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Portland Receives a “D-” for Spending Transparency

New OSPIRG Foundation Report Compares Portland to Other Major American Cities
For Immediate Release

Portland- The City of Portland received a grade of “D-” for spending transparency, according to a new report released today by OSPIRG Foundation. The report reviews Portland’s progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.

“Portland is far behind other major cities in the amount of spending data that it provides to its residents,” said Celeste Meiffren, Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate with OSPIRG Foundation. “Right now, Portlanders will find it difficult to go online and see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The report, “Transparency in City Spending: Rating the Availability of Online Government Data in America’s Largest Cities,” reviews and grades the nation’s thirty largest cities on how effectively they allow the public to track budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for quality-of-life services.

The grade of “D-” reflects that Portland is a “lagging city,” because while it provides information like the city budget and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, it does not give residents checkbook level spending data or a central transparency website, making it difficult to find and track critical information on government spending.

“The ability to see how government spends its funds is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility,” said Meiffren.

OSPIRG Foundation makes a series of recommendations for cities like Portland to follow in order to achieve spending transparency, including:
•    Provide online databases of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail.
•    Checkbook-level data should be searchable and downloadable.
•    Provide web visitors with copies of contracts between vendors and the city.
•    Disclose the tax subsidies awarded to individual companies and recipients.
•    Maintain a central transparency portal for all city spending tools and documents.
•    Allow residents to view service requests submitted by other residents and the city’s responses to those requests.

“Spending transparency can help Portlanders hold their elected leaders accountable and ensure that tax dollars are being spent appropriately,” said Meiffren.

The new study extends OSPIRG Foundation’s annual reporting on state government transparency, which since 2010 has compared Oregon’s spending transparency to the other 49 states: http://ospirgfoundation.org/reports/orf/following-money-2012

The “Transparency in City Spending” report can be downloaded at: http://ospirgfoundation.org/reports/orf/transparency-city-spending

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