Moving past the savvy slogans

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

Last week, I told you in my column that I would outline some of my

ideas about accountability in government.

I think it is time for us to move beyond the slogans and promises we have heard from accountability advocates.

We need to work on a definition that leads to results.

If the Governor calls a special session of the Legislature this fall to deal with the issue of accountability, I am certain he will present a package of bills that he feels is responsive to the issues he has previously raised.

However, as I mentioned last week accountability seems to &uot;be in the eye of the beholder.&uot;

The Governor’s concerns may or may not be the same as a majority of the members of the Legislature, and if not, there will be extended debate before any bill is passed.

Several measures come to mind that I feel would take the State a long way toward accountability in government.

I would recommend that we adopt a stronger open meetings law.

Too many decisions are made by state and local governing bodies without sufficient public input and without public notice.

The Alabama media came up with a proposal on this subject late in the session earlier this year but it did not have much of a chance to be considered.

I am working on a comprehensive open meetings law which I feel will make our government more transparent and more trustworthy for the citizens it serves.

Next I would recommend a stronger campaign finance reporting law.

I believe that most people who give money to a candidate do so because they philosophically agree with their positions on public issues.

I see no reason to hide any campaign contribution from any source.

I believe it is the people’s right to have this information.

I would strongly support a public listing of all no-bid contracts, with an explanation for each.

This could be done online or through the newspapers or in any other manner which would shed light on the choices available to government agencies.

The idea would be to stop using contracts to pay off political favors.

I think we need a transparent budget process that allows the public to &uot;follow the money&uot; from taxation through appropriation to distribution.

I am not against the Governor or Legislators spending money on legitimate, worthwhile projects in Alabama, but I think the public is entitled to see strict guidelines followed in the use of these funds.

The public also deserves to know if and when an appropriation is made and the purpose for which it is disbursed.

The thrust of any accountability measures should be to ensure that our citizens get the services and products they are paying for through taxes and assessments, and this should be done in an open, transparent process so public officials will be held responsible for their actions.

If the Governor does call a special session on this subject, these are some of the measures which I will be pushing.

Senator Wendell Mitchell can

be reached at 334-242-7883, or by writing

to P.O. Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049.