Bloomberg Administration Resists Online Mandate, Citing User-Friendliness

Bloomberg administration officials just finished testifying at a City Council hearing at 250 Broadway on legislation that would require them to post more information online than ever.

Joe Pompeo previewed the legislation, and administration officials declined to comment on it at the time.

It is now clear that the administration disagrees pretty strongly, and views the potential requirements as a burden—the administration said complying with the legislation could cost as much as $500 million.

The bill’s author, City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, said she wants “raw data” the administration already collects to be posted online.

Sami Naim, assistant counselor to the mayor, testified that the data may be more accessible to the public if it’s “easy to use.” Brewer took this to mean that the data would be “processed” and therefore, not raw.

Joining Naim was Ariel Dvorkin, special assistant for policy and government for City Hall.

“Agency records encompass a lot of different categories,” Naim said. “You might have a thousand records that you can say in two lines. Our goal is to be as user-friendly with the public as possible.”

That led to a debate between them about who should be the focus of this type of initiative.

“We feel we further the goal of transparency the more user-friendly we can be,” said Naim. Later, he said, “Again, it starts with the customer. We build our entire initiatives, all our applications, around the customer.”

Brewer criticized that approach because, she said, most people don’t know what government does, and therefore aren’t in a position to know what information to ask for. She said she wanted an explicit policy that would determine what information the administration would release, rather than respond to what is already being searched and asked for.

“So, do you have a published, technical standards manual for the publication of city government data on the Net? Or do you just say that if somebody is interested in this topic, we’ll put it up?” asked Brewer.

“It’s not how much paper can you put up on the Internet,” Naim said. “It’s more, ‘How much can you engage New Yorkers.’” He went on to say, “It starts and ends with the customer.”

Brewer said, “I think you need to have a technical policy. You need to have standards—"

“Well, we’re already taking ourselves away from the customer,” Naim said.

Bloomberg Administration Resists Online Mandate, Citing User-Friendliness