Transparency and Accountability Project
At The Gadsden Center, we think transparency in government is critical for citizens to be able to participate in their own self-governance. Transparency is also critical for purposes of accountability. For if we do not know what our government is doing, we cannot hold our elected officials accountable for their decisions.
As citizens, we need to ensure that all branches of government conduct business openly and share with us what they are doing on our behalf, whether at the local, state or federal level. Only then are we as citizens able to effectively guide our representatives.
To this end, The Gadsden Center studies how well government informs us of its actions, especially via the websites most governmental units now run. We also study how well governments comply with statutes such as Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA).
Our initial Transparency Project includes assessments of the various governing jurisdictions in our home county, Livingston County, Michigan. This includes the county government and its commission, departments, various boards and committees; municipalities and their departments, various boards and committees (cities, townships amd villages); public schools; public libraries; DDAs (downtown development authorities), and others.
Future studies will expand the project to the counties surrounding Livingston County. (i.e., Oakland, Genesee, Shiawasee, Ingham, Jackson and Washtenaw). Ultimately, we hope to extend the project to all counties in the state of Michigan.
Current counties studied include:
Factors indicative of transparency include, but are not limited to, whether the following are published online:
- Meeting schedule,
- open meetings law speaking policy,
- meeting minutes,
- videos or recordings of meetings,
- list of elected officials,
- biographies of elected officials,
- email addresses for elected officials,
- phone numbers for elected officials,
- policies/rules/ordinances or other local regulations,
- financial statement,
- financial audits,
- administrative and staff directory (including if it is available as a pdf file),
- collective bargaining agreements,
- election results,
- “dashboard” with progress, Munetrix Municipal Metrix or similar,
- whether common forms are available online (including FOIA request forms), and
- whether residents may make payments online for taxes, utilities, or fees for other services.
Factors indicative of compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) include, but are not limited to, the following: