Nevada FOIC calls for transparency with bonus controversy

Victor Joecks

Yesterday, Thomas Mitchell, president of the Nevada Freedom of Information Coalition, held a press conference and called on lawmakers to sign a pledge committing to greater transparency. Video above.

The pledge includes a commitment to pass a “Google” for government that would allow anyone to search government spending and contracts. A similar bill at the federal level was co-sponsored and passed by Sen. Tom Coburn and then-Sen. Barack Obama. Many states are also debating and passing similar bi-partisan “Google” government bills.

The transparency pledge also calls for more openness in legislative deliberations.

Mitchell said Nevada legislators showed they understood the concept of open government when they passed the open meeting law.

“They specifically exempted themselves, knowing full well this is a good law,” he said.

Mitchell said Nevadans cannot reasonably evaluate their lawmakers without knowledge of what they have done.

“They are not our masters,” he said. “They are our servants.”

Well, if legislators believe voters would be upset if their actions were known, that sounds like reason enough to find out. As Mitchell said, they are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.

Now, transparency usually isn’t controversial â’€ outside of Carson City, at least â’€ but apparently Jon Ralston either was feeling feisty today or just wanted to take a cheap shot at the competition.

No one, many elected officials and lobbyists excepted, is against more openness in government.

And no one had been more critical of the legislative non-process than I over 20 years of covering the special-interest-drenched, faux-deliberative body that has too few bold leaders and too many hapless followers. But rarely have I have been as infuriated as I was this week to see the eleventh-hour stunt put on by some of my media colleagues to try to pressure lawmakers to be more transparent by importuning them to sign a vapid pledge that doesn’t even address what ails the system.

So Ralston is calling out Mitchell for publicly supporting something Ralston agrees with? Usually when someone is supporting something I agree with, I’m happy, not infuriated. But that’s just me.

The most interesting thing to note is that Ralston says he supports transparency in general, some of the things in the pledge specifically â’€ “there is some good stuff in there about putting government contracts and expenditures online” â’€ and even offers suggestions for further ways to increase transparency.

And the pledge isn’t vapid. It’s a commitment to the principle of transparency, to passing legislation like the “Google” government bill, and to removing the legislative exemption from the open meeting law.