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Oct 26

Open Government

Posted on October 26, 2012 at 3:57 PM by Kirstyn Barr

"Openness, accountability and honesty define government transparency. In a free society, transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens. It is the heart of how citizens hold their public officials accountable." This statement comes from the Sunshine Review, a non-profit organization that collects data and rates states, counties, cities and school systems based on a Ten Point Transparency Checklist. Since the Sunshine Review does not rate Towns, I decided to review their transparency checklist and determine how the Town of Vienna compares. Is the Town providing the information people need?

Sunshine Review established ten areas of information that government entities should provide online. Here they are: current and past budgets; notice, agenda and minutes of public meetings; elected official information; administrative official information; building permits and zoning; audit information; bids and contracts; lobbying; who to contact for public records and information; and all tax and fee information.

After trying to access the ten areas of information on the Town’s website, I found the Town displays most of the ten areas of information online. Most information was easily accessible but some, such as the audit information, was hard to find. Here are some suggestions for improving the Town’s transparency on the website: show more than one year of past budgets; add the Fairfax County link to track the building permit process; add the word “audit” to the “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” tab so people know where the Town audits are; add Virginia Municipal League (VML) information to the Council’s legislative agenda; and add a tab labeled “Paying Your Taxes and Fees” so citizens can see a consolidated list.

I spoke with the Town’s Public Information Officer, Kirstyn Barr, about these improvements and she believes they all can be easily implemented. Let me hear from you - email me your suggestions. What information would you like to see or access on the Town’s website?

Laurie DiRocco
Vienna Town Councilmember