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Monday, August 11, 2008

Ohio: New Site to Put Records Online

COLUMBUS – The Buckeye Institute today announced its Center for Transparent and Accountable Government. The center, led by former Statehouse reporter Mike Maurer, will collect and post online state and local government budgets, employee contracts, public records policies and other information.

"Transparency and open government crosses ideologies and is equally supported, and equally opposed, by both major political parties," said Maurer. "The Coburn-Obama bill, of which both Senators Barack Obama and John McCain were initial sponsors, requires federal government contracts to be posted at USAspending.gov. Ohioans deserve the same type of transparency from their state and local governments."

The center's first two initiatives include a candidate transparency pledge and an open government "wiki" Web page.

A Pledge for Transparency and Accountability in Government will be distributed to all candidates for elective office, at all levels of government, from townships and school districts to the General Assembly. It asks that candidates acknowledge the importance of Internet availability, the legal basis of transparency in the state and federal constitutions, and the use of practical, current technology, such as searchable databases and relevant cross links.

The pledge is attached to a White Paper on Transparency published as a Buckeye Institute Policy Brief, describing state and private efforts to make budgets, checkbooks, contracts and awards, and a wide array of government data easily accessible. The report is available online at www.buckeyeinstitute.org.

OhioSunshine.org, a publicly editable "wiki" Web site, is available to all citizens and can be edited by local activists across the state. The site is dedicated to open government, and it will allow citizens to monitor how well state and local governments provide information to the public.

"We like to say that there are 11 million pairs of eyes to ensure good government in Ohio," said Maurer. "While many of our government officials deserve credit for working to provide government data the way it must be provided today, over the Internet, the fact is that Ohio is behind its peers in government transparency."

Examples of state governments that are doing a better job than Ohio include the state of Alaska, which has its entire checkbook online, and the state of West Virginia, which has its entire public employee payroll online.

Buckeye Institute President David Hansen said that open, easily available information is essential to good government.

"The legitimacy of Ohio government rests on the consent of the governed, but that consent doesn't mean much when so much of government occurs hidden, or deeply buried," Hansen said. "Twenty-First Century information technology should be applied to draw back the curtain that stands between government and the people."

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions is a nonpartisan research and educational institute devoted to individual liberty, economic freedom, personal responsibility and limited government in Ohio.

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