Thursday, April 30, 2009

Open Government? Only if You Speak Bureaucrat-ese

Today’s Traverse City paper opines in part on one state lawmaker’s efforts to be transparent, although we are having a hard time finding just how.
“Michigan House Minority Leader Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Kewadin, has published on his Web site,,the names and salaries of the 11 public employees working directly for him. According to the Mackinac Center, Elsenheimer reveals all the details of his nearly $438,000 annual staffing budget.”
We go to Elsenheimer’s site and poke around for three minutes, finding no such information. Maybe we’re a little impatient. But more likely, we are busy, like so many of you.
The idea of transparency is being given lip services by many, but making the information easy to access and digest seems to be part of the obfuscation. And most of us do not speak in bureaucratic terms nor do we always know what we are looking at when we see a number. For example, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who has spent few days as a regular citizen during her adult life, claims to be posting public records online at the Department of State site.
But when looking these over, there are items that simply could not make sense to the average taxpayer. What does this line item mean?
CMVSA FEES $ 35,574.93
It means $35 grand was spent on something that I cannot decipher.
How about this one?
What are the dues for, what are the subscriptions to and what kind of fees are we talking?
Some folks at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University rightly note this week that “True transparency requires putting specific details of every government expenditure online, where citizens can review them and spot wasteful spending.”
Anyone can blather on about open government and pass bills and require transparency. Fellow bloggist Michigan Liberal gave props to state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer a week or so ago for her muddled “speech” on the value of openness. But a look at the state Senate site requires a long walk for information that is as enlightening as Land’s. Transparency is becoming another buzz word, but it is taking on a familiar government hue, that of a very hazy view.


  1. We are so screwed...

  2. lower left corner "government transparency" link.

    NOT The newspaper got that wrong.