Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Richardson Seeks Gold Medal In Financial Transparency

During Monday's Richardson City Council work session, the subject of putting the city check register online was discussed. It's not like this should be controversial. The office of Texas Comptroller Susan Combs promotes government transparency, urging cities, counties and school districts to put their budgets, financial reports and check registers online. Plano has done so. So has McKinney and Frisco and Arlington and Irving and numerous other cities around Texas. Good governance was a new section added to this council term's statement of goals, specifically calling for transparency and financial accountability.

After the jump, where does Richardson stand on this committed goal?

The briefing presented to the city council Monday assumed that the city will have an online checkbook by the end of the year. The staff needs to do its homework to determine not only what information is to be made public but what information needs to remain confidential for fraud protection or state-mandated privacy. Once it's decided what to put online, actually doing so will entail a "relatively easy" programming task whose cost will be "not too significant."

This comes as no surprise to many Richardson residents who urged the city council candidates during the May, 2009, election campaign to commit to putting Richardson's check register online. All the candidates, incumbents and challengers alike, expressed support. It's gratifying to see the council living up to expectations raised during that election campaign.

There were two sour notes in the council members' comments. Mayor Gary Slagel admitted that he and the council did not know that the city staff was working on this as diligently as they are, thus suggesting that this effort, even though it was specifically added to the statement of goals, is not really a priority. And council member Bob Macy questioned whether the publicity such exposure might bring would get anyone in trouble, thus suggesting that maybe transparency and fiscal accountability are not really priorities. Despite those sour notes, the council and staff mostly hit all the right notes Monday night.

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