The State of Transparency in California: 2013

150 150 Ed Coghlan

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”

Those are the words of the Dalai Lama.

We don’t imagine that he was talking about California government, but he might have been. Californians are skeptical about their government—they aren’t anti-government mind you, they just believe it can better.

California Forward Wednesday released the State of Transparency in California, an analysis which explores the core issues of governmental accountability and transparency in the Golden State. The analysis aims to accentuate and help advance the conversation about how improved transparency can lead to better government.

It is worth reading (click here).

California Forward issued its analysis to coincide with Sunshine Week, which is an initiative promoting dialogue about the importance of having an open government and being able to access public information. In a related development this week, Golden State lawmakers efforts to make public information accessible on the Web received a “D” grade released by the non-profit Sunlight Foundation this week.

The State of Transparency was guided by an advisory committee which includes academic, legal, local government and other stakeholders. It identifies three priority areas where Ca Fwd hopes the engage the public in further discussion:

  • expanding access to reliable data on public spending, planning and outcomes
  • expanding disclosure of campaign contributions
  • ending closed decision-making processes, such as “Gut and Amend”

“California Forward’s persistent and consistent focus is to strengthen democracy in the state,” said Thomas McKernan, co-chair of CA Fwd’s Leadership Council. “More transparency can help ensure that Californians know where their tax money is going and how it’s being spent by government agencies around the state.”

California Forward has also strengthened its Transparency Portal, to give Californians a centralized, comprehensive view of how their local governments are performing. Latest information highlights include a dedicated page for each city and county in the state, as well as a review of best practices across California aimed to educate both the general public and government officials.

“Californians have been telling us for years they want a government they can trust. California Forward believes the cornerstone of good government is transparency and accountability,” said Jim Mayer, executive director of CA Fwd. “We are pleased to share the State of Transparency, which we believe helps advance the important conversation which is a critical component in delivering real democracy reform in California.”

What do you think are the best practices you believe California can adopt in order to increase transparency in our government? 


Ed Coghlan

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