Friday, March 17, 2006

Open government costs less

Open, transparent government always costs less than closed-door, insider dealmaking. The recent history of Austin is littered with examples of wasteful deals done before the public was informed that a proposal was even under consideration.

Just one example: the $100 million cash check cut by the City of Austin to the LCRA for a 50 year water deal. Hundreds millions more in payments are contemplated over the coming decades. Ken Martin of Good Life magazine exposed how the city kept this deal secret for many months while city and LCRA officials negotiated behind closed doors. Had the Open Government amendment been in place city hall observers would have known this deal was in the works. With public and media scrutiny, the City would have learned before the deal was cut that it had better, cheaper options for securing the city's water supply.


At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is too funny. does this mean that the SOS Coalition is finally admitting that its secret negotiations with CSC and Kirk Watson ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars and destroyed Liberty Lunch?

Now instead of a live music club we have a major defense contractor sitting on the shores of Town Lake and surrounding our municipal building. Great work.

And how about that empty Intel shell? Seems like y'all didn't mind secret deals so much when you were in on them.

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Bill Bunch said...

The CSC deal was cut in secret between the City and CSC. SOS was as surprised (and on the outside) as everyone else when it was announced, in toto, with no prior notice as to either its effect on Liberty Lunch or its failure to secure the Barton Creek site CSC had been eyeing.

Like everyone else, we were also on the outside of the Intel deal, the Vignette deal, etc etc etc. Those were all shielded by the "economic development" optional exception to both the Open Meetings and Open Records laws. This makes the company and the city the exclusive insiders. The Open Gov't charter amendment would prohibit the City from exercising this secrecy option and require these kinds of deals to be negotiated in public based on public information only.

There have been occasions when folks at the city let SOS representatives work "on the inside," or at least give this impression. When you see it up close, its even more obvious that it does not benefit the public. By locking out concerned citizens and the media the City ends up losing far more than it gains.


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