Editorial Round-Up: Questions About Transparency and Local Control

Newspaper editorials focused on government transparency and local control this week.
by , | November 10, 2011

With the end of the election season, newspaper editorials are turning their attention back to more traditional matters: government transparency and local control, for example.

Regarding government transparency, the Sheboygan (Wis.) Press is "upfront about our concern with a bill removing the requirement [that] the [Wisconsin] Department of Natural Resources publish notices on air and water quality permits in local newspapers," its editorial board writes. The bill, Special Session Senate Bill 24,  would allow the department to post its notices on its website only. There is a small piece of advertising revenue to be lost, the newspaper says, but it also eliminates a crucial avenue for public information to spread.

"The state will save a few dollars by eliminating paid publication of DNR notices, but it will lose a good deal of public trust by reducing public access to information," the Press concludes. "It would be a mistake for lawmakers to pass this measure and take away one form of public access to vital information."

The Christian Science Monitor expresses its pleasure with "the growing use of new digital tools to make government not only cheaper to operate but more convenient and closer to its citizens." It notes some such online services as simple as email notifications, but also references the potential of videoconferencing and other digital tools as exciting steps toward a more open government.

"[E]-government opens up the inner workings of government to average citizens. It's much more than just a more efficient way to disseminate information and services," the Monitor says. "It can become a valuable two-way conversation between governments and those they serve."

Elsewhere, newspapers were concerned over local control in their respective situations.

The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., chastises Nashville law enforcement after its arrest of about 50 Occupy protesters last week. "[P]rotest is at the very foundation of our nation's birth," the newspaper asserts, referencing the First Amendment.

"[I]t doesn't matter whether we agree with the protesters or not," its editorial reads. "They have the right to peaceably assemble, speak freely and petition the government for a redress of grievances, if they choose."

The Albert Lea Tribune in southern Minnesota criticizes proposed legislation from a Republican state representative that would bar local school boards from holding elections in odd-numbered years. "Republicans, the last time we checked, were about granting more local control to school boards and getting state government regulations out of the way," the newspaper says, chiding the sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Pat Garofalo.

Its editorial argues that holding elections during so-called off years allows education to come to the forefront of the election debate. "Does St. Paul know better than Albert Lea when to hold Albert Lea's levy elections?" the Tribune asks. "[W]hy bother electing local school board members if the state doesn't trust them with a reasonable measure of control?"

Meanwhile, in Illinois, the Chicago Sun-Times addressed township governments, calling them "largely redundant" in urban areas. It points to a report that found townships can end up costing taxpayers much more money in road maintenance. "Townships may still have a role in those parts of Illinois still covered by cornfields. But around Chicago, they're a logical target for taxpayers looking for savings," the Sun-Times says.

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