March 17, 2011

Transparency Review (3/14 - 3/18)

Dina Titus
• Former Congresswoman Dina Titus awarded her staff almost $155,000 in salary increases following her electoral defeat last November, the Las Vegas Sun reports. As LegiStorm details, for the first three quarters of 2010, the average staff salary in Titus's office was $11,485. But for the fourth quarter, the average staff salary was $20,782, an increase of over 80 percent. For comparison, representatives Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller had a fourth quarter salary increase of 23.05% and 22.82%, respectively. Titus can slice this anyway she wants, but the impression it leaves is clear  during the lame-duck period after she was defeated, but before Joe Heck was sworn in, Titus gave her staffers a bonus from her Congressional budget allotment.

• As Nevada begins its dicennial redistricting process, TransparentNevada has created a clearinghouse of information on the subject. We will be updating the page in the days and months ahead with news articles, analysis and maps of proposed plans.

• In honor of Sunshine Week, NPRI's Karen Gray takes a look at at Assembly Bill 159 which would strengthen Nevada's public records law. The bill, she notes, would treat oral requests for public records the same as written requests. The bill would also require the legal custodian of a public record to prepare a copy upon request, preventing "government bureaucrats from denying someone a copy of a record because the requestor has no way to make his or her own copy."

Tick Segerblom
(credit: Las Vegas Sun)
• Perhaps tired of the nearly single-digit turnout rates they achieve, Assemblyman Tick Segerblom has introduced a bill which would allow cities to hold elections in even-numbered years to coincide with state elections. The proposed change would only affect Southern Nevada cities as Northern Nevada made the switch years ago.

• The old maxim, "you're only as strong as your weakest link" came to mind as I read this Politico story the other day. While the Obama administration has made many promises of governmental transparency, their limited efforts are often hampered by data that simply does not live up to what has been promised. Data is entered into spreadsheets incorrectly and is sometimes wildly overestimated. Taxpayers remain uninformed as to how their tax dollars are being spent.

• Come on... did you really think it would last? "House appropriators from both parties are starting to push for a re-examination of the Republican-imposed earmark ban." I bet we'll start seeing a subtle shift in the classification of what is and isn't an earmark in the coming months.

• President Obama was to recieve an award Wednesday from a group of transparency advocates but had to postpone the event -- you can't make this stuff up -- due to an undisclosed scheduling conflict. I'm sure the President is a busy man and certainly has a lot on his plate with Libya and Japan right now, but his handlers have to realize that having the word "undisclosed" in a story about Obama recieving a transparency award is a political mistake and more than slightly ironic.