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US: For Open Government, You Need to Know Where to Look
Source: sltrib.com
Source Date: Friday, December 24, 2010
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Citizen Engagement
Country: United States
Created: Dec 27, 2010

Like shareholders in a business, Utahns are stakeholders in the joint enterprise called government.

Because of the taxes they pay and the power they give to lawmakers and policymakers, Utahns have a right to view government records and attend meetings. Periodically, this column will share online sites where Utah residents can find information key to political participation, health, safety and other oversight of tax dollars. Here is a sampling:

Budgets • Budget records for Utah state agencies can be found at www.utah.gov/transparency/index.html. State government agencies post budgets online. Higher education, K-12 education and transit districts were required to post their data to this website by May 15, 2010.

Campaign finance • Find out exactly which organizations, business and people support candidates for federal and state offices. For federal candidates, including candidates for Congress, go to the Center for Responsive Politics website www.opensecrets.org and the Federal Election Commission at www.fec.gov. For statewide candidates and legislative candidates, see the Utah’s Right website at www.utahsright.com/h_political.php or www.followthemoney.org. (Utahsright.com is operated by The Salt Lake Tribune and MediaOne of Utah.)

Campus crime • Just how safe are Utah’s college campuses? The U.S. Education Department requires annual reports. See them at ope.ed.gov/security/.

Child-care citations • See if your child-care provider has ever been cited for deficiencies at Utah’s Right website www.utahsright.com/h_childcare.php.

Corporation records • Need to find out who’s running a business you are dealing with? Check them out at the Utah Department of Commerce’s Business Entity Search, secure.utah. gov/bes/action.

Crime reports • See crime reported in your town and neighborhood on www.crimereports.com, which also has a list of sex offenders in your area. Utah’s Bureau of Criminal Identification also issues a yearly report about local crime statistics at publicsafety.utah.gov/bci/crimestatistics.html.

Federal records requests • You can use a Freedom of Information Act online letter generator at www.rcfp.org/foialetter/index.php to request information from a federal agency.

Legislature • You can track bills, committee hearings, floor debates and other information through the Utah Legislature’s website at www.le.state.ut.us.

Lobbyists • See who is influencing decisions on Utah’s Capitol Hill and see which lawmakers take gifts: secure.utah.gov/lobbyist/lobbysearch.

Professional license records • Check out your doctor, optometrist, dentist or psychologist (just to name a few) at the state’s Licensee Lookup and Verification System at secure.utah.gov/llv/llv.

Public meetings • Anyone can subscribe to public meeting notices via e-mail for nearly any state or local government agency at pmn.utah.gov. Bone up on Utah’s open and public meetings law to make sure your local government officials are following the law at www.le.state.ut.us/~code/TITLE52/52_04.htm.

Restaurant inspections • Salt Lake County restaurant records are compiled at www.utahsright.com/h_inspections.php. Davis County posts its restaurant inspections here www.daviscountyutah.gov/health/environmental/inspections/search.cfm.

Salaries • Salaries of most of Utah’s public employees are listed at Utah’s Right website at www.utahsright.com/h_salaries.php.

State employees • Need to find an employee in state government? Try: web.state.ut.us/phone.htm.

If you have a suggestion for online records the public should know about, please e-mail them to Joel Campbell to foiguy@gmail.com

Next week • How to submit a request for public records.

Joel Campbell is a former reporter and current associate professor of communications at Brigham Young University. His reporting does not necessarily reflect the views of BYU. He writes on First Amendment and open-government issues for The Tribune.

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