OUR VIEW: Online records are welcome sign of greater transparencyWe were stunned — absolutely and incredibly stunned — to learn earlier this week that state health inspection information for restaurants, hotels and campgrounds will now be posted on a website.
We were stunned — absolutely and incredibly stunned — to learn earlier this week that state health inspection information for restaurants, hotels and campgrounds will now be posted on a website.
That may seem like a silly thing to be stunned about, but if you were in our shoes you’d be equally stunned.
In recent years, we’ve done several stories about state inspections of gas stations and restaurants, and about other state-run regulation and inspection programs. Every time we’ve done one of those stories, we’ve noted the inaccessibility of the records and state government’s failure to put them online or provide notice of their availability.
Getting those kinds of records has typically been a headache. It usually starts with a request to a state bureaucrat who invariably responds with a lot of groaning and griping about how difficult it will be to compile all the records we want. Sometimes, we’re refused the records outright. Then a long process of cajoling and negotiating begins, and we usually get some or all of the records we want, but only after an unnecessarily lengthy process.
We’ve always maintained that it shouldn’t be that way. Those records belong to us, the citizens of South Dakota, not to the bureaucrats. The way some bureaucrats have hoarded and withheld records in this state has been despicable.
But now, we see evidence of a remarkable change in the outlook of state government. As part of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Better Government Initiative, consumers can find health inspection scores for nearly 6,000 food service, lodging and campground establishments on a new state webpage. To find it, just go to doh.sd.gov and click the “health scores” link.
It’s amazing, really. What just a couple of years ago would have taken a herculean effort by a reporter to pry out of the hands of a bureaucrat will now be available in an instant to anyone with an Internet connection.
To many people, it may seem an insignificant development. To us, it’s evidence of a continuing and highly encouraging change in this state’s political culture. Openness is becoming a standard to be upheld, rather than an annoying obligation to be avoided.
We credit Gov. Dennis Daugaard for creating an environment in which this change can blossom, and for turning his campaign rhetoric about openness into action. And we hope local units of government will follow his lead.