Transparency Efforts in Missouri: A Priority for Missourians

By Larry Stendebach

As a follow-up to my previous post about government transparency, I would like to point out a few transparency movements that are showing great promise along with United for Missouri.

Social media sites have played a huge role by making citizens only one tweet or Facebook message away from their elected representatives. This movement has affected Missouri politics greatly, with many local and state representatives engaging in active dialogs online. Moreover, we have seem more and more regular citizens having an open dialog with their elected officials, that we might not otherwise have seen. United for Missouri is on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/United4MO

The Mehlville Missouri Fire District, as mentioned in our petition located HERE, has put district wages and benefits online, which helps provide accountability. This is a great step toward transparency, and we support the district’s efforts for even greater transparency by putting all of its expenditures online as well.

Campaign Finance Tweets (CFtweets) and LobbyTweets from http://www.Pelopidas.com. Pelopidas, an issue advocacy group in Missouri, has built a system that sends out free real-time tweets about Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC) donations over $5,000. These $5,000+ donations are required by state law to be reported within 48 hours of the donation, but finding them on the MEC website is cumbersome and takes time. CFtweets, does all this work for you and delivers all this information to you in a quick 140-character tweet.

Lobbytweets does something similar, but with data about lobbyists in Missouri and who they represent. (For example,  you get a LobbyTweet when a lobbyist adds or removes a client.) You can follow Pelopidas to get the CFtweets and Lobbytweets by following http://www.twitter.com/pelopidas on twitter or by visiting their website here: http://www.pelopidas.com/products/campaign-finance-tweets

The Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP) is a great example of our state pushing for transparency. The MAP offers Missouri a single point of reference to review how their money is being spent and provides other pertinent information related to the enforcement of government programs. The home page of the MAP reads: “The MAP site is presented to the citizens of Missouri as a single point of reference to review how their money is being spent and other pertinent information related to the enforcement of government programs.  As you browse the MAP site you will be able to view information about state agency expenditures, the distribution of economic development tax credits, state employee pay information, and revenues and expenditures related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The data on the MAP site is updated each business day. New features are added as they become available. Please visit the site frequently for new information. Find out what your tax money is doing – with MAP it’s easy!” The MAP can be located here: http://mapyourtaxes.mo.gov/MAP/Portal/Default.aspx

StateSurge.com – Last but not least I would like to mention StateSurge.com (a site that I co-founded more than four years ago). StateSurge.com organizes government data on legislation in all 50 states, but started in Missouri. State governments are required, by law, to make legislative information “public,” but the governments have no incentive or requirement to make the information easy for the end user to access. That’s where StateSurge comes in. Http://www.StateSurge.com provides an easy, organized, and searchable way for citizens to keep up on what is going on in the legislative arena here in Missouri and across the country.

These five transparency efforts go a long way toward providing accountability and oversight in Missouri. However, more efforts and organizations need to adopt a culture of transparency that the taxpayers deserve. United for Missouri is dedicated to promoting and highlighting government transparency efforts right in the state. Know of a transparency effort here in Missouri that I did not mention? If so please drop us a line on twitter @United4MO or email us at admin@unitedformissouri.org.

I am the co-founder of StateSurge.com; a government transparency website that strives to deliver government data in a way that is useful to the people and help citizens interact with the government. I also work in Saint Louis, Missouri helping develope the technology needed in modern politics.
Larry Stendebach

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