As the governor's race heads into the final weeks, there is still time to ask the candidates some important questions about openness and transparency in government.
Candidates always support openness-at first blush. But when it comes to spending money on it or forcing people and companies that work for or with the government to be open, it is often a different story.
But make no mistake; open government starts at the top, with the governor, and they have a great deal of discretion to determine what the public can know about its government.
And with major issues like budget cuts, health care and taxes facing the next administration, there is no time like now for the people about to make these important decisions to commit "showing their work" as they go about the people's business. We may want to know how and why leaders came to the decisions they made.
Personally, I have worked with former Senator Mark Dayton and Representative Tom Emmer on open government issues. Tom Horner I have not, but his background as a reporter makes him aware of these issues.
Here's what anyone interested in open government should ask:
1. Do you think that the Minnesota Government Data Act effectively accomplishes the twin goals of maximizing public access to government data and protecting citizens from governments improper collection and use of personal information? If not, what changes would you propose to the law to make it effective?
2. In relation to Minnesota's government data and information, what does the term transparency mean to you?
3. Our current governor tells us that most e-mail records of his office are not official records and do not need to be retained. If you are elected, will you take a similar position? If not, what will be your approach to retention of records and data of the governor and the governor's office?
4. Do you believe that meetings with regulators, and other state agencies have with businesses ought to be subject to the open meeting law?
5. Will you pledge to make your calendar of appointments, meetings, and state related travel available for public inspection?
I wish to thank the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information for the original development of some of these questions.