This week the non-partisan Kent County Open Government Project released their first annual survey of local government openness. Each major unit of government in Kent County was rated based on the amount of information made available to the public through its web site. The survey looked for important transparency topics such as availability of contact details for board members, availability of budgets and audits, meeting minutes, employee pay scales, and the availability of union contacts, among other subjects. Each topic was assigned a score and those scores were added up for each government unit. The score was then translated into a letter grade.
The City of Grand Rapids came out on top, with a score of 87% and a letter grade of A. On the other end of the scale, the government unit with the worst score was The Rapid. Unsurprisingly, The Rapid received a numerical score of 23% and a letter grade of D-.
Based on our experience, this is entirely warranted. The Rapid makes very little available to the public on its web site. We’ve had to resort to Freedom of Information Act requests just to get basic information from The Rapid, and even then, they add roadblocks to make it extremely expensive to get that data.
It’s unfortunate that The Rapid, which sees fit to spend $250,000 on a piece of art for its headquarters, can’t spend some money to make itself more transparent to the taxpayers who pay the bills. It’s extremely inexpensive to post information to the Internet these days, but our inclination is that The Rapid does this on purpose.