Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We Need Governmental Transparency, Now More Than Ever

"Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." -President Obama, 1/21/09

After reading today's Charleston Gazette (@wvgazette) article by Kate Long, it is extremely evident that this openness is exactly what West Virginia government is lacking. House of Delegates (@wvhouse) member Nancy Peoples Guthrie (@nguthrie4me), who is the chairwoman of the House stimulus committee, said, "There's no reason for this to be cloaked in secrecy... it's gotten beyond the point where 'trust us' is a sufficient answer." (See full article here:

As an advocate of social media being a connection vehicle for politicians and their constituents, I’m alarmed I just might need to take my stilettos two steps back before taking another step forward. It appears elected officials from different branches of government need to be more social and communicative with each other. Long’s article clearly points out the lack of information sharing from the executive branch to the legislative branch.

“Jim Pitrolo, legislative director for Gov. Joe Manchin, told legislators Wednesday the administration is doing everything it can to assure transparency as it spends $1.05 billion of federal stimulus funds,” (see full article here by Phil Kabler here:

But things haven’t been transparent. “This should not be difficult information to track down. It should be a matter of record,” stated Guthrie. Pitrolo cites that the information is available on the site, but tracking this information down is very difficult, noted members of the House.

While working on one particular client’s campaign this past primary, several figures were request in order to state how much money that client secured for their district. Those numbers, in detail, were not hard to come by. So why is this so difficult? And does the federal government not track how stimulus dollars are spent by states in order to measure if the stimulus money is even effective?

Recently a member of Generation X and I sat down to lunch and had a very inspiring, informative discussion. One of the main outcomes: Gen X and Gen Y, at least in West Virginia, are losing faith in elected officials for reasons just like this. Movements like and Gov 2.0 are making leaps and bounds to increase transparency in government through social mediums and connecting more constituents to elected officials. I whole-heartedly support this effort, but after reading about the secrecy of stimulus spending, we need to open the communication lines between branches of government here in the mountain state.

We younger generations live our lives transparently; you can learn more about a person by their Facebook page than hours of conversation, tell what interests and hobbies someone has by their tweets, share joyous moments on Flickr, and learn someone’s professional history on LinkedIn. Older generations like their space, their privacy, and while I, too, enjoy a quiet moment every now and then, I want to know more about the lives of those who are elected to represent me. What do you do all day at during interims? Why do you oppose this bill? Why did you vote to amend that legislation? What are you eating for lunch? How was your drive Charleston? Why isn’t information on how stimulus money is being spent already out there?

Transparency is a way of life for the majority of us younger folk. Transparency is humanizing. If we don’t instill more transparency between and among our branches of government now, how will younger generations ever have faith in tomorrow’s elected officials?

1 comment:

  1. I am curious about your idea of transparency. While I believe the people have a right to know much about what our state and national governments do, there are situations in which ignorance is bliss for Americans.

    I also believe much of the information you seek to know about politicans is easily accessible. Most representatives in state government would be happy to entertain any questions about policy or votes they cast.

    However, I believe our generation is far too cavalier in what they allow people to know about them. The personal lives of politicans are of little concern of ours if they are law abiding citizens. Do you genuinely care about what they eat?

    The emphasis needs to be on "personal." Transparency isn't about knowing every intimate detail about your representative.

    If our generation has any brains at all, they would realize the people they elect are human beings and though held to a high standard, they're falliable and won't always make decisions in accordance with the will of the public. That's what elected officials do in a republic.