Do you ever feel completely uninformed about what is going on in Oklahoma? Do you find out about a new law only after it is being enforced? Do you know the names Brian Bingman, Mike Schulz or Earl Sears? Do you have any idea how your tax dollars are being spent?
Don’t feel too awful about being uninformed about the happenings of Oklahoma, because according to the State Integrity Investigation it probably is not your fault. Oklahoma is among the 11 states that have a failing grade in government transparency.
The 2015 State Integrity Investigation was conducted by both Global Integrity and The Center for Public Integrity.
The report grades 13 characteristics of government that indicate responsiveness and responsibility to constituents and then uses those numbers to generate a grade for the state. See the table accompanying this article for more detailed information about the results for Oklahoma.
Oklahoma ranked 40th in the nation for government transparency with an overall score of 59, commonly known as a big fat F.
It is ironic that a state which prides itself on being anti-big government and accountable to its people would be one of the worst states when it comes to actually backing up that lip service.
What’s more, the release of this report hasn’t received much media attention at all, which has worked in favor of states who are failing to keep their citizens informed about the government matters that affect their lives.
I am by no means a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe Oklahoma is hiding some big plot to retard its citizens into complacency by concealing government records, but there comes a point when you do have to questions your government’s motives. Even if those motives are as innocent as simply not having the time, resources or man-power to make government business completely accessible to the public, we need to know the cause of our failures in order to fix them.
Government transparency and accountability is an important ideal upheld by the American people since the founding of our nation. Rhetoric about the government being responsible to its people can be seen in the Declaration of Independence.
Our founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”
The results of the study, which show only three states in the union made over a D+ in transparency should be absolutely horrifying to the American people. We should be calling our legislators and demanding honesty.
Of course complete transparency cannot and will never be an option. Tiptoeing the line between protecting national and state security and protecting the rights of the people is difficult business, but we the people have spent far too long having our right to examine our government ignored that our states now feel no need to keep us informed about the policy making which affects our daily lives.
To read about the exact findings of the report and the methodology used, go to publicintegrity.gov.