The purpose of government is to serve the people it governs.
The actions of government must be open and visible to those it governs and their watchdogs– the free press. A free press is guaranteed to citizens by the Bill of Rights.
Recently, the Ohio general assembly played some fast-and-loose political games with the state budget, slipping in potentially unpopular laws at the last minute and passing them without debate.
Included are new provisions in the Ohio Sunshine Law, or open meetings law, that gives local governments broad new powers to meet in secret to discuss economic development.
Economic development is a game of “Let’s Make A Deal,” in which states and individual communities offer incentive packages of money and/or tax breaks (which are also money) to entice a business to locate in their states or towns. These incentive packages can run into millions of dollars.
When tax incentives function as they should, all benefit. The communities forego some income, the company creates new jobs for the people, and in the end, the community benefits from additional taxes created by increased commerce.
But too often, businesses don’t hold up their end of the bargain, and governments let it slide. The end result: taxpayers subsidize businesses.
Such secrecy options are not needed. There is no evidence more secret meetings will improve the business climate in Ohio.
More secret meetings simply provide more opportunity for shenanigans and skullduggery with public money.
We hate to think that tax dollars might end up in the pockets of some fat cat who made a sweetheart deal in secret, all because the press couldn’t expose the wrongdoing.
Government needs less secrecy, not more.