Mayor trips should be logged: Vallone

City Councilman Peter Vallone (l.) testifies at a March hearing on the mayor's response to the Dec. 26, 2010 snowstorm. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) wants the city to know when the mayor is many miles away from Gotham.

To ensure that the city is not caught off-guard with a top dog who has gone AWOL, Vallone has proposed a bill to amend the City Charter to require Michael Bloomberg and any future mayor to notify the city clerk when the head honcho is resting his head far from Gracie Mansion.

The bill comes in response to the city’s response to the Dec. 26 snowstorm, which Bloomberg himself described as “inadequate” and “unsatisfactory.”

Bloomberg was visiting his home in Bermuda when the storm buried the city in snow, and his deputies were left with a situation that quickly became overwhelming after they made a number of miscalculations, including failing to activate the city’s emergency control center in time to adequately address the blizzard’s impact, the administration has admitted.

Snow blocked many city streets, particularly in Queens and Brooklyn, for five days after the storm, making it difficult for ambulances to reach people, preventing workers from getting to their jobs and otherwise hampering city operations for as much as a week.

The mayor’s office did not return repeated requests for comment on Vallone’s bill.

Vallone said he wants to ensure that such a situation does not arise again, so the bill would require the mayor to notify the city clerk when he is more than 250 miles from the city.

“It did arise out of the snowstorm, in that it drew attention to something we had not been thinking about prior to the snowstorm, and that is who’s in charge on the ground here in New York City at all times,” Vallone said.

But Vallone said the bill, which he has been working on for months, is not meant as a rebuke of Bloomberg but rather as an important stopgap to ensure that New York knows who is giving the orders if a terrorist attack or other earth-shattering disaster hits the city in the future.

Vallone wanted it to also require Bloomberg to establish a chain of command when he is away, but City Council lawyers told Vallone the Council does not have the authority to take that step.

“This bill is not aimed at this mayor and it’s not meant to deal with mayors’ private lives. It’s meant to deal with the next 9/11-type attack when phones aren’t working and planes are grounded,” Vallone said. “It’s meant to let the public know who’s got the authority to make crucial decisions in that situation at a moment’s notice.”

Vallone criticized an executive order Bloomberg filed that says that when a mayor is out of town, his or her deputy mayor is in charge. Vallone said the order does not resolve the issue because people outside the administration would still not necessarily know when a mayor is away.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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