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I think it really does ratchet up the level of accountability.

Cuomo looks to website to make government more transparent

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Following recent criticism, Governor Cuomo has launched a new website aimed at making his administration more transparent to the public.

The site lists events from his public schedule since taking office in January, and will feature on-line chats with top state officials, including the Governor himself, this coming Saturday. In Albany, Karen DeWitt has the story:

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Cuomo promised during the 2010 campaign for governor to make more details of his personal schedule available to the public, but until now had not followed through on that. In recent weeks, the governor has faced growing criticism in news articles and on editorial pages about a perceived lack of transparency.

On Wednesday, bloggers noted that an updated list of public spokesman at state agencies, available to the media on request, failed to include staff home or cell phone numbers, which had been a long time practice.  

Now, with the launch of a new website that includes details from the governor’s day to day schedule and a list of upcoming events by administration officials, government reform groups say Cuomo has taken a major step towards openness.

“I think it’s a very good development”, said Sue Lerner, with Common Cause.

The site includes information on staff meetings the governor has held since taking office in January, including meals at the executive mansion with legislators,  and meetings one on one with various State Senators in the days leading up to the successful Senate vote to legalize gay marriage. It also shows records of numerous plane trips the governor has taken, some to promote his budget and tax cap agenda. Others to survey storm damages after Irene and Lee. 

Top administration officials, including Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens, will be hosting weekly on line charts with the public.
Cuomo will host the first forum this Saturday September 24th, from 9 to 10 AM. Internet based town hall style meetings are also planned.

Governor Cuomo, speaking to reporters in Goshen, where he announced new aid for farmers flooded out during the tropical storms, said “it’s a new way to get people involved”.

Russ Haven, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says the Governor has set a standard for himself that will be hard to retreat from in the future.

“It does create a set of expectations,” said Haven. “You can’t un-ring that bell.”

Haven says a major gap in the schedule, or a questionable plane ride, would be open to greater scrutiny.

“If there are any gaps people are going to assume that there’s a story to be told even if there isn’t” said Haven. “I think it really does ratchet up the level of accountability”.

Haven says the website could prove to be a “useful tool” for the public to keep tabs on their state government. Haven and Lerner say the challenge for Cuomo and his staff in the future will be to keep posting meetings and other details of the governor’s schedule, even during times when it might not be to Cuomo’s advantage. But they say so far, the site seems to be off to a good start.    

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