City Hall Confrontation Shows Transparency Problems in Mayor’s Office

Marcia Kramer is shushed by Karen Hinton, defended by everyone else

City Hall reporter Marcia Kramer confronted Mayor de Blasio's press secretary about transparency yesterday.
City Hall reporter Marcia Kramer confronted Mayor de Blasio’s press secretary about transparency yesterday. (Photo: Twitter)

The City Hall press corps was abuzz yesterday after Marcia Kramer, chief political correspondent for CBS 2, confronted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary Karen Hinton about transparency.

Mr. de Blasio promised during his campaign to run the most transparent administration ever, but he has restricted the topics for press conferences, only taking pre-approved “off topic” questions at specific times (most recently on Tuesday).

Reporters’ frustrations with the mayor’s office came to a head on Wednesday when Ms. Kramer confronted Ms. Hinton, saying that Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor Michael Bloomberg held general press availability three to four times a week, and by that standard the current mayor is not being transparent.

“The definition of transparent is not when a reporter decides he or she wants to ask a question, the mayor must stop and answer that question,” Ms. Hinton responded. “That does not equal transparency.”

The exchange took place during Wednesday’s bill signing on fire safety, a public event. Ms. Hinton said the mayor would not take questions, but Ms. Kramer asked two anyway, one about transparency and one about a homeless encampment in Soho. Mr. de Blasio left the room while Ms. Kramer was speaking.

The mayor’s only scheduled press conference on general topics this week is today in Puerto Rico—he is attending the Somos El Futuro conference there .

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is attending the same conference, and during his media availability today (at which Ms. Kramer was present) the governor made a subtle dig at Mr. de Blasio.

“I’ll take any question from you that you want to ask,” Mr. Cuomo told Ms. Kramer.

Ms. Kramer will be at Mr. de Blasio’s press conference in San Juan later today.

Fellow reporters also came to Ms. Kramer’s defense on social media. Most notably, Gabe Pressman, a 91-year-old senior correspondent for WNBC, posted a lengthy critique of Mr. de Blasio on Facebook.

“I’ve been covering press conferences at City Hall for 60 years—and never has a Mayor had the temerity to enforce an agenda on journalists,” Mr. Pressman wrote. “This Mayor who proclaims he is a ‘progressive’ is anything but. The word ‘retrogressive’ might be a better fit.”

Mr. Pressman and the New York Press Club have been critical of Mr. de Blasio’s distinction between “on topic” and “off topic” questions since he took office. City Hall Confrontation Shows Transparency Problems in Mayor’s Office