We’ve asked all the mayoral candidates this question: How well does the freedom of information law work in New York City, and do you plan any changes to the FOIL system?
Monday, February 15, 12:59 PM
“It doesn’t work well. The City has made some important improvements, aligned with the State’s Open FOIL system, created in response to Reinvent Albany’s advocacy. But the current system is at least a decade behind current industry standards. NYC should know what types of requests are most common and automatically make those documents available. The City government must have an easy-to-use and powerful search functionality that works across agencies. The public should be able to subscribe to new documents based on request parameters, at minimum similar to Google Alerts. The public should not need to know in which agency the document exists. NYC should provide a self-serve customer support feature that allows a person to see where in the process the request is at any time. NYC should also enable common interaction features, like ratings on responses, comments, and other social features. NYC should also provide metrics on the backlog, average response times, number of requests, number of requests fulfilled, etc. in order to drive operational efficiency and accountability.
Tuesday, February 16, 9:27 AM
“Yes – I would focus on bringing our agencies’ data infrastructure into the 21st century so we can better respond to requests. Transparency is critical for a functioning government that New Yorkers can trust to get the job done. Today, our records management systems are underfunded and most agencies don’t have the headcount to move quickly or the ability to easily pull up records. As DSNY Commissioner, I brought the agency from a paper-based system (including paper route sheets for Sanitation Workers) to a fully modern, digital, searchable system. I also hired our first ever Records Management Officer to help address this problem.”
Tuesday, February 26, 11:06 AM
“As it relates to how well the process works I have not heard any complaints. However, I am in the process of submitting a request to see how well the system works. When I worked at the State Division of Housing we received FOIL request all the time and actually had a unit dedicated to completing FOIL request. It seemed to work well. I do think that we need more transparency in government. I was not able to locate a central repository of the request made and information provided. I think that would be helpful to ensuring that we don’t duplicate efforts as it pertains to information requested.”
Thursday, February 18, 8:27 PM
“Shaun supports making changes to The Freedom of Information Law system to ensure that government entities are responsive to inquiries in a timely manner.” (Yuridia Pena, campaign spokeswoman)
Friday, February 19, 10:40 AM
“New York City’s Freedom of Information Law provides for government transparency and accountability to the people it represents and serves. Under FOIL, the government must provide access to government records and documents upon request. New York City provides a web site that guides people through the process of preparing, submitting and filing these requests. Certain types of documents are exempt from FOIL due to privacy, security and other legally defined reasons, but FOIL also provides an appeal process for denied requests. This week, after a long court battle, the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld a federal district court’s ruling that New York City’s public safety unions must disclose disciplinary records to the public. While I do see both sides of this complicated issue, as mayor, I would uphold the law.”
Tuesday, February 23, 11:34 PM
“The Freedom of Information Law has been failing New Yorkers, particularly when it comes to inquiries from advocacy groups seeking prompt responses in the public interest. FOIL requests come with delays that often give the impression of intentional obstacles set by the government. Arbitrary delays, denials, and agency non-compliance with the law undermine trust in the accountability of public servants to the public they’re meant to serve. Our administration would work to rebuild the loss of public trust by speeding up the delivery of information, streamlining organizational processes, and developing audits and accountability measures to ensure compliance. “
Candidates Adams, McGuire, Menchaca, Stringer, Wiley, Wright and Yang have yet to submit an answer.