If you’re the sort who enjoys spending an evening or even an off-the-rails three day weekend pouring through reams of data secured through the Public Records Act to hold public agencies, their staff members and appointed and elected officials accountable (admit it, you’re reading Rostra aren’t you?), Christmas has come early for you thanks to the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
In support of its mission to promote accountable, cost-effective and efficient government, SDCTA today launched a new online “Data Center” on its website. Included in the SDCTA Data Center are historical budget and audited financial statements, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), state pension system reports, and other government data.
SDCTA says its motivation in building the Data Center is to provide the general public and members of the news media with a central location for the raw data needed to stay informed about decisions made by elected officials. While the data is public record, it can be difficult to obtain because it is not easily accessible, or because there are costs involved to obtain documents. As many readers know, despite the protections of the Public Records Act and FOIA, requesting public records is not for the faint of heart and you better have every “i” dotted and “t” crossed. Since SDCTA has already done the work to obtain the information, it decided to share it with others who might have interest in it.
In addition, the Data Center includes “how-to” guides with step-by-step advice on how to obtain public information under federal and state laws.
Here’s the real beauty of the Data Center model as the Libertarian Lass sees it. Since SDCTA has already incurred the expense gathering the data, it’s now creating a new revenue stream for the organization by charging subscriptions on either a monthly or annual basis to cover the costs of the program. This is a smart business model for a nonprofit which will allow it to carry on and perhaps expand its work on behalf of all taxpayers. Subscriptions are available for one month, or an entire year. Both offer unlimited access to all Data Center documents. Fees are discounted for SDCTA members. SDCTA’s goal is to eventually provide the information and updates free by securing a grant or sponsors to cover the costs.
Now that “Dancing With The Stars” is over until spring, I was wondering how I was going to entertain myself. The Data Center has come along just in time. Thanks, SDCTA.