reports are improved.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the government operations committee, commended MOO for changes they had made to the PMMR based on recommendations from a December 2015 hearing about how targets were defined in the reports. This year’s PMMR included a more nuanced description of targets, which can be numeric or directional. Numeric targets set expected performance levels including a maximum that should not be exceeded or a minimum level that should be met. Directional targets indicate whether an indicator should go up or down. Many indicators had no target at all, which gave cause for concern to Kallos and Dick Dadey, executive director of government reform group Citizens Union, who testified at the hearing.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Kallos asked why certain indicators had no targets, citing the number of lawsuits brought against the city as an example, Tarlow clarified that many of these indicators are “neutral” statistics out of their control, such as certain population numbers, for which it’s impossible to set directional targets.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Although the committee is pleased that some improvements have been made,” Kallos said in his opening statement, “our review of the most recent PMMR suggests that further changes could make both of these publications more helpful tools for the Council, the public, as well as &nbsp;the agencies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council, in its Monday <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/html/budget/2017/FY17-Preliminary-Budget-Response.pdf" target="_blank">response</a> to the mayor’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2017, identified 57 indicators across 18 agencies that they want included in the MMR going forward. Kallos brought this up at the hearing, specifically pointing to indicators for the Board of Standards and Appeals, which falls under the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is under Kallos’ committee’s oversight. He also mentioned a City Council data study that found 107 indicators (70 critical ones) where there was a 28 percent discrepancy over last year’s PMMR and average performance over the prior three years.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/24798070415_78dcbdc95c_z.jpg" alt="kallos rules hearing" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="200" width="300" />Kallos (pictured*) also questioned Tarlow and Chiu about indicators relating to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the 311 helpline system and the Department of Homeless Services, but his main concerns were about holding people accountable for changes to the PMMR and MMR, further clarifying how targets are defined, minimizing the number of indicators without targets, and linking performance indicators in the PMMR to the corresponding allocations in the preliminary budget, as the City Charter mandates for the PMMR.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Who has ultimate responsibility for the changes that are being implemented?” Kallos asked Tarlow, frustrated that Council members’ requests for additional indicators in the past had been routinely agreed to by agencies but not followed through on. “Is it with the agency or Operations, and how do those changes actually end up happening?</p> <p dir="ltr">Tarlow stressed that the creation and addition of indicators was a collaborative process with agencies. “We don’t dictate play to the agencies and the agencies don’t just unilaterally make changes,” she said, agreeing to consider improvements in communication with Council members. She also said that they had started to work with the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget to cross-reference and link the PMMR with the preliminary budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kallos’ concerns were echoed by Dadey, who reiterated recommendations that Citizens Union had made in the past, which shows, he said, “a challenge that we face that we’ve been back here several times making the same recommendations and while some of them get adopted we think that some of the more common sense ones are not being embraced and we’re at a loss to understand why.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Dadey floated three specific proposals: setting targets for half the indicators in the report which had no metrics to judge them by (the number of indicators with no target increased from 948 to 961 this year from last); providing more budget detail alongside performance indicators; and expanded reporting on cross-agency initiatives to track transparency (for instance Freedom of Information Law requests) and voting registration programs at agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">He called the lack of targets for half the proposals “disconcerting” as “it indicates one of two troubling possibilities. Either the agency experienced difficulty in setting goals in coordination with the office of the mayor or that these goals have been established and are possibly being concealed from the public. Neither is satisfactory,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">To the administration’s credit, MOO has made effort to add sections on multi-agency initiatives, such as IDNYC, which was eventually folded into the report on the Human Resources Administration. “That’s what we want,” Tarlow said in response to questions from Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “To really feature a multi-agency new initiative and then have it be so routine that it becomes baked into the fabric of what we do on a day-to-day basis.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Menchaca wanted to know how the PMMR and MMR reports evolve and about efforts to make the report machine readable. His larger concern, as chair of the Council’s immigration committee, was that the data be accessible to New York’s immigrant communities. “What do you do to get the report out in other languages?,” he asked.</p> <p dir="ltr">Tarlow’s answer was unimpressive. “I actually don’t know,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lisa Neary, general counsel for the Independent Budget Office, also testified, although less about the content of the reports than the process. IBO had testified at the December 2015 hearing as well, recommending legislation that would require citizen surveys to be included in the reports. The idea has been championed for a long time by Baruch Professor Doug Muzzio and a relevant bill has been introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson, though it has not received a vote.</p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday, Neary focused on the timing of the two reports. She said the PMMR being released early in the year was inadequate since it only accounts for the first four months of the financial year (July to October).</p> <p dir="ltr">“With only this partial picture in hand,” Neary said, “the Council lacks crucial information that would allow you to link objectives to resources, and resources to outcomes.” She cited the current PMMR’s data on Department of Education programs, where at least a dozen critical indicators were listed as “not available.” She said the MMR’s release was “even more poorly timed,” and should be some time between January and June to have maximum influence on budget decisions.</p> <p dir="ltr">When Kallos asked her for suggestions, she said perhaps the MMR should be released with the executive budget in May and then a full accounting of the year should come out in October or November. “The key thing is to have as much information as you can at the time that you’re making resource allocation decisions,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the parks committee, questioned Tarlow and Chiu about PMMR indicators on park maintenance and capital park projects, as well as on the lack of information on eviction prevention and legal services. Council Member Vincent Gentile, in keeping with his position as chair of the oversight and investigations committee, asked MOO to consider tracking the performance of individual Inspectors General under the Department of Investigation. Tarlow had ready answers for both Council members and promised to discuss their concerns with individual agencies.</p> <p dir="ltr">

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p dir="ltr">*Photo of Ben Kallos by William Alatriste</p> <p dir="ltr">Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization to Citizens Union.</p>
Cuomo's Public Schedules Offer Little Information 2016-03-22T03:06:14+00:00 2016-03-22T03:06:14+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6234:cuomos-public-schedules-offer-little-information Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25762631705_ff2f0cca6a_z.jpg" alt="cuomo reporters" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the town since 2014, had been conspicuously absent.</p> <p>On Sunday, March 13 at about 7:30 a.m. reporters received an updated public schedule for Cuomo announcing that at 10:15 a.m the governor would give <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Cuomo-visits-Hoosick-Falls-6887249.php" target="_blank">a press briefing</a> in Hoosick Falls. Assembly Member Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents the area and has been a consistent critic of the Democratic governor, said he learned of the visit from members of the press who contacted him to see if he planned to attend. McLaughlin was not contacted by the Cuomo administration, he said, nor were a host of other elected officials from the area. Some local reporters had been told specifically the governor would not be visiting the town that weekend.</p> <p>"I had been there a day before for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I said then, 'Leaders lead, they show up when people are hurting, they don't show up for a photo op,'" McLaughlin told Gotham Gazette. "I will contend the reason [Cuomo] didn't show up for 109 days is because this situation is politically damaging to him - it isn't a situation where he's hooking up and towing someone and taking a picture; people are hurting here."</p> <p>The situation was typical of how the administration often handles Cuomo's public schedules - most days, no matter what the governor might actually be doing, his public schedules, emailed to the press the night before, put him in Albany, New York City, or the New York City area, with no additional information.</p> <p>Occasionally the administration will issue an update about an appearance or an event with varying amounts of lead time. Sometimes a few hours, often less. Events the governor attends are regularly ones that appear unlikely to be last-minute decision. One such update was issued on January 21 at 5:29 p.m. to announce Cuomo was attending a 6 p.m. gala held by the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members include large Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Other events Cuomo attends, such as fundraisers or gatherings with legislators at the Executive Mansion, are left off his schedule. Some of these events, for candidate campaigns, should be left off of the governor's official government schedule. Yet, strangely, on March 9, Cuomo held a ceremony to honor former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and no notice was given, though the administration later gave members of the press an account of the proceedings.</p> <p>Administration officials paint last-minute updates and omissions as the result of minding the schedule of a very busy governor, but the pattern has rankled the press, annoyed legislators who feel the governor should notify them when he visits their districts, and stymied issue advocates and protesters. It has a growing number of critics saying that the administration shares little with the press and the public as a political strategy to protect Cuomo from unwanted coverage.</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules also come in stark contrast of those of other major New York elected officials - senators, members of Congress, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others mostly issue detailed daily schedules full of events, whether the press is invited or not. They also often send their schedules earlier than the governor's office does. Case in point: on Monday evening, de Blasio's Tuesday schedule, with two public events, was sent to members of the media at about 5:30 p.m.; Gov. Cuomo's, also with two public events, was emailed at a little after 10 p.m.</p> <p>"It is highly unusual for officials to play this kind of game," said Douglas Muzzio professor of political science at Baruch. "The governor is truly unique in this regard compared to other electeds. It throws everyone off, prevents people from covering things, seeing him, meeting him. It keeps everybody on edge."</p> <p>The Cuomo administration flatly denied that the governor's schedules are designed to reduce interaction with the press or voters. "People have all kinds of opinions, it's just not true," Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"There is a clear difference in style and substance between this governor and people who are willing to go into the lion's den and deal with it and take not only the accolades, but the criticism head on," said Assembly Member McLaughlin. Cuomo has made a habit of "ducking, covering, and avoiding and misdirecting," McLaughlin added, saying that Cuomo has had "the hypocrisy" of saying he would run the most transparent administration in history. "People are waking up to it," he said, "The answer to it is to stop doing what you're doing, but his answer will be to double down and do more of what got him in trouble to begin with."</p> <p>The situation is particularly pointed this year as budget negotiations again play out almost entirely behind closed doors. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Cuomo has not held public leaders meetings to discuss budget priorities.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo hasn't held a traditional media availability on the second floor of the Capitol since June of last year. While the governor has taken press questions after events at a variety of locations around the state, he has eschewed a traditional Albany press conference <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomo-curtails-news-conferences-with-media-in-albany-1458522663" target="_blank">for well over 200 days</a>.</p> <p>A recent Freedom of Information Law request for any email communications sent by Cuomo, <a href="http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/new-york/2016/03/12/cuomo-shuns-email-leaving-trail/81686934/" target="_blank">filed by Gannett's John Campbell</a>, resulted in no information. An administration official told Campbell that Cuomo has no state-issued email account or Blackberry device.</p> <p>"Do you get the impression this governor doesn't want coverage, doesn't want to answer any questions?" asked Barbara Bartoletti of The League of Women Voters. "Wasn't this the governor who said he would have the most transparent administration in history? Well it hasn't turned out that way. He doesn't seem to let people know he is going to be somewhere unless he is handing out money or responding to a disaster."</p> <p>John Kaehny, of Reinvent Albany, said that from his perspective the governor's office has been ahead of the game on releasing the governor's schedules when compared to other elected officials, albeit months after the fact. Kaehny points to the administration's information portal that is updated every few months with the governor's past schedules, including the names of groups and people he meets with. "We're happy to have more complete schedules later, rather than faster, less specific schedules right now," said Kaehny, who acknowledged it might be different for the press.</p> <p>"The state website allows searches by name so you can see what meetings they've had with the governor," explained Kaehny. "That isn't comparable to anything [Mayor de Blasio] has at the moment. It's extremely useful."</p> <p>Azzopardi touted Cuomo's transparency website in a statement to Gotham Gazette: "This administration has proactively made more documents and data publicly available than any other in recent memory. The governor's final schedules are publicly posted on <a href="http://www.ny.gov/citizens-connect" target="_blank">CitizenConnects</a> and have been since the beginning of this administration."</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules have been shown to have at least a hole or two. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303918204577448873258019752" target="_blank">reported</a> that Cuomo's schedules did not show an October fundraiser where the Governor was pitched on a massive casino project by Genting, a group that had given millions to a lobbying group created at the governor's behest. Administration officials said the omission was a mistake.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, noted that compared to Albany standards where the leaders rarely announce their plans to the public, Cuomo's scheduling isn't particularly concerning.</p> <p>For others however, it is concerning that the governor who pledged utmost transparency appears to only be interested in interacting with the public of his choosing and has limited his press interaction.</p> <p>"Is he afraid of the press or does he think New Yorkers aren't interested in what their governor is doing?" asked Bartoletti. "I don't know why he wouldn't want to be more visible."</p> <p>

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by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25762631705_ff2f0cca6a_z.jpg" alt="cuomo reporters" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the town since 2014, had been conspicuously absent.</p> <p>On Sunday, March 13 at about 7:30 a.m. reporters received an updated public schedule for Cuomo announcing that at 10:15 a.m the governor would give <a href="http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Cuomo-visits-Hoosick-Falls-6887249.php" target="_blank">a press briefing</a> in Hoosick Falls. Assembly Member Steve McLaughlin, a Republican who represents the area and has been a consistent critic of the Democratic governor, said he learned of the visit from members of the press who contacted him to see if he planned to attend. McLaughlin was not contacted by the Cuomo administration, he said, nor were a host of other elected officials from the area. Some local reporters had been told specifically the governor would not be visiting the town that weekend.</p> <p>"I had been there a day before for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and I said then, 'Leaders lead, they show up when people are hurting, they don't show up for a photo op,'" McLaughlin told Gotham Gazette. "I will contend the reason [Cuomo] didn't show up for 109 days is because this situation is politically damaging to him - it isn't a situation where he's hooking up and towing someone and taking a picture; people are hurting here."</p> <p>The situation was typical of how the administration often handles Cuomo's public schedules - most days, no matter what the governor might actually be doing, his public schedules, emailed to the press the night before, put him in Albany, New York City, or the New York City area, with no additional information.</p> <p>Occasionally the administration will issue an update about an appearance or an event with varying amounts of lead time. Sometimes a few hours, often less. Events the governor attends are regularly ones that appear unlikely to be last-minute decision. One such update was issued on January 21 at 5:29 p.m. to announce Cuomo was attending a 6 p.m. gala held by the Real Estate Board of New York, whose members include large Cuomo donors.</p> <p>Other events Cuomo attends, such as fundraisers or gatherings with legislators at the Executive Mansion, are left off his schedule. Some of these events, for candidate campaigns, should be left off of the governor's official government schedule. Yet, strangely, on March 9, Cuomo held a ceremony to honor former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and no notice was given, though the administration later gave members of the press an account of the proceedings.</p> <p>Administration officials paint last-minute updates and omissions as the result of minding the schedule of a very busy governor, but the pattern has rankled the press, annoyed legislators who feel the governor should notify them when he visits their districts, and stymied issue advocates and protesters. It has a growing number of critics saying that the administration shares little with the press and the public as a political strategy to protect Cuomo from unwanted coverage.</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules also come in stark contrast of those of other major New York elected officials - senators, members of Congress, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others mostly issue detailed daily schedules full of events, whether the press is invited or not. They also often send their schedules earlier than the governor's office does. Case in point: on Monday evening, de Blasio's Tuesday schedule, with two public events, was sent to members of the media at about 5:30 p.m.; Gov. Cuomo's, also with two public events, was emailed at a little after 10 p.m.</p> <p>"It is highly unusual for officials to play this kind of game," said Douglas Muzzio professor of political science at Baruch. "The governor is truly unique in this regard compared to other electeds. It throws everyone off, prevents people from covering things, seeing him, meeting him. It keeps everybody on edge."</p> <p>The Cuomo administration flatly denied that the governor's schedules are designed to reduce interaction with the press or voters. "People have all kinds of opinions, it's just not true," Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi told Gotham Gazette.</p> <p>"There is a clear difference in style and substance between this governor and people who are willing to go into the lion's den and deal with it and take not only the accolades, but the criticism head on," said Assembly Member McLaughlin. Cuomo has made a habit of "ducking, covering, and avoiding and misdirecting," McLaughlin added, saying that Cuomo has had "the hypocrisy" of saying he would run the most transparent administration in history. "People are waking up to it," he said, "The answer to it is to stop doing what you're doing, but his answer will be to double down and do more of what got him in trouble to begin with."</p> <p>The situation is particularly pointed this year as budget negotiations again play out almost entirely behind closed doors. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Cuomo has not held public leaders meetings to discuss budget priorities.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Cuomo hasn't held a traditional media availability on the second floor of the Capitol since June of last year. While the governor has taken press questions after events at a variety of locations around the state, he has eschewed a traditional Albany press conference <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/cuomo-curtails-news-conferences-with-media-in-albany-1458522663" target="_blank">for well over 200 days</a>.</p> <p>A recent Freedom of Information Law request for any email communications sent by Cuomo, <a href="http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/local/new-york/2016/03/12/cuomo-shuns-email-leaving-trail/81686934/" target="_blank">filed by Gannett's John Campbell</a>, resulted in no information. An administration official told Campbell that Cuomo has no state-issued email account or Blackberry device.</p> <p>"Do you get the impression this governor doesn't want coverage, doesn't want to answer any questions?" asked Barbara Bartoletti of The League of Women Voters. "Wasn't this the governor who said he would have the most transparent administration in history? Well it hasn't turned out that way. He doesn't seem to let people know he is going to be somewhere unless he is handing out money or responding to a disaster."</p> <p>John Kaehny, of Reinvent Albany, said that from his perspective the governor's office has been ahead of the game on releasing the governor's schedules when compared to other elected officials, albeit months after the fact. Kaehny points to the administration's information portal that is updated every few months with the governor's past schedules, including the names of groups and people he meets with. "We're happy to have more complete schedules later, rather than faster, less specific schedules right now," said Kaehny, who acknowledged it might be different for the press.</p> <p>"The state website allows searches by name so you can see what meetings they've had with the governor," explained Kaehny. "That isn't comparable to anything [Mayor de Blasio] has at the moment. It's extremely useful."</p> <p>Azzopardi touted Cuomo's transparency website in a statement to Gotham Gazette: "This administration has proactively made more documents and data publicly available than any other in recent memory. The governor's final schedules are publicly posted on <a href="http://www.ny.gov/citizens-connect" target="_blank">CitizenConnects</a> and have been since the beginning of this administration."</p> <p>Cuomo's schedules have been shown to have at least a hole or two. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303918204577448873258019752" target="_blank">reported</a> that Cuomo's schedules did not show an October fundraiser where the Governor was pitched on a massive casino project by Genting, a group that had given millions to a lobbying group created at the governor's behest. Administration officials said the omission was a mistake.</p> <p>Blair Horner, of the New York Public Interest Research Group, noted that compared to Albany standards where the leaders rarely announce their plans to the public, Cuomo's scheduling isn't particularly concerning.</p> <p>For others however, it is concerning that the governor who pledged utmost transparency appears to only be interested in interacting with the public of his choosing and has limited his press interaction.</p> <p>"Is he afraid of the press or does he think New Yorkers aren't interested in what their governor is doing?" asked Bartoletti. "I don't know why he wouldn't want to be more visible."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

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Mostly Questions and Criticism Ahead of Cuomo Email Summit 2015-05-18T23:23:22+00:00 2015-05-18T23:23:22+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5731:mostly-questions-and-criticism-ahead-of-cuomo-email-summit Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/17310795920_f92a63b167_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Indian Point" height="406" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Friday - the Friday of Memorial Day weekend - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a summit on email retention policy. It is a much-anticipated meeting that a large number of key stakeholders don't see a need for, and it's unclear what attendance will look like in terms of representation from the major entities in state government being called together to agree on a uniform approach to keeping and deleting official emails.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/17310795920_f92a63b167_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Indian Point" height="406" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo:&nbsp;Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)</span></p> <hr /> <p>On Friday - the Friday of Memorial Day weekend - Gov. Andrew Cuomo will host a summit on email retention policy. It is a much-anticipated meeting that a large number of key stakeholders don't see a need for, and it's unclear what attendance will look like in terms of representation from the major entities in state government being called together to agree on a uniform approach to keeping and deleting official emails.</p> Albany Sunshine Week Looked Like an Eclipse to Advocates 2015-03-24T02:46:58+00:00 2015-03-24T02:46:58+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5648:sunshine-week-in-albany-looked-like-an-eclipse-to-advocates Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16848145051_18bf6240d8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie ethics" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo and Heastie embrace over ethics deal (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>The Cuomo administration and the state Legislature are doing battle on a variety of fronts, perhaps none more intense than that over ethics reform. Last week, the administration launched a two-pronged attack in response to criticism of its 90-day email deletion policy and over a push for increased financial disclosure by administration employees and their significant others.</p> <p>The pushback came during Sunshine Week, when state government is supposed to be focused on transparency and accountability. And while there were several announcements related to efforts to let more sunshine into government, the week was dominated by bickering. Cuomo's office was often focused on deflecting attention back onto the Legislature with surprisingly ugly attacks, even by Albany standards, rather than promoting transparency.</p> <p>"Instead of sunshine we have an eclipse," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). "This is a Sunshine Week where the major players aren't even acknowledging the week with major initiatives. Instead we are fighting about whether the governor should automatically delete email after 90 days and disclosure for girlfriends."</p> <p>Past Sunshine Weeks have seen the announcement of major <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4903-new-york-government-transparency-open-data-sunshine-week" target="_blank">open-data portals</a> and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4186-transparency-in-albany-no-joke-technology-helping-pry-open-govt" target="_blank">other</a> transparency initiatives. To be sure, the governor is pushing his ethics reform package, and even announced a two-way deal with the state Assembly on measures to require lawmakers disclose their outside income, verify their presence in the capital to collect per diems, and more. But, controversy over the email purge and the limited nature of the ethics reform plans have often kept the governor and other legislators on the defensive.</p> <p>Cuomo responded to criticism of his email policy and new bills to require longer retention of government emails by insisting the Legislature must agree to be subject to FOIL for him to consider making changes. When pushed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Cuomo did declare that he is ready to revisit the policy and said he will be convening a summit around email retention.</p> <p>In response to the push for more financial disclosure from his administration and, specifically, his wealthy live-in girlfriend Sandra Lee - who Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/03/8564376/sandra-lee-partnership-exempt-cuomo-disclosure-rules" target="_blank">reported</a> has business with a company that has business before the State - Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi <a href="https://twitter.com/RichAzzopardi/status/578330877853188096" target="_blank">tweeted</a>, "The administration is glad to negotiate disclosure of all girlfriends," in a thinly-veiled insinuation that legislators have extra-marital relationships.</p> <p>"This is not anything that is personal," Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters of his push for Lee to disclose her income. He went on to declare interest in more disclosure from Cuomo's "minions," of which Azzopardi clearly qualifies. "You can find out where any of our council staff people went, how much they paid for lodging, their gas expenses, whatever they chit," Skelos said. "The governor, his staff, when they move their minions for a press conference, other than for security purposes, they don't have to disclose."</p> <p>"It is getting really nasty," Horner said of the debate over increased disclosure from legislators and the administration. "It is sort of embarrassing."</p> <p>Bills have been introduced that would do away with the executive's controversial policy that sees all state emails deleted after 90 days unless they are specifically saved. Advocates say the policy interferes with transparency and the freedom of information law, and state employees say it complicates their work.</p> <p>A bill introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell would both drastically reform the email retention policy and make the Legislature subject to FOIL. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/03/schneiderman-scraps-90-day-email-purge-policy/" target="_blank">ended</a> his office's 90-day email deletion policy and said it would be formulating a new one, provoking Cuomo to act.</p> <p>On March 12 Cuomo called for a state government summit on email and transparency, but a date has not yet been set. "We believe the policy should honor transparency while maintaining efficiency," Cuomo's head spokesperson Melissa DeRosa said in a statement. "To that end, as the Attorney General and the legislature appear open to revising their policies, the governor's office will convene a meeting with representatives from the Legislature, the attorney general and the comptroller to come up with one uniform email retention and [Freedom of Information Law] policy that applies to all state officials and agencies."</p> <p>With no sign of a conference in sight Krueger and O'Donnell issued a statement on the 18th calling on Cuomo to end his policy regardless of a conference. "We don't need to hold a summit before we halt the current indefensible email deletion policy," said O'Donnell. "An immediate suspension and then a summit as soon as possible will enable us to have the intelligent conversation we need regarding a unified state policy." Krueger noted that Schneiderman did not wait for a summit to end his policy.</p> <p>John Kaehny of good government group Reinvent Albany said that it is "unfortunate" that Sunshine Week was dominated by the email deletion policy, and calls the policy a "big step backwards" that could be adjusted quickly, thereby ending the public outcry against it.</p> <p>Last Tuesday, perhaps looking to break up a newscycle dominated by his email policy, Cuomo made an impromptu announcement of an ethics package that he had agreed to with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie but not Skelos, who heads the Senate. <a href="http://www.cityandstateny.com/2/politics/new-york-state-articles/new-york-executive-chamber/two-party-ethics-deal-announced-as-senate-remains-quiet.html#.VRCBKPnF_ng" target="_blank">The agreement</a> would require tighter disclosure of legislators' outside income, take pensions away from officials convicted of corruption offenses, force lawmakers to check in with a swipe card to collect per diem reimbursements, and tighten rules pertaining to the personal use of campaign funds.</p> <p>Skelos rejected the package for not holding the Executive to the same disclosure standards as the Legislature and good government groups criticized it for not going far enough, especially considering the indictment of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>The announcement also came on the heels of Schneiderman's unveiling of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">a drastic reform package</a> that would create a full-time Legislature, among other sweeping reforms. Schneiderman explicitly stated that he was pushing the conversation further than the governor and that incremental steps at ethics reform would no longer suffice. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">His proposals</a> are likely to go nowhere any time soon.</p> <p>Sunshine Week did have its moments in the advancement of government transparency. Schneiderman's office announced that it will release an application programming interface, or API, that will allow app developers to use data from the Attorney General's <a href="http://nyopengovernment.com/NYOG/" target="_blank">NYopengovernment.com</a> database. Kaehny and Schneiderman's office believe the API will make it easier for programmers to provide real-time data analysis of things like campaign finance, lobbying, and state contracts. "Giving the public direct access to this data will help shine a much-needed light on our state government," Schneiderman said in a statement.</p> <p>The Senate passed a bill that would codify its practice of livecasting its proceedings and posting votes to the internet - the catch is that the Assembly would also have to pass the same bill. The Senate has passed the bill for years while the Assembly has refused to consider it.</p> <p>The Assembly, meanwhile, passed <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/230940/assembly-passes-sunshine-week-package" target="_blank">a slew</a> of one-house bills that work at strengthening response to freedom of information requests.</p> <p>"This Sunshine Week was all about passing the buck," said Horner.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16848145051_18bf6240d8_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo Heastie ethics" height="401" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Cuomo and Heastie embrace over ethics deal (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>The Cuomo administration and the state Legislature are doing battle on a variety of fronts, perhaps none more intense than that over ethics reform. Last week, the administration launched a two-pronged attack in response to criticism of its 90-day email deletion policy and over a push for increased financial disclosure by administration employees and their significant others.</p> <p>The pushback came during Sunshine Week, when state government is supposed to be focused on transparency and accountability. And while there were several announcements related to efforts to let more sunshine into government, the week was dominated by bickering. Cuomo's office was often focused on deflecting attention back onto the Legislature with surprisingly ugly attacks, even by Albany standards, rather than promoting transparency.</p> <p>"Instead of sunshine we have an eclipse," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). "This is a Sunshine Week where the major players aren't even acknowledging the week with major initiatives. Instead we are fighting about whether the governor should automatically delete email after 90 days and disclosure for girlfriends."</p> <p>Past Sunshine Weeks have seen the announcement of major <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4903-new-york-government-transparency-open-data-sunshine-week" target="_blank">open-data portals</a> and <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/4186-transparency-in-albany-no-joke-technology-helping-pry-open-govt" target="_blank">other</a> transparency initiatives. To be sure, the governor is pushing his ethics reform package, and even announced a two-way deal with the state Assembly on measures to require lawmakers disclose their outside income, verify their presence in the capital to collect per diems, and more. But, controversy over the email purge and the limited nature of the ethics reform plans have often kept the governor and other legislators on the defensive.</p> <p>Cuomo responded to criticism of his email policy and new bills to require longer retention of government emails by insisting the Legislature must agree to be subject to FOIL for him to consider making changes. When pushed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Cuomo did declare that he is ready to revisit the policy and said he will be convening a summit around email retention.</p> <p>In response to the push for more financial disclosure from his administration and, specifically, his wealthy live-in girlfriend Sandra Lee - who Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/03/8564376/sandra-lee-partnership-exempt-cuomo-disclosure-rules" target="_blank">reported</a> has business with a company that has business before the State - Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi <a href="https://twitter.com/RichAzzopardi/status/578330877853188096" target="_blank">tweeted</a>, "The administration is glad to negotiate disclosure of all girlfriends," in a thinly-veiled insinuation that legislators have extra-marital relationships.</p> <p>"This is not anything that is personal," Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters of his push for Lee to disclose her income. He went on to declare interest in more disclosure from Cuomo's "minions," of which Azzopardi clearly qualifies. "You can find out where any of our council staff people went, how much they paid for lodging, their gas expenses, whatever they chit," Skelos said. "The governor, his staff, when they move their minions for a press conference, other than for security purposes, they don't have to disclose."</p> <p>"It is getting really nasty," Horner said of the debate over increased disclosure from legislators and the administration. "It is sort of embarrassing."</p> <p>Bills have been introduced that would do away with the executive's controversial policy that sees all state emails deleted after 90 days unless they are specifically saved. Advocates say the policy interferes with transparency and the freedom of information law, and state employees say it complicates their work.</p> <p>A bill introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell would both drastically reform the email retention policy and make the Legislature subject to FOIL. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/03/schneiderman-scraps-90-day-email-purge-policy/" target="_blank">ended</a> his office's 90-day email deletion policy and said it would be formulating a new one, provoking Cuomo to act.</p> <p>On March 12 Cuomo called for a state government summit on email and transparency, but a date has not yet been set. "We believe the policy should honor transparency while maintaining efficiency," Cuomo's head spokesperson Melissa DeRosa said in a statement. "To that end, as the Attorney General and the legislature appear open to revising their policies, the governor's office will convene a meeting with representatives from the Legislature, the attorney general and the comptroller to come up with one uniform email retention and [Freedom of Information Law] policy that applies to all state officials and agencies."</p> <p>With no sign of a conference in sight Krueger and O'Donnell issued a statement on the 18th calling on Cuomo to end his policy regardless of a conference. "We don't need to hold a summit before we halt the current indefensible email deletion policy," said O'Donnell. "An immediate suspension and then a summit as soon as possible will enable us to have the intelligent conversation we need regarding a unified state policy." Krueger noted that Schneiderman did not wait for a summit to end his policy.</p> <p>John Kaehny of good government group Reinvent Albany said that it is "unfortunate" that Sunshine Week was dominated by the email deletion policy, and calls the policy a "big step backwards" that could be adjusted quickly, thereby ending the public outcry against it.</p> <p>Last Tuesday, perhaps looking to break up a newscycle dominated by his email policy, Cuomo made an impromptu announcement of an ethics package that he had agreed to with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie but not Skelos, who heads the Senate. <a href="http://www.cityandstateny.com/2/politics/new-york-state-articles/new-york-executive-chamber/two-party-ethics-deal-announced-as-senate-remains-quiet.html#.VRCBKPnF_ng" target="_blank">The agreement</a> would require tighter disclosure of legislators' outside income, take pensions away from officials convicted of corruption offenses, force lawmakers to check in with a swipe card to collect per diem reimbursements, and tighten rules pertaining to the personal use of campaign funds.</p> <p>Skelos rejected the package for not holding the Executive to the same disclosure standards as the Legislature and good government groups criticized it for not going far enough, especially considering the indictment of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.</p> <p>The announcement also came on the heels of Schneiderman's unveiling of <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">a drastic reform package</a> that would create a full-time Legislature, among other sweeping reforms. Schneiderman explicitly stated that he was pushing the conversation further than the governor and that incremental steps at ethics reform would no longer suffice. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5634-schneiderman-unveils-ethics-plan-to-cure-the-disease" target="_blank">His proposals</a> are likely to go nowhere any time soon.</p> <p>Sunshine Week did have its moments in the advancement of government transparency. Schneiderman's office announced that it will release an application programming interface, or API, that will allow app developers to use data from the Attorney General's <a href="http://nyopengovernment.com/NYOG/" target="_blank">NYopengovernment.com</a> database. Kaehny and Schneiderman's office believe the API will make it easier for programmers to provide real-time data analysis of things like campaign finance, lobbying, and state contracts. "Giving the public direct access to this data will help shine a much-needed light on our state government," Schneiderman said in a statement.</p> <p>The Senate passed a bill that would codify its practice of livecasting its proceedings and posting votes to the internet - the catch is that the Assembly would also have to pass the same bill. The Senate has passed the bill for years while the Assembly has refused to consider it.</p> <p>The Assembly, meanwhile, passed <a href="http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/230940/assembly-passes-sunshine-week-package" target="_blank">a slew</a> of one-house bills that work at strengthening response to freedom of information requests.</p> <p>"This Sunshine Week was all about passing the buck," said Horner.</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> Outside Experts, Inside Employees Agree: Cuomo's Email Purge Misguided 2015-03-06T00:45:01+00:00 2015-03-06T00:45:01+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5618:outside-experts-inside-employees-agree-cuomos-email-purge-misguided Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16386730649_2c2c3d4c7a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don't feel qualified to implement it and that it isn't good for their productivity.</p> <p>According to a number of state workers who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity, regular work habits have been disrupted by the policy that sees emails purged after three months. They say that the policy costs them time because to abide by it they are forced to weigh the State's monumentally large email retention policy against the purge policy, and then ferret out and save important emails.</p> <p>There is also concern that losing emails will disrupt workflow because employees won't be able to refer back to previous conversations by searching their inboxes, as people often do.</p> <p>The State began the program after consolidating a myriad of email systems into Microsoft Office 365. Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8562835/cuomo-administration-begins-large-scale-email-purges" target="_blank">reported</a> the start of the program last week. The program actually gives the administrator the ability to purge employee emails after one day. A coalition of technology- and transparency-minded groups including Reinvent Albany and the NYCLU wrote the governor last month to oppose implementation of the program, arguing that it would cripple Freedom of Information Act laws (FOIL).</p> <p>"This policy was adopted without public notice or comment," reads the letter. "Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act."</p> <p>Cuomo's IT chief Maggie Miller <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8563051/cuomo-it-chief-grilled-over-email-purges" target="_blank">was grilled</a> about the policy during a budget hearing last week. She defended the policy, saying in part, "It's also a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources." In terms of concern over space issues and expense, Microsoft Office 365 offers decades worth of email retention.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has billed the deletion program as a way to improve efficiency, but workers say it's a hinderance and that they don't feel qualified to decide which emails should be saved in case of lawsuits or FOIL requests. "This just isn't my job," said one employee.</p> <p>State rules pertaining to what emails should be saved <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/why-is-cuomo-administration-automatically-deleting-state-employees-emails" target="_blank">are extensive</a> - they take up 118 pages and 215 separate categories.</p> <p>State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, told Gotham Gazette that she learned of the policy during that budget hearing and was "horrified."</p> <p>"How many state employees understand the language in the policy about what should be preserved?" Kruger asked. "I asked three FOIL lawyers how complicated it is and whether a layman could interpret the rules and they laughed."</p> <p>Krueger has a bill in the works that would overturn the 90-day policy and establish retention timelines for different areas of government. The bill would add electronic communication to the state's archive laws. She says her legislation will be complicated because it covers so many areas, but takes some inspiration from the Federal Capstone Email Management Policy. It would also make all branches of government, including the Legislature, subject to FOIL. Krueger said she expects bill drafting to be complete in about a week.</p> <p>There is concern among some legislators and advocates who want to stop Cuomo's policy that Krueger's bill is too far-reaching to actually pass. One legislator told Gotham Gazette with condition of anonymity that they felt making the Legislature subject to FOIL is actually a "poison pill," and virtually guarantees it will not pass.</p> <p>Krueger said that her bill is not designed as an attack on Cuomo. "I hope this is a situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Maybe the governor made a mistake. This isn't a spat. I'm not here to go 'Ha, ha! I caught you screwing up!' I am here to repair [the situation] because I care about the democratic process."</p> <p>Although the uproar over the policy has been sudden and sharp it isn't exactly surprising that the Cuomo administration implemented it. The administration is known for being extremely secretive, and has been working on the implementation of the program for years.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's primary opponent from last year and author of a book on political corruption, has slammed the policy and pointed out that Cuomo is under federal investigation for tampering with The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.</p> <p>"Everyone knows that Albany - all of it, executive and legislative - has a corruption problem. Some of it's legal, some of it's illegal," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. " At this particular moment, with such low trust in Albany, there's no excuse for an email deletion policy. He should be opening the books, not burning them after three months. Transparency isn't the full answer. X-rays don't cure patients. But you need them to figure out what's going on."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/16386730649_2c2c3d4c7a_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office via flickr)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Governor Andrew Cuomo's new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don't feel qualified to implement it and that it isn't good for their productivity.</p> <p>According to a number of state workers who spoke to Gotham Gazette on the condition of anonymity, regular work habits have been disrupted by the policy that sees emails purged after three months. They say that the policy costs them time because to abide by it they are forced to weigh the State's monumentally large email retention policy against the purge policy, and then ferret out and save important emails.</p> <p>There is also concern that losing emails will disrupt workflow because employees won't be able to refer back to previous conversations by searching their inboxes, as people often do.</p> <p>The State began the program after consolidating a myriad of email systems into Microsoft Office 365. Capital New York <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8562835/cuomo-administration-begins-large-scale-email-purges" target="_blank">reported</a> the start of the program last week. The program actually gives the administrator the ability to purge employee emails after one day. A coalition of technology- and transparency-minded groups including Reinvent Albany and the NYCLU wrote the governor last month to oppose implementation of the program, arguing that it would cripple Freedom of Information Act laws (FOIL).</p> <p>"This policy was adopted without public notice or comment," reads the letter. "Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that the inevitable destruction of email records under your 90-day automatic deletion policy directly undermines other public accountability laws like the False Claims Act."</p> <p>Cuomo's IT chief Maggie Miller <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/02/8563051/cuomo-it-chief-grilled-over-email-purges" target="_blank">was grilled</a> about the policy during a budget hearing last week. She defended the policy, saying in part, "It's also a matter of, actually, encouraging good behavior, prudent and responsible use of state resources." In terms of concern over space issues and expense, Microsoft Office 365 offers decades worth of email retention.</p> <p>The Cuomo administration has billed the deletion program as a way to improve efficiency, but workers say it's a hinderance and that they don't feel qualified to decide which emails should be saved in case of lawsuits or FOIL requests. "This just isn't my job," said one employee.</p> <p>State rules pertaining to what emails should be saved <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/why-is-cuomo-administration-automatically-deleting-state-employees-emails" target="_blank">are extensive</a> - they take up 118 pages and 215 separate categories.</p> <p>State Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, told Gotham Gazette that she learned of the policy during that budget hearing and was "horrified."</p> <p>"How many state employees understand the language in the policy about what should be preserved?" Kruger asked. "I asked three FOIL lawyers how complicated it is and whether a layman could interpret the rules and they laughed."</p> <p>Krueger has a bill in the works that would overturn the 90-day policy and establish retention timelines for different areas of government. The bill would add electronic communication to the state's archive laws. She says her legislation will be complicated because it covers so many areas, but takes some inspiration from the Federal Capstone Email Management Policy. It would also make all branches of government, including the Legislature, subject to FOIL. Krueger said she expects bill drafting to be complete in about a week.</p> <p>There is concern among some legislators and advocates who want to stop Cuomo's policy that Krueger's bill is too far-reaching to actually pass. One legislator told Gotham Gazette with condition of anonymity that they felt making the Legislature subject to FOIL is actually a "poison pill," and virtually guarantees it will not pass.</p> <p>Krueger said that her bill is not designed as an attack on Cuomo. "I hope this is a situation where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. Maybe the governor made a mistake. This isn't a spat. I'm not here to go 'Ha, ha! I caught you screwing up!' I am here to repair [the situation] because I care about the democratic process."</p> <p>Although the uproar over the policy has been sudden and sharp it isn't exactly surprising that the Cuomo administration implemented it. The administration is known for being extremely secretive, and has been working on the implementation of the program for years.</p> <p>Zephyr Teachout, Cuomo's primary opponent from last year and author of a book on political corruption, has slammed the policy and pointed out that Cuomo is under federal investigation for tampering with The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.</p> <p>"Everyone knows that Albany - all of it, executive and legislative - has a corruption problem. Some of it's legal, some of it's illegal," Teachout told Gotham Gazette. " At this particular moment, with such low trust in Albany, there's no excuse for an email deletion policy. He should be opening the books, not burning them after three months. Transparency isn't the full answer. X-rays don't cure patients. But you need them to figure out what's going on."</p> <p>***<br />by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/DavidHowardKing" target="_blank">@DavidHowardKing</a></p>