The Council's Right: Bloomberg Needs to Let Us Know

Even the Mayor deserves some privacy. Despite his heavy responsibilities, he shouldn’t be forced to sign in and out like a factory worker.

That would seem to be fair. But it isn’t how the world of New York works.

The Mayor doesn’t have time to be alone, far from the cares of state. He doesn’t have time to duck out to Bermuda without letting New Yorkers know where he’s going or for how long.  He should have time to walk along a beach, read a book  or become invisible for a weekend. But he doesn’t. 

He doesn’t have that kind of time. He is different from the rest of us because of the job he expended so many millions of dollars and so much energy to get. Being mayor of New York has been described as the second toughest job in the world. And maybe it is. You have to be on 24-hour duty for the 1461 days of your term. That’s the job.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.  thinks being mayor is a unique position. And that’s why he has introduced some legislation to keep closer tabs on the mayor’s whereabouts. What happened during that first paralyzing snowstorm this winter is still a mystery.  And Vallone wants that corrected. 

The mayor refused to say where he and his top aides were during that unhappy blizzard. As New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro puts it, he refused “to disclose where he and his top lieutenants were when his administration botched the cleanup of the Christmas weekend blizzard, creating confusion about who was in charge.”

I remember when I was in the Navy, even the captain of our tiny ship felt obliged to inform fellow officers exactly where he was at all times. Does the skipper of New York City have a less important role?

Vallone wants to require a sign-out sheet for the mayor. During a crisis, he says, “no time should be wasted trying to figure out who is in power.” His proposed legislation would force City Hall to disclose whenever the chief executive leaves town and whom he leaves in charge.

A spokesman for the Mayor, Stu Loeser, said such legislation was unnecessary because the mayor never fully gives up his authority. “Leadership and decision-making powers of the mayoralty remain with the person who was elected mayor.”

It is certainly the prerogative of anyone in private or public life to have privacy. But there are limits placed on all of us in our daily lives. And Vallone’s bill should be carefully considered.

The City Council hearing on who was in charge or responsible during the snowstorm was a bit crazy. It was as though an iron curtain had descended over City Hall and its occupants---and neither the public, the Council nor the press was permitted to pry into the whereabouts of any public official.

Democracy can be inconvenient, but it’s still the best system we know. And it should extend even to City Hall. 

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