Accountability and Open Records

The demand for accountability from public officials is rising across the country. A number of states have already put their spending–or at least some of it–online. (See, for example, the Nevada Open Government Initiative).

Without transparency, citizens cannot know if government agencies are doing their jobs well–or if corruption is taking place.

It does take some cost to be transparent. It take staff time to assemble records, for example, and make them in a format that is widely accessible.

But who should bear the cost? Too often, it’s individual taxpayers, who may be scared off by quotes for excessive charges under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Bob Weeks, the blogger behind Wichita Liberty, recently tried to get budget information from USD 259 Wichita (see here), with less than assuring results. He points to the example of a school district in exurban Chicago as a model for disclosure.

A group in Michigan has put together some online databases for school districts in that state. Kansans would benefit if someone put together a similar, publicly available source of information.

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