We get jittery when there’s talk in the Legislature about changing Oregon’s efforts at transparency.
And when there’s talk about changing what goes on the Oregon Transparency Website.
And when there is talk about transferring more authority to the executive branch about what will be published on that website.
And when the exact language of the changes is not presented.
And when there is a lack of clarity about what will be removed from the website — apparently it includes links to some reports. Those details will become clear during the legislative session, the state’s transparency commission was told on Tuesday.
Why not now, so it could be vetted more thoroughly? Things start happening really fast once the Legislature is in session. Now is the right time.
All this and more happened at the meeting on Tuesday.
Kathryn Helms, the chief data officer for the state with responsibility for the website, gave a presentation about proposed changes to the state’s transparency commission. There were many positives. There will be an effort kicking off in January to get more public input on what the website should look like. And Helms did say that the commission would be consulted for feedback on proposals from the executive branch. That is much different than leading, though.
“That’s why we have a transparency commission, I thought,” said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, the chair of the transparency commission. “Otherwise I don’t see a need for this commission if we are just going to hand it over to the executive branch.”
The Oregon Transparency Website was born thanks to the efforts of former local legislator state Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver. So we are sensitive to it, in part, because of that local connection. And being journalists, we are going to be acutely interested in government transparency.
The website is not perfect. It’s not complete in some places. It can be hard to navigate to find public meetings coming up soon without a lot of clicks and sorting. And sometimes when we have clicked on agendas for meetings, a dead link comes back.
Of course, it’s a good idea for the state to review what should be on the website and what the public wants to see. But it felt like there was an absence of transparency Tuesday in the changes coming to Oregon transparency.