N.C. government is less open than 2008

Last week, the Associated Press reported efforts by the Pat McCrory administration to deny, delay and charge the public to releasing public records.

That doesn’t sit well with most North Carolinians, and they have noticed the change.

According to the latest Elon University Poll, 41% of respondents said that state government is less open and transparent than five years ago vs. 33% who said it is more open and transparent.

Given that the GOP controls the governorship and the state legislature, it’s not surprising that political affiliation differs on openness. 46% of Republicans said state government is more open compared with 32% of Independents and 23% of Democrats. 

Not only that, about half (51%) of the 18- to- 30-year-old age group said that government was less open vs. slightly more than a third of the 31- to- 50-year-old age group.

In addition, 51% of respondents said that public records should be made available for free.

Those who said there should be a fee associated with a public records request were asked, “If it took a government employee 30 minutes to obtain a record for you, what do you think would be a reasonable fee for that document?”

Their answers were basically, not much: 12% said they would pay $1-$5; 10% said they would pay $6-10; 8% would pay $11-20; and 6% would pay more than $20.

“The law requires that the people’s records are available to them at a minimal cost,” said Jonathan Jones, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. “The poll results show that is not just a policy statement, but something that the people finds value in and believes in. The public’s business should be available to it with as few barriers as possible.”

Digging into the numbers:

Politics: 58% of Democrats said the records should be free vs. 55% of Independents and 49% of Republicans.

Race: 61% of African Americans said the records should be free vs. 52% of whites.

The smart politician would throw open the doors of government, make public records easy to get at no charge and brand himself or herself as the transparent politician. That would be the easiest way to turn these numbers around.

— John Robinson

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