Mayor’s Open Government Grading System Would Likely Give His Administration Failing Grade for Unusually Long Response Time
Since August, Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) has been investigating a monopoly contract between the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and a company called Motivate — the operator of Citi Bike — which was acquired by Lyft in June 2018 for $250 million.
The contract between DOT and Motivate was given two 5-year contract extensions in December 2017, effectively giving Motivate monopoly power in prime NYC territories until 2029. Motivate was financially backed by several people with close ties to NYC government. In light of recent reporting by The New York Daily News on a “trove of internal emails” showing that powerful lobbyists had “immediate and unusual access” to the de Blasio administration, there are questions about the bikes contract that need answers.
C&BP has sent letters to two top NYC officials – Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg – who were key players in making decisions pertaining to the Motivate contract that asked questions about the bikes contract. In August, C&BP had also submitted New York City Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) records requests with DOT and the Mayor’s Office of Contracting Services to find out more about this monopoly contract.
Despite repeated follow-ups, neither Glen nor Trottenberg have responded to our inquiries other than to say they would have a response soon. C&BP had previously been told by NYC DOT in August that it would take up to nine months – until May 2019 – for C&BP’s FOIL requests to be processed. The Mayor’s Office of Contracting Services is also delaying production of records for similar FOIL requests until November.
Public Advocate de Blasio Would Give Mayor de Blasio an “F”
As DNAinfo reported years ago, Mr. de Blasio touted himself as a champion of government transparency and accountability while he was New York City’s Public Advocate. In 2013, de Blasio stated,
“Transparency and responsiveness in government decisions and policies engenders trust in our democratic process.”
As public advocate, de Blasio “criticized the New York Police Department (NYPD) for having 28 percent of the 1,883 FOIL requests it received in one quarter go unanswered for more than 60 days.” In a report that Public Advocate de Blasio issued in 2013, he gave the NYPD an “F” grade among a total of 18 City agencies that he evaluated.
If C&BP’s FOIL request to NYC DOT is not processed until May 2019 – that could mean more than 180 days with no records produced and important questions, like these, left unanswered.
- Why did NYC DOT extend its contract with Motivate until 2029?
- Why didn’t NYC DOT extend their contract with Motivate one time for 5 years considering the rapidly changing mobility landscape in the city?
- Who benefits from this 10-year extension?
- What is City Hall hiding from New York taxpayers about this monopoly contract?
Scott Peterson is executive director of Checks and Balances Project, an investigative blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from sustainable economy philanthropies and other donors.