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Piercing the Fog

A Call for Greater Transparency in State and Local Government

July 29, 2008

Byron Schlomach

The Goldwater Institute



“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” – Thomas Jefferson

There are more than 87,000 local governments in the nation (639 of them in Arizona). Therefore, the average voter and even the most dedicated researcher might be forgiven for not knowing what many governments are doing. Without more open government, voters will remain uninformed and government unaccountable.

This paper describes why today’s definition of open government, which consists primarily of open meetings and the Freedom of Information Act, is inadequate. It recommends that Arizona government entities go online to make themselves more transparent. It describes how other states are implementing open government, as well as a transparency model developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Lastly, this paper makes recommendations for Arizona. The surest, quickest, and easiest way to get to the heart of an enterprise is to open its check register and see how its money is being spent. The Arizona legislature recently passed a measure, Senate Bill 1235, that is a good first step, in that it requires the establishment of an online database for transactions involved in state contracts. But true transparency goes far beyond contracts. To understand how our state is performing, we need an online database of all government expenditures, performance metrics, and debt information, as well as contracts. Arizona should go even further than the ALEC model by including a state requirement that local governments post information, too.

Read the full report here: Piercing the Fog: A Call for Greater Transparency in State and Local Government.

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