Wanted to pass along a pretty good Anti Editorial on the Transparency site ...

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Dylan Amo

Jan 8, 2010, 8:15:18 AM1/8/10
to oregon-transpa...@googlegroups.com
Hasso Herring, Editor
Albany Democrat-Herald, 1/3/10

As promised, the state government launched its transparency website on
Wednesday. And as some of us feared, it wasn’t all that transparent.
People might want to know what the various branches of the state
government spent. That wasn’t available, though, at least not yet.
Instead we got the PowerPoint slides that apparently were shown to
legislative committees back at the start of the year, summarizing
revenues available to the agencies. These raise more questions than
they answer.

The governor’s office, we learn from one of the slides, had more than
$16.5 million in “revenues” in 2007-09. How does the governor’s office
have revenues? It doesn’t levy taxes and charges no fees. So where do
revenues come from?

Chances are the slide meant to refer not to revenues but to
appropriations. But if that’s the case, why not present appropriations
for the budget period we’re in instead of the budget period that ended
last June? More to the point, why not compare appropriations from one
biennium to the next, so people can see how fast the cost of
government is rising, of if it is rising at all?

The transparency website has a category for where the money went. But
that one was still under construction on Thursday, one day before it
had to be online.

When it does appear, let us hope it heeds the language of the
authorizing bill, which calls for “annual” revenues and spending by
agency, not biennial ones.

The slide shows that the governor’s office got most of its revenue -
or appropriations - from the general fund, or about $11 million. It
got about $2 million in lottery funds.

Oregonians originally approved the lottery in 1984 in order to pay for
economic development, and since then expanded this to several other
purposes including parks and schools. Presumably the governor
qualifies for lottery proceeds because he tries to drum up trade and
also worries about the state of public education and the rest of state

The governor’s office also got money from “other funds” and a
smattering of dollars from federal sources. These fiscal details seem
kind of unnecessary. One dollar looks like and works like any other.
Unless agencies are restricted to spending money from certain sources
in certain ways, why not simplify life and just list whatever each
agency spends?

Maybe there will be a side benefit of the transparency website. It
will show the ordinary citizen how complicated the organization and
workings of our state government have become, so complicated that just
about any claim about spending can be borne out.

Maybe the best that can come from all this advertised transparency is
that citizens, confronted with the bewildering and unnecessary red
tape that government has wound around itself and all the people in
this state, will demand that things be simplified, unnecessary laws
repealed, questionable programs abolished, and the red tape cut.

Don’t, however, hold your breath. (hh)

Jon Bartholomew

Jan 8, 2010, 6:21:16 PM1/8/10
to oregon-transpa...@googlegroups.com
It's good to see some critiques of the site. Its mere existence as it stands
is not enough.

In regards to the expenditures not being online yet, they will be by the end
of the month. There was a realization that there is some sensitive
information (like address information of people protected by a court order,
etc.) that needs to be culled out before it all goes up there.

I'm working with another commissioner to get a wiki up for everyone to
submit comments on what can be improved with the site. Stay tuned.


Jon Bartholomew
Policy Advocate
OSPIRG - www.ospirg.org
cell 503.358.3833
office 503.231.4181 x374
twitter http://twitter.com/OSPIRGJon
facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/OSPIRG/83283518284

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