Editorial: State’s new ‘Transparent Tennessee’ website looks good at first glance

Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:47 PM

Often promised but only occasionally delivered, transparency in government is a great thing.

From the local to the national level, open records and open meetings help protect citizens from government waste, abuse and fraud.

Thursday afternoon, the state of Tennessee took a welcome step in unveiling its Transparent Tennessee website — a centralized location for people to access public information not just on our state, but on local governments and jurisdictions as well.

Touted as “a one-stop shop for searching public data on how state dollars are spent,” the site, www.tn.gov/opengov, allows people to know what their city councils, county commissions, school boards and state legislators are up to.

“A state government that is accountable to Tennessee taxpayers is an important part of being customer-focused, efficient and effective,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “The advanced function of this website will allow citizens more access to information about how state dollars are spent.” 

Among the items available are the salaries of state employees, state and local governement audit reports, lists of public meetings, out-of-state travel reimbursed expenses incurred by cabinet-level staff members, and links to contact the state’s office of open records council.

There hasn’t been enough time to research the site and explore all of its portals, but the initial reaction has been good.

The information that the state’s beleaguered education commissioner, Kevin Huffman, earns $211,404 annually, is now just a few clicks away — as are the 2013 audit reports of Sevierville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Similarly, it takes just moments to find out that the Tennessee Board of Parole has a board administrative meeting on Wednesday, June 25, at 8:30 a.m. Central Time. 

It’s an incredibly useful website on first glance, and it’s good to see the state making such a simple, yet vital, collection of information easily available to the general public.