Thomas Jefferson said it best in the Declaration of Independence: Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
In other words, every institution, from the White House down to Paintsville City Hall only exists because the people permit it. We pay our tax dollars and choose the people who will determine how they get spent.
This system does not work if it is not transparent. If the government takes tax dollars but does not show how they were spent, that violates the contract they have with us.
The federal government is so colossal that following every penny is nearly impossible. Even Frankfort is replete with so many departments and agencies, it’s hard to keep track.
That’s why it’s refreshing when, at least here at the city and county level, we have governments and agencies that seem to strive to be as transparent and accountable as possible.
We went to city hall this week to get a copy of the city’s budget for the coming fiscal year, and found it was not only available for inspection, but already there and waiting. Venerable City Clerk Virgie Castle had copies sitting on the desk, already made, ready for any citizen who wanted to see how their local tax dollars will be spent in the coming fiscal year.
On top of that, the budget completely lists its comparison with the current fiscal year’s budget.
It’s refreshing to attend meetings at the Johnson County Fiscal Court, too, where a packet is available not only with the agenda, but with every item on the agenda to be discussed.
This is the way it ought to be. We say that not because it makes our job much easier — which, of course, it does — but because it lives up to those Jeffersonian aspirations.
You’re free to disagree with the way the city and county spend those tax dollars. It’s not our job, or anyone else’s, to say they’re being spent correctly. And if you do disagree, please speak up. Attend the meetings and voice your concerns. Write a letter to the editor. Money is tight in Eastern Kentucky and every cent certainly counts. But even if you disagree with every choice, at least we are not battling issues of transparency.