By Miles Keenlyside | Opinions Editor
Cue the banjos folks; the state of Georgia is at it again.
In an apparent effort to push our wonderful “Empire State of the South” further into the political backwoods, the State of Georgia has voted to close access to the Georgia Public Archives in Morrow, GA. Under the guise of cutting government spending, Georgia has cut our access to important government records that should be open and available to every Georgia citizen.
The most unnerving part of this whole debacle is how this issue has seemed to fly just under the political radar of most of the state’s voters. What should be a free and open access point for the public records of Georgia government will now only be available by appointment, and only if there are employees available. Basically, the State gets to say when you can and can’t look at the records, which in my opinion puts far too much power in their hands.
In an official message from the Governor’s office, Georgia government states that the conclusion was reached after “great consternation,” but my gut feeling tells me that the small-government fanatics in the Georgia congress had no second thoughts about eliminating spending on one of the only public services which can hold them accountable for their actions.
This leaves Georgia as the only state in the nation without public access to public records. Georgia does not need another blemish on our already less-than-clean record on progressive public policies.
Public access to records is absolutely essential to preventing government corruption and encouraging government transparency. By limiting access to public records, the State of Georgia has effectively disarmed those who would seek to hold government officials accountable for what they discuss behind closed doors.
While other states are passing progressive laws like marijuana reform and same sex marriage, Georgia seems to be making every effort to cement Georgia’s image as a scene right out of Deliverance by passing laws restricting women’s access to abortions and closing public archives.
I find it hard to believe the State of Georgia looked very hard to cut “excess spending” in order to reduce state spending by $732,626 (according to an official message from the Governor’s office) when Governor Nathan Deal alone spent $29,804 in 2011 on travel alone (according to open.georgia.gov.)
I don’t know about you, but it seems a little expensive for one man to spend almost thirty thousand dollars for one year’s worth of travel. On top of that, for that same man to cut access to a crucial public service and cite funding as the issue is suspect. I think you need to lay off the private jets, Mr. Deal.
Here’s an example of good leadership in hard financial times: In 2009, Japan Airlines was not doing so well. To compensate for the lack of money and to keep the company afloat, CEO Haruka Nishimatsu cut his salary to less than what his pilots make, eliminated his perks, started taking the bus to work and started eating lunch in the employee cafeteria. That’s an example of man dedicated to the well-being of his employees as well as his company.
Mr. Deal seems to be more worried about his own bottom line. Rather than acting as a benevolent leader and eliminating his own actual frivolous spending, he decided to shut down one of the only public service that might hold him financially accountable.
Let me reiterate: Nathan Deal has left Georgia as the only state in the nation without public access to government archives. As Georgians, this is not something we should stand for. If the Governor’s office wants to cut “excess” spending, they should do just that: eliminate excess spending (perhaps from within their own office), and keep their hands off of the essential public services that allow transparency in our state government.
It is against our fundamental rights as citizens, and undermines our ability to become an informed electorate. Fellow Georgians lets not these government-slashing politicians have their way with our public archives. If you want to keep Georgia government transparent and uncorrupted, write your local congressman and let them know how you feel about this travesty against democracy. Have your voice heard before Georgia politicians cut more essential public services to protect their personal finances.