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De Blasio Answers Questions As CBS2's Marcia Kramer Grills Him In Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CBSNewYork) -- Following a report on Wednesday, CBS2 received a lot of encouragement over questions about Mayor Bill de Blasio's willingness to answer New Yorkers' concerns.

When CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer asked spokeswoman Karen Hinton on Wednesday why the mayor picks and chooses topics to address, and whether de Blasio was doing any other availabilities where he was taking general questions this week.

"He's going to Puerto Rico tomorrow to do the health care rally," Hinton said Tuesday. "He'll be having an avail tomorrow in Puerto Rico."

So Kramer packed her bags and flew to San Juan to demand answers Thursday.

Sunny Puerto Rico is a far cry from the pressing problems of homelessness and crime in New York City -- over 1,600 miles to be exact.

De Blasio was there to participate in a rally on the island nation's health care needs. But he agreed to answer questions both on- and off-topic, and loosened his tongue – at least for one day.

The mayor walked away when Kramer asked questions on Wednesday, but a day later in Puerto Rico, he made it a point to let Kramer grill him.

Kramer: "Mr. Mayor, some New Yorkers say you spend way too much time focused on issues outside New York City; you should be focusing on homeless and crime. Why are you here?"

De Blasio: "We're focused every day on fighting crime. That's why crime is down. That's why gun arrests are up. That's why we had the safest October in over 20 years in New York City's history. I think it's absolutely appropriate to be here."

The mayor said the federal government needs to pay more for health care in Puerto Rico, and he said what happens there affects some 700,000 people in New York City.

Kramer: "So do you think New Yorkers are wrong to criticize you?"

De Blasio: "It's never wrong to criticize. It's never wrong to question. But the bottom line is this matters to one in 10 New Yorkers."

But many New Yorkers have said that the mayor is not dealing adequately with local problems, and that he avoids tough questions from the press.

On Wednesday, Hinton told Kramer that asking the mayor a question about a public bill signing was off limits.

Still, Kramer tried.

"Mr. Mayor, will you answer a question? What about transparency, Mr. Mayor?" Kramer asked as de Blasio left the room.

These days, de Blasio only takes questions on topics that have been pre-approved about once a week, Kramer reported.

In Puerto Rico on Thursday, Kramer also asked de Blasio about his policy at news conferences.

Kramer: "Do you plan to take more off topic questions, Mr. Mayor?"

De Blasio:" We have a vision that we think is the right vision – we do press conferences throughout the week. There's going to be regular opportunities for off-topic questions. Obviously, we're going to focus on on-topic questions too. There's going to be many opportunities for journalists to talk to me about a number of things."

When Kramer asked how often he will take off-topic questions, the mayor walked away.

Meanwhile, public officials who joined de Blasio in Puerto Rico on Thursday also criticized his policy of avoiding off-topic questions.

"There's no such thing as an off-topic question," said city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also in Puerto Rico on Thursday.

"Are you taking off-topic questions today?" Kramer asked the governor.

"Marcia, I'll take any questions from you that you want to ask," Cuomo replied. "I'm going to refer them to the governor of Puerto Rico, but I'll take any question you ask."

The New York Press Club released a statement Thursday criticizing the mayor's practices for dealing with the media.

"When Bill de Blasio was elected mayor of New York, he promised transparency within his administration," said the group's president, Steve Scott. "Unfortunately, that transparency has been clouded by opaqueness. For generations, mayors of New York have been open to questions on all subjects. The 300+ members New York Press Club object to Mayor de Blasio's current policy, and ask that the Mayor reverse it in the interests of having an open -- and truly transparent -- administration."

Late Thursday, Mayor de Blasio announced he would hold a media availability at City Hall – without specifying any topic or agenda.

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