Sunlight Weekly Roundup: “So much for government transparency”

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  • The Arizona Public Interest Research Group  awarded Arizona an A-minus on how it helps taxpayers find information online pertaining to  government spending. The high grade was mostly because of OpenBooks.az.gov, a state website that offers a searchable database of state expenditures. The launch of site raised Arizona’s grade from an F in 2010 to A-minus in 2011. Representative Kimberly Yee, the sponsor of legislation aimed at increasing government transparency, maintains,“People need to see where money is being spent so they can hold elected officials accountable. “ For more information, see Devin McIntyre ‘s post on the Tucson Sentinel. 
  • In honor of Sunshine Week, Kentucky’s Adair County Community Voice utilized citizens to perform a local records audit. According to the Kentucky Open Government Blog, “The weekly newspaper engaged eight ‘average citizens’ to seek specific records from eight public agencies and published the generally good findings in last week’s paper, with an explanation of the audit and the issues, and an editorial by Editor-Publisher Sharon Burton giving her motives.” For the most part, the audit revealed that  most institutions readily complied with the information requests. However, they found the least cooperation when they asked law-enforcement agencies for salary information. For the entire story, check out Al Cross’ post.
  • This week, Tennessee lawmakers quietly sealed public records pertaining to education.  The Senate State and Local Government Committee and the House State and Local Government Subcommittee passed bills to make the results of teacher evaluations confidential. According to KnoxNews, lawmakers used a questionable exception to exempt the teacher evaluations from the Public Records Act. “So much for transparency in government,” laments Kent Flanagan, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. For the whole story, check out Jack McElory’s post on KnoxNews.
  • In slightly related news, even though Tennessee’s state government ranks among the ten most transparent in the country, it earned a grade of C+ for its laws promoting transparency and punishing corruption. According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity, Tennessee sends a “mixed ethics message.” Elizabeth Bewley points out, “The report’s authors said Tennessee’s 2006 ethics reform bill has helped, but the Tennessee Ethics Commission created by the bill hasn’t lived up to expectations.” For her entire take, check out her post on the Tennesseean.
What’s your take on these local open government posts? Are there any open government happenings in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments!
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