A transparent government is an honest government. Here's how you can find out if local government agencies share information with you, the voter.
A transparency checklist is a list of website transparency features that, ideally, voters and regular citizens in any part of the United States will be able to find when they visit the websites of counties, cities, school districts, and state agencies.
Sunshine Review believes that citizens are entitled to this information in order to effectively exercise their right to hold politicians and public officials accountable. (See No taxation without information.)
THE "MY GOVERNMENT WEBSITE" PROJECT
The The "My Government Website" Project is a project of Sunshine Review, the Sam Adams Alliance and people from all around the country to collaboratively determine the extent to which government-managed websites contain the information people need.
While steps like the Freedom of Information Act have lead to a more open government the burden should fall on the state to make this information accessible to the public. Below are some of the topics which could be covered or expanded:
Budgets: The website should include the current budget. Bonus points if the website shows the budgets for previous years, and a graph showing increases or decreases over time to help citizens evaluate and understand trends in local government spending. The checkbook register and credit card receipts would also be welcome.
Open meeting laws should include notices about public meetings of its governing board, and minutes of past meetings. Also check for Meeting Agendas for future and/or past meetings.
Elected Officials should include names of elected officials, and their contact information, including email addresses. Also we should be able to see an elected official's voting record.
Administrative Officials should be listed on government websites. The website should include the names of key administrators, and their contact information, including e-mail addresses.
Audits: The website should include regular audits of state agencies and departments, including the Governor and the Assembly; audit results posted online; scheduled financial audits posted online; and performance audits for state programs.
Contracts: The website should include rules governing contracts posted online; bids and contracts for purchases over $10,000 must be posted online; and vendor campaign contributions posted with contract.
Lobbying: If the unit of government belongs to any lobbying associations that it helps to fund by paying association or membership dues, that information should be disclosed on the government unit's website.
Taxes: The website should include the central location for all tax information, including state "fees" such as drivers' licenses; Tax documents for all elected officials and each agency discloses all sources of revenue.
From Sunshine Review.org Monday, July 14, 2008