15 March 2010

Sunshine Week: Federal Government Secretive, Operates in Shadows. Local, State Government Rated More Open

This week is "Sunshine Week" to promote more openness and accountability in government.

As part of Sunshine Week, a new poll shows that people believe government operates in secrecy.

Public cynicism that the federal government operates in an atmosphere of secrecy is as strong as ever, despite President Barack Obama's promises to make government information more easily available to the public.

A new survey of 1,001 adult residents of the United States found that 70 percent believe that the federal government is either “very secretive” or “somewhat secretive.” The largest portion of respondents, 44 percent, said it is “very secretive.”

I think it is interesting that, according to the poll results, local government is considered more open, then state government, with the federal government rated the more secretive. This level of trust correlates with the distance from the voter, thereby justifying the position of the Modern Whig that decisions should be made at the most local level possible.

The Modern Whig Party supports the push for more decision-making to be made at the local and state level. It is easy for a voter to interact with their local government, but extremely difficult for an individual to influence distant decision-makers. (Not to mention the push by the elite for more decisions to be made at the international level, where citizen involvement is not even contemplated!)

Of course, the relatively distrusted federal government could do much more to bring openness and transparency to decision making. President Obama made such promises on the campaign trail. So, how's he doing? More than a third of the agencies, 35 in all, said they had no internal documents showing how or whether the new Freedom of Information policies were being put into effect.

The conclusion of the report (click here for PDF): "The picture is decidedly mixed and does not yet show a trend toward greater releases of records across government." and
Despite President Obama’s pledge of a “new era of open Government” and Attorney General Holder’s pronouncement that, “[l]ong delays should not be viewed as an inevitable and insurmountable consequence of high demand[,]” executive agencies have shown only mixed success during Obama’s first year in closing their oldest open requests.
Here's the report: Sunshine and Shadows: The Clear Obama Message for Freedom of Information Meets Mixed Results Survey Suggests Need for More Pressure and Leadership

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