The Democratic nominee for Allegheny County Executive wants to put government spending and contracts online to make it easier for taxpayers to see where the county spends their money.
Rich Fitzgerald said his plan is about making public information easier to access. "It almost seems kind of trite now, you think, 'Well, why wouldn't we do that?' But back in those days, we didn't," Fitzgerald said. "You had to go to the County Office building and go up to the fifth floor and ruffle through old dusty books to find assessment information, whether it be for yourself or your neighbors, to look at comparables."
Fitzgerald wants to place campaign finance reports, budgets and contracts for professional or lobbying services, and the county's expenditures on the public database. He said he would also work to return search by name rather than address on the county's property assessment pages. In addition, his plan is to post county candidates' financial disclosure forms online.
Fitzgerald said he worked to make government more transparent during his time as County Council President by televising public meetings and streaming them online. "We've been able to use technology along with a new philosophy in county government to make sure that the public is fully aware of what we're doing, that they're fully informed as to what actions, what votes, what policies that affect their lives are done," Fitzgerald said.
The proposal follows a similar set of transparency laws set in place for the city of Pittsburgh on January 1, 2010. The reform package, proposed by Councilman Bill Peduto and Controller Michael Lamb, included lobbyist registration, the disclosure of lobbyists on all Request for Proposal (RFP) responses, and a searchable dataset of all campaign donations.
Fitzgerald said server upgrade and maintenance to store the information included in the transparency plan should not be very costly at all.
The former County Council President is running against Republican D. Raja for County Executive in the November 8 election.