Public Records: Two-Way Streets to Transparency

Posted On 2:58 PM by Andrew Calvillo |

You might not be comfortable with the idea that documents about your party affiliation, criminal history, and property ownership are publicly available. You're probably thinking that there's too much of your personal information just floating around for anyone to see and use. However, the truth is, public records are a great way to ensure transparency in the country.

Basically, any entity that uses taxpayer money to fund its operation (like local governments, police districts, and schools) is obligated by law to make most of their documents available to citizens, provided that the request to inspect such documents follow the required process. Requiring government or public offices to share certain records ensures accountability on their part—that is, that they're not using your hard-earned money on shady dealings. It also allows people to see if an institution is efficient in managing its finances.

For example, a government institution—say your local high school—receives a budget for the year. It can spend this money on any number of things, such as building new classrooms or renovating the cafeteria. Whatever it decides to do, the expense report has to be publicly available so parents know if the school is wisely using the money or squandering it for unnecessary expenses.

As you can see, there's no need to think of public documents as a threat to privacy. A better way to look at them are as “two-way streets to transparency”. 
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