Regrettably, some high-ranking government officials either are not paying attention to how taxpayers’ money is being spent or, more accurately, misspent — or they are taking a cavalier well-it’s-not-my-money attitude, opinion columnist and Iowa Freedom of Information Council executive director Randy Evans writes.
I sometimes think government officials overlook the important role the public plays in our system of government. That was my takeaway last week from the monthly meeting of the Iowa Public Information Board. When Mrs. Gentry lectured in my high school government classes 50+ years ago, I remember her talking about how American government is participatory. The public can attend meetings of government boards, she told us. People are free to express their opinions to government leaders.
When is Iowa going to catch up with the rest of the nation? Every week or two, another case makes headlines around the United States when a police officer acts in a way that many people find troubling.
Costs and time spent defining what qualifies as an open record in Iowa are the biggest impediments to gaining access to information about how government functions and the way public money is spent. The cluster of rules defining public records in Iowa can be confusing or leave room for uncertainty. When a dispute arises, fighting for access to information can incur expensive legal fees.
The grade might stun you — Iowa receiving a D-plus for government transparency from the Center for Public Integrity and Global Integrity Monday morning, Nov. 9, in a government transparency study of all 50 U.S. states. These same organizations gave Iowa a C-plus the last time they studied government transparency for a March 2012 report. How could Iowa do worse this time? Iowa has made some moves, notably forming a Public Information Board later in 2012 to better resolve complaints Iowans have about government openness.
Iowa’s practices to ensure transparency in lobbying earned an F in a recently released State Integrity Investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization.
A former Muscatine Community College student newspaper editor and that paper’s former faculty adviser were awarded the IowaWatch Free Press Champion Award for working Iowa journalists or journalism educators at the annual IowaWatch Celebrate a Free Press and Open Government banquet in Des Moines.
Iowa has some of the oldest and broadest laws favoring free information and open government, but sometimes those laws aren’t followed. We’ll talk with those charged with keeping the information flowing.
The State Integrity Investigation, a national investigation last year by news organizations that included IowaWatch and The Gazette of Cedar Rapids into how open government is in all 50 states, was one of five finalists for this year’s Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. The Chicago Tribune won the $25,000 prize, which was awarded this week (March 5) by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. The State Integrity Investigation, devised and led by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, created a tool for measuring how effective open records and open government laws are in curbing corruption and promoting accountability and openness in each U.S. state. The results included accelerated reform in government and an increase in disclosure requirements in many states. Reporters from IowaWatch and The Gazette conducted the Iowa portion of the study.