VDOT’s open government lauded

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Newspapers often find themselves having to editorialize about open government. Typically, it’s to criticize some local body for doing things behind closed doors, as they so often are wont to do. The people’s business needs to be performed under public scrutiny with few exceptions, which are spelled out in state law.

Such is not the case this time. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to laud a governmental agency for doing more to see to it that their processes are open to the public.

The Virginia Department of Transportation proudly boasted in a press release Tuesday that it is taking open government to a new level by providing the public online access to monitor the agency’s business performance.

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&uot;By a click of a button on the Internet, you can find out how VDOT is spending tax dollars on building, maintaining and operating 57,000 miles of roads and bridges across the state.&uot;

Since March 2003, the public has been able to access the online &uot;Dashboard,&uot; which instantly shows the status of VDOT’s construction projects. Now, Dashboard has been expanded by showing the latest performance of all other core business areas, including road maintenance, plans, studies, safety finances, operation sand environmental compliance.

&uot;With VDOT spending about $3 billion of public money every year, taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being used,&uot; said VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet. &uot;Increasing the level of transparency is absolutely essential for the success of VDOT to improve its bottom line. The closer citizens can watch us in all areas of our business, the better we will do.&uot;

Shucet is absolutely right. Further, what he said applies to all state and local agencies. Too often today, from the national government, where energy policy is created behind closed doors, to state and local government, the backroom deal is too often the order of the day. As a result, people have lost confidence in their government and politicians in general. The only way to restore that confidence is to do exactly what the VDOT is doing and open everything to the light of day.