Last night, Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an impassioned speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, telling the pumped-up group: "Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel."
It was a rousing address that many New Yorkers – Jews and non-Jews – would have liked to have heard but for whatever reasons, the event was shuttered to the media. It was only because someone provided a tape of the speech to Capital NY reporter Sally Goldenberg that you can actually hear de Blasio talk about Israel; Azi Paybarah, a Capital NY reporter, was booted from the event.
When de Blasio spoke to an organization of powerful real-estate executives earlier this month, reporters were initially told that cameras weren't going to be allowed into the REBNY event – a decision that was reversed late in the day after pleas were made to City Hall by the Fourth Estate.
A similar move was made this week in the wake of Tuesday's snowstorm. After the mayor was criticized for not doing enough on the Upper East Side, the mayor went to the neighborhood to speak to some beleaguered residents. How do we know this? Because the mayor's office provided a photo to reporters of de Blasio talking with a woman wearing a fur hat near snowy Lexington Avenue.
After de Blasio won the mayoralty, his top aides appeared on NY1 and revealed that de Blasio sometimes made campaign stops that were not on his public schedule. That strategy seems to have made its unfortunate way to City Hall. Doing things below the radar as a candidate sometimes makes sense; it's secretive and dangerous when you're leading the city.
There's some irony in all of this because de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was correctly criticized for leaving the city on the weekends and not telling the public where he was headed. De Blasio has promised to tell the public when he's leaving town – as he did last weekend when he went on a trip to Rhode Island.
Bloomberg's public schedule, though, was littered with events like speeches to AIPAC and REBNY. The current mayor and his team need to learn that closing doors to seemingly-routine speeches raises questions and eyebrows – even when there may be no ulterior political motive to a freeze out.
Of course there will be certain events where the mayor's office understandably won't want a media horde traveling with Hizzoner. But he should take a lead from the White House and designate a "pool reporter" and a "pool camera" to travel with him. if it's good enough for Barack Obama, it should work for City Hall.
Postscript: On a personal note, I want to thank NY1's Senior Political Producer, Michael Nitzky, for all of the hard work he's logged with the unit over nearly nine years. Besides doing an amazing job at keeping "Inside City Hall" afloat and making all of our reporters and anchors (mostly) happy, Michael's keen intelligence, sardonic humor, and love of politics and sports has made him an ideal seatmate in the station's political pod for me. He's been a great co-worker and an even better friend and I'm going to miss him. It's his last day at the station.