Let the sun shine in on Nevada’s government

Victor Joecks

Over at TransparentNevada, it's all transparency, all the time. Many of the rest of us, though, don't think about it quite as often.

That's why this week is Sunshine Week, a week for open-government advocates to dramatically increase the PR about the need for open and transparent government. And since some of the biggest supporters of the public's right to know are newspapers, you may have read something about it.

This year Sunshine Week conducted a survey of the types of public documents that are available online in each state.

Most Americans can easily find videos of water skiing squirrels on the Internet but they'll have less luck finding out whether their children's school buses and classrooms are safe, or if neighborhood gas stations are overcharging.

The Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information online found that while more and more government records are being posted online, some of the most important information is being left offline. And in some cases governments are charging taxpayers to access records that they already paid for, such as death certificates…

"This study shows that, while a lot of government information is available online, many states lag in providing important information that people care about," said David Cuillier, Freedom of Information Committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists. "People should be able to find inspection records for their schools online. And the government shouldn't be charging people for death certificates and other records."

Nevada does a fairly good job with transparency. Access to information in 14 of the 20 categories is free and online. I won't mention Nevada's ranking among the states, because rankings don't tell you anything. Who cares if Nevada was the No. 1 state in the nation, but only provided information in 10 of the 20 categories. It would have a higher ranking, but its citizens would have a less transparent government.

Nevada's citizens should only be happy when the state provides information in all 20 categories.