Letting the Sunshine In
Bill’s Plan to Make Baltimore a Leader in Government Transparency
Baltimore City is one of only two major cities run by a Board of Estimates. Though we think of our City as a “Strong Mayor” city, the Mayor gets their power from their control over the Board of Estimates.
The Comptroller’s office is responsible for preparing Board’s weekly agendas and minutes. This role gives the Comptroller an insider view of the day-to-day business of the City. Right now the public’s access to this important information is extremely limited, but the Comptroller has the power to fix that.
As an independent watchdog, the Comptroller’s office should be one of the most visible and communicative offices in City government. Its job is to make information available, not keep it a secret. As Comptroller, Bill Henry will use technology and open data practices to remove the veil of secrecy from the Board of Estimates, so that everyone has access to the same information.
Online Access to the Board of Estimates. This simple change would allow for much easier analysis and tracking of important City agreements or contracts, and it’s been done in many places, take for example the Open Book Pittsburgh database or the Open Data NYC program run by the NYC Comptroller’s office.
A Departmental Audit Dashboard. Bill Henry will create a public, online dashboard for audits and other relevant studies and reports that makes it easy for the public to track ongoing audit activity.
Regular Meetings with the Inspector General. Now that the Inspector General’s office is truly independent, a much closer partnership between the Comptroller and the Inspector General will root out corruption and waste at City Hall.
Subpoena Power for the Department of Audits. Bill Henry will propose a charter amendment granting subpoena power to the Department of Audits. Many Comptroller’s, Auditors, and similar officials across the country can issue subpoenas for information related to a performance audit and Baltimore should have this tool as well.
Open Data. The Comptroller’s office also has the access and bandwidth to develop and release important data sets, to better inform the public. For example, in New York City, the Comptroller’s office runs the City’s open data program.