February 1, 2010

Transparency promises: easy to make, easy to break

Transparency might be the only political position that every politician supports. From the far-left to the far-right and everybody in between, all politicians seem to agree on the necessity of keeping government open, honest and accountable.

Why, then, is this commitment so hard to follow through on?

President Barack Obama, state legislators, Gov. Jim Gibbons and his campaign opponents — Democrats and Republicans — all have promised to swing wide the shutters so the public can see how their tax dollars are haggled over and the future of the state and nation are shaped.

Then reality, or maybe just expediency, hits and the promises seldom translate into something the public can see.

I think the reason for this is that politicians simply don't see transparency as important to the political process. They feel that as long as the sausage gets made, how it was prepared matters little.

Well, it does matter. Involving citizens throughout the process results in much better decision-making by our elected officials. This “we know best” attitude is disrespectful at best and destructive at worst.

With election season gearing up again, rest assured you'll be hearing more and more candidates pledge support for governmental transparency. But rather than simply taking their word for it, we must challenge them to explain how exactly they’ll implement transparency. Only through sustained pressure will politicians have any reason to support transparency after their election.