Monday, December 22, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: A New Smackdown Dance for Mayor de Blasio

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Mayor de Blasio may be looking for the reboot button in his office in City Hall.

On Friday, the mayor tried to shove a square peg into a round hole, refusing to take any "off-topic" questions after holding a filibuster of a news conference about a deal that could keep a health-care facility at the site of Long Island College Hospital.

De Blasio viewed the agreement as a day of triumph, particularly because an early turning point in his mayoral campaign came last July when he was arrested in an act of civil disobedience to protest the planned hospital closure.

But it’s a more recent illegal activity that’s garnering headlines and reporters' attention – as the mayor’s car last week was caught by WCBS-TV running stop signs and speeding following a press conference.

Outside his home on Friday morning, the mayor ducked questions about this headache, saying he'd answer them at his afternoon press conference – a promise he badly broke by only reading a brief statement and then walking out in front of a stunned press corps.

It was a haughty move from the Nixon playbook by a man who has preached openness and transparency throughout his career. Why bother holding press conferences if you get to tell reporters what questions they can ask you? Public policy is often messy and unpredictable – not political kabuki.

It is amazing that in less than two months de Blasio's relationship with the press corps has devolved into such a weird mess. While the New York Post beat him like a drum throughout last year's mayoral campaign, the rest of the media coverage was largely friendly; reporters viewed de Blasio and his family as a breath of fresh air after covering the less-than-colorful Michael Bloomberg for twelve years. But the joyous de Blasio family "smackdown" celebration from primary night has morphed into a very different kind of a dance move.

The mayor this morning is trying to bury the hatchet with NBC's Al Roker on the "Today" show over his refusal to close school following a snow storm. But de Blasio should probably be focusing less on a famous meteorologist and more on the reporters who actually cover him at City Hall. Walking out when the questions get tough creates a forecast for a very stormy four years.

Bob Hardt

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