Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 13, 2013

GLYNN: Citizens get a new pipeline to state government

Niagara Gazette — All of us suddenly have more access to state government.

That was the message as Sunshine Week started Monday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiling Open.ny.gov., a website designed to make government the most transparent in Empire State history. The special observance is a national initiative created by the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005 to shine a spotlight on the importance of open government and the danger that secrecy poses to a democracy. Obviously we can't rush to judgment — only time will tell—but the early signs for Open.ny.gov point to a more user-friendly way to find vital information about state government  and its vast operations.

Cuomo said: "This new website will dramatically increase public access to one of our most valuable assets — data. Open.ny.gov  will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability and bring the people back into government." If only half of that comes to fruition, it will represent a major break-through for taxpayers, especially the frustrated citizen advocacy groups.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government who has helped countless reporters negotiate the stiff currents in their endless pursuits in ferreting out facts from uncooperative public officials and other sources, is impressed with the array of information the state is willing to release. "Perhaps more significant, information will be there for the taking, and it can be analyzed, extracted, merged to be useful to citizens in their daily lives and to our business and academic communities."  

Freeman cited an example: "The death rate might be higher at one hospital than at the other down the road. And the public will be able to find that out by searching this website."

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union of New York City, said the new website should "enable New Yorkers to make better informed decisions and make government more open and accountable.”

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