After all the debates, commercials and campaign appearances, voters might think they know everything about the candidates for governor this year. But there’s one thing that hasn’t been discussed much: open government. For voters interested in access issues such as public records and open meetings, ICOG has the information you need – at least the modest amount candidates shared with us, that is.
Eight years ago, the Indiana Coalition for Open Government helped land the first-ever access survey from Indiana governor candidates. That was 2004 when Gov. Mitch Daniels was running for his first term. In his response to our survey, he promised to make Indiana’s government the most open in state history. Voters, access advocates and historians can judge whether he succeeded.
Meanwhile, what about the three candidates who want to take his place? ICOG revived its survey this year with a shorter list of nine questions about the candidates’ stances on openness in government. The survey was circulated to the three candidates for governor in September.
Libertarian Rupert Boneham failed to respond to the survey. Democrat John Gregg offered a general statement on access issues. And Republican Mike Pence provided individual answers to each questions. Although the two candidates are relatively short on specifics, their responses represent the only statements they have made to date on the important issues of government openness. You’ll see the questions ICOG posed in italics before Pence’s individual responses. For Gregg, we have simply quoted his statement in its entirety. And if Boneham provides us with a response to the survey before Nov. 6, we will post it right away.
Now, the responses:
Mike Pence, Republican
Please name at least one specific step you would take to improve public access to information about the activities of government agencies and officials, as well as those who attempt to influence them.
Open access provides Hoosiers with a convenient avenue to hold their government accountable. We can provide greater access to public records by allowing the public to receive records via mail or, where available, electronically.
Indiana’s access laws were amended last year to allow possible fines against public officials who violate open records and meetings requirements. In your opinion, did the change go far enough, or should there be greater deterrents to those who would violate these laws?
We should monitor the law’s implementation to determine whether any changes are necessary.
When there is a choice between paper records or electronic records, should the choice be controlled by the public agency or the citizen requesting them?
In general, we support the use of electronic records to the extent that they are available and their dissemination practicable.
How do you propose to balance the need for public safety with the public’s right to know about crime in the community?
We will use past practice as our guide. Of course, the public should know about any threats to the community.
Would you strengthen the role of the state’s Public Access Counselor through a budget increase, increase in authority or any other means?
We will preserve the vital role of the state’s Public Access Counselor and encourage all agencies to comply with both the letter and spirit of the Access to Public Records Act.
Should state law be amended to require state and local agencies to post records and data on their Web sites? In addition to a general response, please offer specific comments about your views on improving the Indiana Transparency Portal and the Odyssey system for court records.
Indiana should make it easier for its citizens to learn about and attend state meetings. We will create a central posting site for notices of public meetings so that Hoosiers can find out about any public meeting, at any time, for any agency, at one convenient website.
The state of Indiana has made progress in posting campaign finance data for state political races online. Would you support legislation making posting mandatory for elected offices at all levels of government?
We would be happy to review any such proposed legislation, along with information relating to its costs and benefits.
The enhanced access provision of the state public records law continues to be a source of confusion. What changes would you propose, if any?
We should continue to monitor the law’s implementation to determine whether any changes or clarifications are necessary.
Are there any categories of discretionary disclosure that you would favor making mandatory under the state’s public records laws?
We can provide greater access to public records by allowing the public to receive records via mail or, where available, electronically. In addition, Indiana should make it easier for its citizens to learn about and attend state meetings. We will create a central posting site for notices of public meetings so that Hoosiers can find out about any public meeting, at any time, for any agency, at one convenient website. Plus, we will require a reasonable number of copies of any documents or other material discussed or introduced at a public meeting be made available to members of the public who attend the meeting, and to the extent feasible, we will post these documents in advance on the central website.
John Gregg, Democrat
I have always strongly believed that an open and transparent government is a strong government. Hoosiers have every right to demand that they know and understand both what their government is doing, and why it is doing it.
As Governor, I will work with the Legislature to ensure that the doors of government are open to all. I will also ensure that the executive branch of government is also open and accessible to all Hoosiers.
Where practical, I am in favor of making public records available online. This not only increases government transparency, but it can reduce administrative costs.
I am always in favor of the public having the more access to government and more knowledge of what goes in government. I consider the public my boss and I believe they will see an improvement in transparency under my administration.