Transparency should be more than a cause, it should be the norm
Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.
This week was Sunshine Week — one dedicated across America to the importance of transparency in government.
Because sunlight’s effect on government waste and corruption tends to keep both in check, it’s a cause near and dear to our hearts, here at NPRI, and something we pursue every day.
But we’re not alone. Diverse groups, from across the political spectrum share our goal of exposing government’s inner secrets.
Transparency in government is of critical importance because it allows citizens to judge for themselves whether or not government is living up to its end of our social contract.
After all, when we’re talking about government actions, what we’re really talking about is the way in which government officials have decided to treat us and spend our money.
That’s right. Our money. Government has no wealth of its own, other than that which we give it, and generates no independent revenue. Every dollar the government spends toward any of its numerous projects must first be taken from the pockets of private citizens.
Isn’t it then natural for citizens to know how, exactly, their money is being spent?
- How many billions of dollars has the Clark County School District dished out on “capital improvement projects,” only to have 20-year-old buildings prematurely fall into disrepair?
- What are local governments doing to reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars they have accumulated in unfunded liabilities?
- How many tens of millions of our tax dollars has the Governor’s Office of Economic Development handed out to solar companies that are now threatening to flee the state?
These are all questions that aren’t always easy to answer. Not because of the complexity of the issues, but because government often goes out of its way to make citizens seeking answers face a bureaucratic nightmare.
Transparency, in the end, is about empowering voters, citizens and taxpayers and making government accountable.
It’s about taking power back from the political class and the bureaucrats who currently run the show.
Transparency, thus, has many cheerleaders — who frequently agree on few other issues. Sunlight on government is a cause supported by a wide and diverse number of publicly oriented watchdogs.
Here in Nevada, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Nevada Press Association, just to name a couple, are frequently on the same side as NPRI when it comes to this critical issue. And when that happens, it’s a pretty good sign that government’s preferred status quo just isn’t cutting it.
Happy Sunshine Week. Here at NPRI, we’ll keep working to make transparency the norm.
Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President and staff
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