Local Sunlight

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Every week I climb into the depths of the local political blogosphere to find the Sunlight. This week I have highlights from Pennsylvania, Texas, Hawaii and New York.

In Pennsylvania, Commonwealth Foundation has a post about the need for more transparency in the state contractor awarding system. The Department of General Services has been reprimanded for their lack of competitive bidding for state contracts.  Also quite problematic is that they don’t have any information on changes to contracts so taxpayers don’t have a good idea on how much they are spending.  The end of the post they ask for a state spending database, I’ll go a step forward and say they need a state database that is also updated in REAL TIME, so these change to contracts aren’t hidden through a slow update schedule.

Texas Watchdog has a post about one of the candidates for mayor of Houston, who made her’s and her partner’s personal tax returns public voluntarily to Texas Watchdog.  Her opponent has not responded to requests.  The tax forms are now online for citizens to see.  It is great to see candidates voluntarily submit their financial information to third party watchdogs.  Especially if the city or state don’t post that information publicly or don’t do it quick enough for citizens to see before they vote.

In Hawaii, Ian Lind has a post about an information request that the Department of Human Resources filled for him.  His version was complete with the information clear and not altered in anyway.  Hawaii has a Docushare system that provides information that was requested, however  the same document Ian requested has been altered to exclude information that he is able to see from his personal request.  There is clearly a problem with how documents go from the private request to the public system.  I hope they figure out a way to go from one to another without changing the document because this doesn’t serve the public trust.

In New York, Politics on the Hudson has a post about NYPIRG putting online the handwritten financial disclosure forms from state officials.  Lawmakers are required to file these forms but the law doesn’t require them to show how much they make in outside income or any outside dealings.  These forms should be online already it is a little ridiculous that they have to be computerized by a third party.  With the improvements that New York has been making I hope this is on their list to improve.

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  • Paula thanks so much for the comment. There is a community looking into school district transparency here.

    You should definitely add to this body of knowledge. I will definitely keep track of the Montgomery County site and please let me know when transparency initiatives on the local level.

    Nisha Thompson

  • Please read and highlight the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County (MD) blog (www.parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com) and the website, http://www.parentscoalitionmc.com. Montgomery County, MD is a county where democracy is on life support. It is pretty much a banana republic at this point. It would help us a great deal if you would publicize this on the Sunlight Foundation website and blog.

    The county public school system (MCPS) has a budget of ~2.2BILLION per year and there is absolutely no oversight or accountability. No laws apply to this school system or the superintendent (Jerry Weast) because the school system is not a state agency; and it is not a county agency either. So neither the county IG nor the state AG have any control on this corrupt system.

    Similarly, the Montgomery County Planning Board (appointed by the county council) is run by an autocrat who makes decisions that wreck communities. There is no accountability or law in this county. It is a nightmare.