Missouri Cities Should Open The Books
How can Saint Louis catch up to Kansas City? Increasing transparency in government spending would be a good start. The state of Missouri was a leader in spending transparency, but many of our cities have not caught on.
Governments often grant public subsidies, tax breaks, and other incentives to powerful corporate interests and other groups at the expense of taxpayers. In Missouri cities, this type of information is not always easily available to the public. But our governments should readily share spending information. Otherwise, taxpayers may not even know when special interests gain unfair advantages through government spending. It is impossible to ensure that government decisions are efficient and reasonable unless information is publicly available.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about Saint Louis’ failing grade in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) report on the largest cities’ spending transparency online.
Saint Louis has major improvements to make, with the 28th lowest ranking out of 30 cities. Kansas City ranked much higher, at 14th, but still only received a letter grade of “C.”
Kansas City has made a more visible effort to show residents how the city spends funds. The city allows residents to view checkbook level spending, which Saint Louis should allow, but does not. This transparency helps keep Kansas City accountable to taxpayers.
But Kansas City does have room to improve. Some other cities have created centralized transparency websites and provide comprehensive information on tax subsidies. New York City’s “Open Book” website is the perfect example of what Kansas City and Saint Louis should strive to implement.