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GCN : September 2015
GCN SEPTEMBER 2015 • GCN.COM 25 than 3,900 local governments to post their spend- ing information on the site. Earlier this month, a legislative panel gave him permission to use $2.7 million of his agency’s funds over the next two years to pay for a program that would expand the website to include local government expenditures. Mandel said 245 local governments have already committed to the partnership, and more than 300 others have expressed interest. WHAT’S NEXT? Even the states with the best checkbook sites can do better, Baxandall said. No state website, for example, includes spend- ing for all public/private partnerships or quasi-gov- ernmental entities, such as those that operate toll roads or special boards. But Baxandall said some states — including Flor- ida, Massachusetts and Oregon — are starting to post some of that information on their websites. “Those are areas where transparency is particu- larly important because they’re normally outside the scrutiny of the public or the budget process,” he said. Baxandall added that the state websites should also compare what’s being budgeted with what’s being spent and that they should follow Ohio’s lead in working with local governments to post data on their spending as well. The next step toward transparency might be for states to put the reams of financial data into context and figure out what was accomplished, he added. “Are they on target? Have they completed 20 percent of the work? That’s a lot of analysis, and it requires a lot of time and effort,” he said. “That might be Transparency 2.0. We’ve got all this data out there, but what does it all mean?” Poynter agreed that it would be helpful if states attached some meaning to the data they put online. “There is so much information,” he said. “At what point does it become overwhelming and it loses meaning? It’s important to put the information in some kind of context.” Lembo said even state websites that, like his, have received an A have room for improvement. “The technology has evolved so significantly that our work is never going to be ending,” he said. “We’re always going to be looking for the next best way to open the curtain and engage the public.” • — Jenni Bergal is a staff writer for the Pew Chari- table Trusts’ Stateline. Connecticut’s OpenCheckbook allows users to search real-time information about payments to vendors, nonprofit groups and others. 0915gcn_022-025.indd 25 9/2/15 9:13 AM