States of Transparency: Ohio

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The Open Government Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we’re reviewing each state’s efforts in this direction.

This week: Ohio
Website: www.transparency.ohio.gov

Ohio’s open government site, transparency.ohio.gov, contains links to a few searchable databases; the results of one of them can even be downloaded as an Excel file. Unfortunately, the majority of the data cannot currently be downloaded.

Here’s a rundown of what is and isn’t available online:

Expenditures: The broad strokes — how much each agency spent per month — are downloadable as Excel files. (Click on “Spending Volumes 2010”.) To be useful, the data would have to be much more detailed.

Grants: Grant information is listed on each agency’s site (there’s a central page with links to each here). Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use the grant information in any comparative way, since it isn’t in one place and the bulk of it is in PDF format.

Salaries: Again, these are on static pages that aren’t searchable. Salaries of state employees are listed as gross income per pay period, in alphabetical order by agency.

Contracts: There’s a searchable database of current contracts here, but the results are in PDF. You can’t look up even simple information such as the amount of the contract without opening up each PDF though. While the searchable database is useful for finding a particular recipient, it’s almost useless to researchers who want to look at trends. 

The individual contracts are available online, however, and the information is available at a very granular level. For example, interested parties can learn that starting July 1, J.T.M. Provisions Co., Inc. will be contracting to provide approximately 47,000 pounds of Beef Crumbles/Crumble Mix (with 7% vegetable protein product) to the state of Ohio. To get the approximate amount awarded, however, we had to search through the contract and multiply the price per pound by the minimum yield of finished product.

Tax incentives. Ohio gets extra points here. Using a searchable database (instructions can be found here), users can look up tax breaks by recipient name, county, zip code, incentive type or approval date, and the results are downloadable as an Excel file. The report also lists the number of jobs created, retained or maintained as a result of the credit, if applicable.

Property. Under the rationale that unused property can lead to community blight, the folks at the Treasurer’s office created a searchable database for un- or under-used land that citizens can purchase. If the property has an address, you can click on a map, and owner information and price are available. There’s even a link to email the state with information about the property.