Local Spotlight: The Importance of Being Transparency

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In Connecticut, Red Notes from a Blue State has a post comparing how advanced Florida transparency laws are to Connecticut.

Someday — hopefully soon — transparency will come to Connecticut, and it will change the whole political landscape. Transparency opens government of any kind – state, municipal and federal – to as many people as are affected by political transactions, which is to say all citizens of the state.

The concept is shockingly simple: Put on the internet all governmental transactions, including pricing, and the flow of information will be enhanced between the government and the people, the government and its vendors, the government and intergovernmental agencies and the government and the media. It is crucial to require that no legislation shall be passed until five days have elapsed after the posting. In this way, any possible disadvantages in bills may be corrected though input provided by watchful citizens.

It is often said that the media is our public watchdog, which is true enough. But transparency turns every citizen who has access to a computer into a public watchdog.

There are three kinds of transparency: opaque transparency, semi-transparent transparency, and transparent transparency. The opaque version is simply pretense at true participatory democracy; the semi- transparent kind creates the illusion of transparency; and then there is the genuine article.

The key to transparency is that (ITALICS) all (END ITALICS) governmental functions should be included in the mix. Would that include teacher contracts or contracts between towns and any vendor that accepts tax money from the state or municipalities?

It would. “All” means all.

Florida is a true transparent state. According to Florida records, House Bill 971, passed in March of this year “requires the posting of ALL expenditures, regardless of amount, and now requires the posting of all salaries, revenues and agency indebtedness.” The bill “provides access to up-to-date information on state government revenues and expenditures through a single searchable website, accessible on http://www.myflorida.com/.” The website includes information “on the date, amount, and source of each expenditure, affording Floridians an unprecedented level of access to information on government spending.” The bill also establishes “a process for integrating information on local government revenues and expenditures into the Transparency Florida site.”

All states can have laws like this and even go further by not just stopping at a searchable Web site but also having real time disclosure. Connecticut might have a long way to go but it is not in the realm of impossibility. There have been a few bills that would ask the state to set up transparency portals. It is a matter of the governor and legislature knowing that their citizens want this information and more and more that is happening.

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