Thursday, February 05, 2009

This is why transparency is so critical

13ABC has a special report on spending by the Mayor's office.

They detail 2,000 different expenditures to 1,700 vendors from October and November 2008. The total was more than $3 million.

"We also found items like $2,377 dollars spent at Bass Pro in Maumee, $1,842 at Appliance Center in Maumee, even a Gino's Pizza bill for $383."

Kudos to them for getting and publishing the information, but February is too late for any of us to do anything about it, especially when the attitude from the mayor's office is that all the expenditures were less than $10,000 so none of them had to be approved by City Council before being paid.

If we had transparency in local government and required that the city's check register be published, we'd know about these things when the check was written.

Many cities and states have found a way to put their detailed expenditures on line in a searchable database. Citizens, media and organizations can then view all the items purchased and from whom.

Why hasn't Toledo done this?? If these expenditures had to be publicized and we could all look at them in a timely manner, would there be pressure on the elected officials to be more judicious in their spending? Would they fear the light shining on their activities? Would we know about spending soon enough to prevent multiple under-$10,000 contracts for a single project - like when the mayor broke up remodelling work at the Erie Street Market so he didn't have to submit it to council?

And even if it didn't do these things, would it still be a good idea so we can keep track of how our tax dollars were being used? I think so.

We need to demand that our city put it's check register on line. This deserves the support of candidates and our political parties. City Council members should get behind this drive, especially because it seems they're also in the dark when it comes to city finances. They supported a requirement that the mayor's budget submission in November be balanced, so this would be the next logical step.

Call your council members and tell them we need transparency and we have a right to know how the city spends our money.

Contact information
City Council phone number: 419-245-1050


2Bn11FA said...

wouldn't it be something to maybe limit the Mayor's slush fund to $10,000 ANNUALLY rather than how ever often he wants? I am just stunned that he can spend an unlimited amount of money as long as each payment is less than $10,000...that is truly insanity. I would rather see the office (not just Carty) limited to like $500 per month. But man, this has got to be changed and pronto!

Maggie Thurber said...

Technically, he's not unlimited in his spending. The way the city works, he has to have money budgeted in the line item account he's spending from.

The $10,000 limit is to eliminate the need for every department to go to council for authorization to actually expend the money in the budget.

Each governmental agency has similar types of limits on how much can be expended from the budget without a approval from the legislative body.

So I'm sure that each one of the individual expenditures were charged against a line item in his budget that had enough money to cover the expense - and that the expenditure matched the purpose of the line item.

but still ...

2Bn11FA said...

Maggie, Thanks for the explanation, I didn't know that...and I hope you won't take offense at this (none intended) but man 99.9% of politicians are weasels. We have elected people that just lie outright, we have people that try to hide the lies inside of some truth, we have people that deny historical fact. but no one really stops to consider the effects of their actions...I would like to have the rose-colored glassess concession at the US Capital! I'd be one of the hated wealthy rather than a hot dog vendor trying to make it to spring. Carty should have a single discretionary spending account with a $500 monthly limit! period, end of abuse!

Mad Jack said...

From Maggie Thurber: Many cities and states have found a way to put their detailed expenditures on line in a searchable database. Citizens, media and organizations can then view all the items purchased and from whom.

I'd be willing to bet my next paycheque against half a box of .22 shorts that those are the governments with the fewest scandals, crimes and malfeasance.

Something like this would be absolutely one of the best things Toledo could do, and so will never happen. City government isn't the only group that should do this. The entire public school system could put its entire accounting system on line (in read-only form, of course). Then, when the citizens saw how broke they and how much money they need, the school system wouldn't have any trouble at all with the next levy. Passage would be a cinch!


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