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Front Page » February 9, 2010 » Opinion » Will public stand up for information?
Published 1,717 days ago

Will public stand up for information?


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

When was it ever said, in integrity, that the public does not deserve to know their governments business?

Several bills already exist in the 2010 legislative session presently in session at the state capitol, including HB 60 (Water Conveyance Facilities Safety Act), HB 189 (Closed Meetings Amendments) and HB 266 (Government Records Access and Management Act Revisions), all dealing with public information.

While all the bills are a problem because they limit public access in one way or another, HB 266 is the one that would take away the right of taxpayers to know what they as "employers" are paying public employees. It is sponsored by Rep. Kraig Powell-R of Heber.

Right now the public has the right to know, and can look up, what is being paid to literally every state employee in Utah. Under the bill a citizen would only be able to know basically about positions and a salary range. I don't know about you, but that is not good enough for me.

I imagine myself trying to run a business without knowing exactly what my employees make. Those pay scales are consequent to my budgeting and deciding if we are getting our money's worth. You don't need to know that, because we are a private business, and you can decide whether you want to pay the price for our services or not.

However, government employees are your employees as a taxpayer. You need to know what they make down to the person. My wife works for the government, and I have seen her pay scale many times and so can everyone else. That doesn't upset me or her. That's because we believe she earns every cent that she makes.

However Rep. Powell has a constituent who, as the administrator for some special agency in Wasatch County, makes a fair wage, around $64,000 a year. He wrote Powell and told him he wanted to see the legislation enacted to protect privacy and because he was concerned about the animosity that is created because every one knows what everyone else makes. He said that it makes management in government agencies hard to do.

Well what I can say to that is "welcome to the public trough." If you are going to drink out of it you damn well better be prepared to pay the price of being employed there. And one of those costs is that because taxpayers are your boss, they can know what you make each year.

I worked in the public sector for 19 years at two different agencies. That was one of the costs along with the heavy price of having to be political to keep your job, get things done and get ahead. On the other hand, every time the economy went sour my job was pretty stable and often raises continued to come despite how people in the private sector fared.

I know that hasn't been true in this economy though. May public employees have lost jobs, but I temper that with the fact that we have done as much with much less around our business too.

Talk to your legislator about this bill and the others as well. We all know that politicians constantly try to whittle away at our rights and these kinds of bills can just isolate us from what is really going on a little more.

I say if government business isn't about national security, litigation or personnel matters concerning a certain employees behavior, it should all be public.

Don't you think so too?

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February 9, 2010
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