Haslam Showing Open Government Ambivalence?

In a Sunday editorial, The Tennessean suggests that Gov. Bill Haslam is missing the point when it comes to open government issues. Both the editorial and a companion piece by Dick Williams, state chairman of Common Cause, review the governor’s record and politely suggest there are several shortcomings.
From the editorial:
In a phone conversation on Friday, Gov. Haslam was asked if he would rescind his January disclosure policy. He said he has no plans to do so, and then asked “What is the public good?”
But the good that comes of knowing your public officials is vital, indeed. What citizen would not want to know the extent of an elected official’s business holdings, since those dealings often intersect with the work of government? How these officials have conducted their careers, whether in the public or private sector, obviously informs their decisions about who they will vote for. And businesses, nonprofits and other institutions who might in future deal with these officials likewise want to know whom they are dealing with.
It comes down to trust — a pact between public officials, voters and taxpayers that goes beyond the vote that put them in office.
Gov. Haslam could take a big step toward assuring Tennesseans of that trust by rescinding his January order, and along with his senior administration officials, disclose not only their sources of income, but also how much they make.
It does matter to Tennesseans, governor, whether you made $1 or millions of dollars. They not only have a need to know but a right to know.

Williams hopes that Haslam’s present attitude is the result of inexperience.
These examples are not insignificant for the public to be aware of, but not necessarily the final word on the administration. We can hope that these are examples of a new administration coming from the private sector into the public sector with its responsibilities for openness.

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