The Daily Q: Could city review of required government reports limit public disclosure?

Today a new city task force – the Report and Advisory Board Review Commission –will hold its first meeting. No, that’s not a joke. With the blessing of voters, who approved an amendment to the City Charter in 2010, this special commission to take a look at hundreds of other commissions on the books – each of which must produce public reports – and decide which of the reports ought to be eliminated.

The City Charter Revision Commission explained the need for the commission this way: “While many of these reports, including the Mayor’s Management Report, are frequently used by city managers and the public, many others are no longer produced, and many are no longer relevant or necessary and may cause agencies to draw on time and resources in producing them.”

We want to know: What are some of the reports and advisory boards under scrutiny by the commission, and are there any we should worry about losing?

If you have information or insights to share, please comment below, write us, or tweet to @thenyworld.

What we found

Hidden in the thousands of pages of New York City’s charter and administrative code are provisions ordering city agencies and commissions to produce reports on their work. A peek at a few such requirements suggests the new commission on commissions could consider eliminating some reports that have genuine public value – or at least would if they were actually produced or shared with the public. 
– The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is responsible for producing an annual report on of the city’s 1992 Tobacco Product Regulation Act. According to the city’s administrative code this report should be presented to the city council and mayor annually. The department confirmed that it does not produce the report.

– The City Charter requires the city’s Veterans’ Advisory Board, a group of nine former service members, to submit an annual report to the mayor and city council. The Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs confirmed that the report does exist – and that it can only be obtained through a freedom of information request.

– The Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee follows through on its mandate submit a report to the Mayor and the council every year. Its report is made public.

– Under the city charter, every four years the City Planning Commission is supposed to send a long-term planning report to the mayor, City Council, Public Advocate and borough presidents summarizing the commission’s activities and policy for future development in New York City. The Department of City Planning, run by the Commission’s chair, Amanda Burden, nods to this sprawling obligation with a brief “strategic blueprint” served up via PowerPoint.

If the Report and Advisory Board Review Commission determines that any of these or hundreds of other reports are not necessary, it will have the power to recommend their termination.

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