Government Transparency

January 27th, 2013 by 1 Comment

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What if … Every citizen could track every dollar of federal, state or local government spending, every contract, every real estate deal and every travel expense?

What if … Citizens in every Georgia community could use their local knowledge to track and analyze local expenditures?

What if … National experts could help citizens decipher government accounting and establish benchmarks for every government service?

What if … We could honor every government in Georgia that offered quality services at the best value to taxpayers?

What if … we could expose fraud, waste and abuse at every level of government?

We believe transparency is the first step to accomplishing all of those goals. Georgia has become a leader in that area, but we could do much more.
State Government

The Georgia General Assembly passed the Transparency in Government Act in 2008. It calls for the creation of a free, searchable Web site to provide public access to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the Budgetary Compliance Report, the Single Audit Report, salaries and expenses of state employees and board members, consultant and other professional services expenses, the State Budget in Brief, and the last five years of performance audits. The Web site must publish the grant and contract payments made or due to vendors and payments made through all economic and incentive programs. This shall include a list of names of each persons, firms or corporations that has received payments that were in aggregate greater than $20,000 in the previous fiscal year or are projected to be in aggregate larger than $50,000 in the current fiscal year.

The Open Georgia site went live on January 1, 2009.

Other Useful Links:

Local Government

Georgia law requires local governments to submit an annual Report of Local Government Finances (RLGF) to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). These reports provide important information, used by state and local government policy-makers to better understand and evaluate local government operations and service delivery strategies. You can view a copy of a survey form that each local government submits to DCA here. The data are submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau for the annual State and Local Government Finance report. Audited financial statements for local governments can be found at the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts

DCA provides complete data sets for research purposes, and the data are used to publish the annual City and County Fiscal Planning Guides, which provide printable data tables containing average and per capita dollar amounts for various revenue, expenditure and liability categories. For comparative purposes these tables group information for local governments of similar population sizes.

DCA also uses the data collected through the annual RLGF to publish the annual Local Government Finance Highlights. This report provides consolidated overviews and trend data going back three to five years for counties, municipalities and consolidated governments. The Fiscal Planning Guides and the Local Government Finance Highlights reports both list the data categories in the report and an index to all of the governments included in the report.

Other useful links:

Schools and School Systems

Georgia requires each school system to submit to the Georgia Department of Education an annual financial and budget report that lists expenses by fund, revenue source, function, program, object and school. The state also requires this financial and budget data to be reported to members of each school’s school council and the public through the Office of Student Achievement’s report card.

The annual Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finances report is available with other education data on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Federal, State and Local Government page.

Audited financial statements for school systems can be found at the Georgia Department of Audits. From the Report Repository search form select “Education Audit” in the first box and “School Districts – Financial Reports” in the third box.

Salary and Travel Information for employees (including school-level employees) of Local Boards of Education is also provided by the Department of Audits.

The upcoming Georgia Public Policy Foundation Report Card For Parents will provide detailed breakdowns, comparisons and the ability to download school- and system-level education spending data. The chart of accounts is available from the Georgia Department of Education to explain how school spending data is categorized.

Other useful links:

 

One thought on “Government Transparency

  1. I have longstanding (seventy years, in fact) personal involvement with a piece of property in Tucker, Georgia, a small community on the outskirts of Atlanta. The married couple who would become my parents purchased the property in late 1941 just prior to Pearl Harbor and the onset of World War II. As our family history indicated he would, my father volunteered for military service and remained in uniform until the war came to a successful end. Among other American freedoms and liberties, he and others fought to preserve the rights of property ownership and to prevent corrupt intrusion of any government into their domiciles, private lives, and family existences. Shortly after the war ended, my father returned to the Tucker property, paid off the mortgage, and he and my mother became sole owners of their house and property. They were widely respected members of the community and they lived out their lives there.

    Everything described in the preceding paragraph is now under malignant attack from what appears to be a recently formed local bureaucracy (the “City of Tucker”, I believe it calls itself). Neither of my parents voted for it and I certainly didn’t (and can’t begin to imagine who – of sound mind or not – would have), but this little bureaucratic wrecking crew is hard at work to undermine and destroy revered concepts of personal property ownership and the private ownership rights that properly accrue from same. This intrusive, grasping, meddlesome, and corrupt “City of Tucker” bureaucracy has determined it can invade and trespass on privately owned property at will and visit unwarranted and petty headaches on the “owner” of said “private” property whenever and for whatever imaginary, subjective, or contrived “reason” they so choose.

    All the while, the property owner is expected to pay ever increasing amounts of property taxes while getting virtually nothing that he wants or needs in return. The bureaucratic overlords determine what he’ll get. They have no care at all for what he needs or wants. They don’t ask his opinion or wishes, they just do as they choose, all the while searching for more and better ways to take and sponge up ever increasing amounts of property owner dollars. And as the intrusion, reach, and grasp of the bureaucracy expands and intensifies, so do the problems visited upon decent and upright citizens. Who benefits from all this? The “connected” and very wealthy, I suppose. They always do. And the bureaucracy. They’ve carved out an autonomous and unconstrained authoritarian menace where their order of the day is always to accomplish their own self-serving greedy and grasping needs and interests. The tax payer is their piggy bank, their guinea pig, and their victim.

    And in this exact case, they appear to have even gone so far as to selectively target one particular property, a property “owned” by the same family for almost eight (8) decades. This is calculated and plainly selective “enforcement” of things that shouldn’t be allowed to be “enforced” in the first place. And I don’t even want to think how many tens of thousands of property tax dollars have been forked over to the local bureaucracy over this almost eighty year period of single family ownership. Or of what little of actual and demonstrable value has been gotten in return for any of it.

    And I’m sure this little “City of Tucker” is also set up to confiscate and steal even more property owner cash via some money grubbing little punitive highway robbery-type fining system. Don’t pay their totally corrupt fine for alleged “weeds”, tall grass, failure to get their requisite work “permit”, and other such horrendous transgressions against their unscrupulous deep state and they’ll most likely have you arrested and jailed. And who knows what all else.

    Here’s what I am convinced is at least partly at work here. I have openly low regard for a nearby property owner. That low regard has been constant and unwavering for around sixty years. I believe that property owner has used his local influence and connections – after all he’s local a lawyer and a trifling bottom rung “judge” of some description – to bring these code enforcer flunkies on board as the governmental weaponry for executing his own personal vendetta and agenda.

    Importantly, though, the subject property is now for sale. At a fair and reasonable market-supported price, I’d add. And preparatory to putting the property on the market, I did a great deal of work and cleanup. Part of what is remarkable is that this code harassment didn’t materialize until the property clean up was underway. And the more I’ve worked and progressed to clean up the property, the more the threats and harassment of these code enforcement types have accelerated. I’ll repeat. Increased work and more property improvement have resulted in the little bureaucrats escalating the nitpicking and complaining more loudly, more vigorously, and more often. Doing more cleanup and more structural improvement has brought about an increased and more shrill tempo of threats, coercion, and attempted intimidation.

    I fully realize such destructive anti-citizen activities represent the essence of the bureaucrat and is his main goal in life, but this is low and unseemly even in light of other conduct that has accompanied the increasing placement of the bureaucrat’s hobnailed boot on the throats of decent citizens. And this particular assemblage of bureaucrats (this little “City of Tucker”) also appears to regard the front door as their very own to be used as their personal little intrusive and rather annoying bulletin board. They’ve even punched holes in the door and it’s surrounding wood, willful property destruction in its own right.

    And, yes, I did mention “nitpicking”. One photograph they left (an egregious example of a most horrific “code violation”) was of a very thin vine that had grown out of a concrete crease and was around fifteen inches (yes, 15 inches) long.

    They also voice considerable alarm over “weeds” (one of their little papers actually refers to “maintaining weeds”, a concept I can’t quite wrap my mind around). In truth, I’m hard pressed to find their “weeds” (despite the fact it’s warm weather in Georgia and it has rained a lot). Since the spring, I’ve sprayed, cut, or chopped a lot of “weeds”. They must be saying I’ve missed one or two.

    You know, though, they could just be right this one time. I do have a rather well tended garden in the back. I’ll bet it has some “weeds”. Imagine that. A garden with “weeds”. Perhaps this “City of Tucker” is bringing their foul and atrocious bureaucratic firepower to bear on gardens, also. Or they may just confuse tomato plants and such with their scurrilous “weeds”.

    Yet another object of their recent attention appears to involve a small section of a small porch window that was broken out when a criminal break-in of the house occurred a while back, far from the only break-in of the house or of other areas of the property (the latest one occurring around 14 June 2018, a time during which the bureaucrat’s vine and weed search was likely in full swing). On a few occasions when break-ins and property damages were locally reported, it was almost an impossibility to get local cops to show up, but once they did, they didn’t do anything. I even tried to give them beer bottles with fingerprints and what almost certainly was the business card of the Probation Officer for one of those who did a breaking and entering. They didn’t want to be bothered.

    And a bureaucrat would be quick to ask: “Why didn’t you report the latest break-in?” Really, now.

    It should be plenty obvious, but criminal activity, home break-ins, and property damage are of no concern to the bureaucratic juggernaut. A thin fifteen inch vine, though, or alleged “weeds”, or a slight window break rises to the level of top tier urgent bureaucratic attention, alarm, and immediate heavy handed forceful action and could even be the originating impetus for the eventual jailing of the property owning family members. Courtesy of a bureaucrat, a tiny 15 inch vine starts a process that could end in a property owner’s arrest and incarceration. I’d ask anyone reading this correspondence to stop and give that some dedicated and very careful thought.

    And I do fail to see what gives them the right to be on the property in the first place. I assuredly didn’t give them my permission and unless weed growth or a slightly broken window has been made a criminal activity by this “City of Tucker” monstrosity, I am not able to detect any crime going on there (exclusive, of course, of the several crimes that have happened when the house and property have been broken into, which as mentioned has happened on multiple occasions with no real response from government by way of investigation or of preventing it from happening again). But malicious home damages and break ins, lofty murder rates, and all other degrees of theft, violence, and general Tucker and Dekalb County area mayhem are not of concern for local government. A tiny 15 inch vine is their concern. The bureaucracy makes the property owner (who owns both the property and – I suppose – also the tiny 15 inch vine) the real criminal.

    I’ve also been told by several totally credible Tucker residents of regular and aggressive harassment over a bureaucratic requirement to get a “work permit” from this little operation (this “City of Tucker”) to do work on their own property. I’ll say again. They own the property – and, like everyone else around, have their pockets routinely dug into and pillaged for ever increasing amounts of cash to be used to finance the bureaucrats and their civic mischief and the “services”, vehicles, and countless other mindless expenditures they visit and force upon us – but property owners can’t do work on their own property unless the “City of Tucker” bureaucrats gives them their consent and permission. Removing a tree, replacing a leaky gutter, and multiple other property owner prerogatives now require approval of a bureaucrat. And they’ll assuredly fine you and even jail you if you don’t get it.

    Again, I’d ask that you stop and also give this dedicated and very careful thought.

    And our President is entirely spot on with his efforts to drain the swamp, but I do hope he can manage to bring attention to the many smaller swamps well outside the Beltway who routinely strive to persecute and harm the best, most productive, and most honorable citizens among us. And rather than targeting our President, perhaps the FBI could investigate the “City of Tucker”. There is even an FBI office only about five miles away. They wouldn’t have to go far to find the “City of Tucker” and its resident henchmen. And an actual and legitimate responsibility, in fact, of the FBI is to investigate and potentially prosecute public corruption.

    Real public corruption. And the area’s local government has certainly produced it’s fair share of that in recent years. One of those convicted for same even lives nearby. Here’s guessing the code enforcer has somehow managed to fail to concentrate any code enforcement scrutiny there. Like the next door lawyer, I’m sure the former public “servant” still has “connections”, too.

    All of the above notwithstanding, however, the subject property is now undeniably in overall better shape than it has been in twenty-five years or more (and, in truth, it has never been in actual bad shape at any point in time). It is also in much better shape than many of the surrounding properties. Much better.

    Equal or evenhanded application? Not even a little bit close. Things that are being presented as code “standards” here are not really anything close to “standards” at all. They have been crafted for select application and they are purely personally motivated bureaucratic instruments being applied here in entirely unequal, irregular, and corrupt ways to underhandedly and wrongly inflict unwarranted aggravation to satisfy the individual personal grievances and grudges of themselves and others.

    As for the anticipated sale of the property, it won’t happen soon enough and when it does I’ll be more than a little delighted to put this entire little speck of the world in my rear view mirror. My family participated in settling this area and played a prominent role in its history. They tamed the land, they fought the wars, and they were the type of folks who helped make local communities decent places to live and raise families. I can imagine they are spinning around in their graves now.

    As for me, I’m a pretty well known man and a well respected Marine Corps veteran. An actual “Officer” no less, a title the bureaucracy has hijacked and tainted beyond belief. I also was presented the Liberty Bell Award – think about that one, too, within the context of the “City of Tucker” and its slimy little subject shenanigans – and a well placed and highly respected Judge (a real one) has called me the “Father of Georgia Veteran’s Treatment Courts”. On too many levels to describe in one writing, the attacks on personal “life”, “liberty”, and “property” described herein are immensely troubling to me and should be seen that way by any citizen who values their personal rights, whether involving property ownership and control, personal and family privacy, right to decide, or a multitude of other things.

    And anyone who believes any of us who wore the uniform – including my father and then me – fought and took on challenges and even personal damages for certain people or things should not be tempted to include any of what is at issue here. Defending or propping up things like this annoying and bothersome “City of Tucker” public malfeasance is not something I or my Marines would have ever remotely been a part of, tacitly, implicitly, or otherwise. For those of us who wear and have worn the uniform – and done anything and everything that came with it – they are stealing from us the very rights and liberties that we fervently fought and struggled to maintain and preserve.

    And I did contact the “Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor” campaign in an effort to get them to expose this unseemly little bureaucratic power grab. Kemp is running on Trump’s political coattails, but the Kemp campaign “worker” to whom I meticulously explained the situation did not bother to take my name or phone number. When Kemp flops, maybe she and her fellow campaign failures can all put in for code enforcer ”work” in the superb “City of Tucker”.

    And stump speeches and campaign time promises notwithstanding, pretty much all bloviating politicians (Kemp is far from alone) and piddling bureaucrats are pretty much one and the same. In their worlds of dedication to serving self, you’ll almost always find the politician and the bureaucrats in bed with each other. They’ll also both rely on telling and peddling the same regular lies. They both claim to be “serving” the citizenry.

    President Trump, however, is neither bureaucrat nor standard politician, a very high compliment, indeed. And of this I am sure. He would consign the “City of Tucker” and its unseemly little bureaucrats to the same trash heap and level of contempt he holds for the deep state, the bigger swamp, and for “fake news” and the mainstream media (who, I realize, will never publish this correspondence, but someone will).

    And I do even suspect I may be able to bring this matter directly to President Trump’s attention. The bureaucratic swamp creatures and others already hate him and they hate my arrogant, caustic, and in your eye Marine Corps veteran self about as much. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see things like the Trump Twitter feed, Rush Limbaugh, Facebook, and Fox News acquainting people of good conscience with this little “City of Tucker” and its scheming little deleterious “code enforcement” scam? A large well attended Trump campaign event in Georgia would also be a great place to bring some much deserved exposure to this fine new property-grabbing, liberty-killing venture. The “City of Tucker”, indeed. It definitely does not have a ring to it, consistent with a Liberty Bell or otherwise.

    And maybe along the way we can even make some of the main “City of Tucker” driving forces (or whatever they are or claim to be) household names in not very enviable ways. One of them, in particular, even has the rather imposing handle of “Code Enforcement Manager”, the term “Manager” likely referring to the ruler and peasant relationship this inestimable bureaucrat presumes to have over her inferior, obedient, voiceless, and powerless underling tax paying citizens.

    It’s on a minimalized scale, but this little “City of Tucker” scam and its grasping conspiratorial beneficiaries have a lot in common with many of the bigger and better known swamps and their all too eager resident swamp creatures. Corruption, money, power abuses, threats, intimidation, citizen disparagement, utter contempt for decent people, punitive nitpicking, money sponging, selective and uneven application of self-serving rules, and etc. By bureaucrats. For bureaucrats. Against upright citizens. Never for upright citizens. Get to know the “City of Tucker”, Mr. President. Swamps start here and then spread and grow like a deadly contagious disease outbreak. Expose it and stop it here and it will be less likely to raise its venomous and corrosive head elsewhere.

    And as we all know, the bureaucratic “mind” could take any – any – older house and nitpick matters until the end of time. The subjectivity and the wide open capacity to deliberately target a particular property and cause constant, ongoing, and never ending problems for the real “owner” of the property can go on infinitely. And that is plainly the intent here. A property that has been “owned” by one family for around eight decades – a family that played a large role in settling the entire area – has now come under the conspiratorial direction of this slimy and destructive code enforcement thing. And don’t forget this for a second. They do take gobs of money from all of us – the American property owner – to finance “services” to be used to belittle, harm, weaken, and disenfranchise us, the American citizen and backbone of things good and honorable.

    “Property ownership” and the notion of “private property” are an essential bedrock American entitlement. This gross, indefensible, and anti-American dictatorial overreach in the name of some personal vendetta-pursuing thing called “code enforcement” would have been right at home in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The fact it has found it’s way to a small community called Tucker, Georgia should open everyone’s eyes to the substantial and very real threat that the ever expanding and ever more powerful bureaucracy poses to the American freedoms and liberties that we all should hold most dear. And those who live in communities that have yet to take extreme steps to suppress rights of ownership and American liberties, do not rest easy. At some point, the bureaucrats will come after you, too.

    Bureaucracy by the petty, mean-spirited, small-minded, and vengeful. Against the upstanding and decent. A corrupted bureaucracy creating their own storylines and their own versions of the unacceptable. The bureaucracy weaponizing their publicly funded positions and things so as to intimidate, malign, and damage the very ones who finance them and their very extravagant habits and expenditures. And then they follow up by naming streets and buildings after themselves.

    Recently, Rush Limbaugh has been regularly employing the acronym “POS” to describe the misguided millions who were somehow so stupid, ignorant, unwashed, and unthinking as to have voted (rather democratically and in lockstep with the American Constitution, if I may) to elect our latest President. Just like our President who has been targeted by opposition forces who are so fearful of his swamp draining intentions, those of us who support him and his efforts will find ourselves as the likely targets of the code enforcers and we will be known and treated by them as “POS”. If we let them. But just don’t call me a “bureaucrat” or a “politician”. In the vernacular of the relevant statute, those would be “fighting words”.

    As for how things shape up based on political leanings, do recall – as just one example of many – how Lois Lerner and her beloved IRS (don’t forget the “S” stands for “Service”) somehow didn’t go after and selectively target those on the left side of the political spectrum. Fundamentals may be different, but the political leanings of those in the bureaucrat’s bullseye aren’t likely to change much. Putting all that momentarily aside, however, the garden variety bureaucrat just hates and detests the average citizen, especially those who serve, who work, who raise decent families, and who strive to mind our own business, enjoy what’s ours, and try to be left alone. And who speak our minds. They really, really, really hate those of us who do that.

    As for the subject property, people did work long and hard to own it. People did work long and hard to keep it. And people worked long and hard to protect this property. It was their “own” property. And then the bureaucrat shows up one day – unexpected, uninvited, and very much unwanted – and says “No more. I’m in charge now. I’ll tell you what you’ll do with this property that you only think you ‘own’. Henceforth, I’ll tell you what you’ll do with it and you’ll no longer have any say so in the matter.” After almost eighty years of ownership and payments of tons of money in taxes, the code enforcer takes over.

    Very dismissively and contemptuously, I do call them “bureaucrats”. And “code enforcers”. And this little “City of Tucker”. More to the actual point, though, they are vile parasitic shakedown artists who aggressively attack the citizenry and their rights to ownership and personal decision-making. And if we stand by and let them, it will only get worse and they will take more and more from us. They will continue to sneakily hide behind what they do by fraudulently calling it “public service”, but those among us with even the most modest levels of intelligence realize this isn’t even minimally what it is.

    And ask yourselves this question. Of the huge amounts of tax dollars you hand over, how much of it actually goes to things you want or need? Then ask a second question. Of the headaches, aggravation, difficulty, and hardship that you and your family experience, how much of it originates from “bureaucrats”, “public service” sources, or, if you will, “government” at large?

    And then we have our politicians, bureaucrats of a similar stripe. Have you ever listed the promises they proffer at election time and then compare them with the promises they make in future election cycles? If they kept their promises – pretty much any of them – would they be making the same promises over and over again? What exactly have they done for you and how have they made your lives one little bit better?

    One thing, however, you can be sure they do. They endorse and approve the funding (your very own tax dollars, remember) that allows this underhanded, corrupt, vile, and thoroughly out of control bureaucracy to get bigger and bigger and to get better and better at running roughshod over both you, your wallet, and your personal independence. More of your money. More “public service”. More of you getting run roughshod over by the very bureaucratic minions that your very own money finances.

    President Trump? He’s no career politician. He’s keeping his election promises. And getting maligned and vilified at every turn.

    But do remember this. We’re only talking about some little speck on the map now called “City of Tucker”. But many of you who reside in other places near and far already have your own versions of local community government-driven nitpicking, harassment, abuse of power, citizen targeting, and money sponging practices. Those of you who don’t have it yet would be most prudent to not get caught napping.

    Now, allow me to repeat a few things.

    Have crimes been committed on the subject property? Yes, they have. Possessions have been stolen; door and gate locks have been cut; doors have been broken; and doors have been removed. In fact, the latest incident is quite recent. It happened on or around 14 June 2018, about the same time the unwanted and uninvited nettlesome code enforcer was stalking, skulking, and prowling around the very same private property. And, oh, yes, leaving behind her own property damage by sticking holes in and around the front door. And probably littering the front yard with trash. Lots of others routinely do.

    Where is “law enforcement”? No where to be found. In their stead, you have the code enforcer furtively skulking around on “private” property searching for “weeds” and tiny vines and causing her own unique brands of property damage. Under the entirely fraudulent guise of “public service”. And dedicated to having property “owners” arrested – accomplished by the very same ones who fail to prevent or investigate the litter, property damage, and break-ins, I presume – and thrown in filthy jail cells where people die. For tiny vines and “weeds”.

    Again, let’s understand this point. We are talking about a much larger process where the unchecked and ever expanding bureaucracy is digging their way deeper and deeper into our private lives and they are doing more and more to erode and steal rights and protections that decent and upstanding people hold dear. This little “City of Tucker” is a poisonous symptom of a much, much broader effort that is committed to sending treacherous tentacles into areas of our lives we may have heretofore never thought possible. Those of good conscience have to push back against the treacherous advance of the swamp and its devious and manipulative emissaries. I’m doing my part to expose a tiny part of it. I hope others will commit to doing the same. Sunlight is a good sanitizer and a good start.

    Help us, Mr. President. Not just within the Beltway, but in the communities, towns, and cities where we try to raise our families the best we can and to live out our lives in respectable and productive fashions. It’s immoral, subversive, and evil to have to spend time, effort, money, and worry protecting ourselves from frivolous, unwarranted, and unscrupulous government attack. You, more than virtually anyone else, have been forced to become fully acquainted with all that.

    Harold L. Nash
    770/877-2702 (mobile)
    hlnash1948@icloud.com; hlnash@charter.net
    Flowery Branch, Georgia 30542

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