Citizens, as well as elected officials, may often disagree among themselves about the best way to spend our tax dollars.That’s OK as long as the disputes are based on objective compilations of facts and honest differences of philosophy.
What’s not OK is government making important policy and spending decisions out of public view – whether purposely or out of neglect – and rendering it difficult for citizens to gain rightful access to public information. Problems of transparency not only hurt attempts to make government officials accountable for their actions, but also damage trust in government, causing the foundations of the democratic process to erode.
In this age of innovation, government should always seek more and better ways to open its doors to public scrutiny and engage in meaningful, two-way communication with citizens. Many times, old-fashioned, face-to-face dialogue works best. Other times, important information must be disseminated in mass mailings and email alerts. At all times, government must take great care to make the information clear, understandable and available.
Creating an independent statewide ethics commission is another critical step in making government officials more accountable. A citizen panel with powers to investigate allegations of government corruption is long overdue.
A “government of the people, by the people and for the people” requires trust among our citizens. Ensuring this trust is an essential part of our job.