Our Views: Awards tout transparency

When the Sunshine Review recently announced the names of local governments across the country that had won Sunny Awards for government transparency, several local governments in Louisiana were on the list.

The Sunshine Review is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group in Alexandria, Va., that promotes transparency in state and local governments across the nation. Government transparency advocates often use the idea of sunshine to promote open and accessible government. The concept is based on the belief that open government, like sunlight, acts as disinfectant, keeping civic life healthy.

The organization’s Sunny Award recognizes government institutions that make good use of their websites in sharing critical information about government with citizens.

For the 2013 awards, the Sunshine Review analyzed more than 1,000 qualifying government websites and graded each on a 10-point transparency checklist. Sunshine Review staffers looked at content available on government websites against what should be provided. The checklist included rankings for how much information the websites provided on government budgeting, meetings, elected officials, administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records access and local taxes.

This year, the Sunshine Review identified 247 government entities across the United States that had earned a Sunny Award for meeting or exceeding the 10-point criteria.

Parish governments in Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Charles were given Sunny Awards for the high quality of their websites.

Local governments located in eight states accounted for nearly half of the 247 Sunny Awards given this year. The leading states were Florida (25), Virginia, (19), California (12), Georgia (12), Kansas (11), Oklahoma (10) and Colorado (9).

In Louisiana, where large numbers of residents still don’t have Internet service, even government institutions with good websites will have to use other methods to make government open and accessible to the people it is supposed to serve.

However, the Internet is obviously a valuable tool in distributing information about the work of government to a wide number of people. We congratulate the local governments in Louisiana named as 2012 Sunny Award winners. We hope that next year, more local governments in Louisiana make the list of honorees.