ISJ EDITORIAL: Pocatello mayor, council need to rethink raises

One doesn’t have to look very hard these days to find a fellow American who doesn’t have faith in our government or to locate some proof that our government is not trust worthy.

Media reports abound chronicling our government’s tendency to waste money, mistreat we the people or worse. Our government’s missteps happen on all levels from Congress down to small town Idaho and the blunders are so bad and frequent that many of us can’t help but conclude that our government is plagued by rampant corruption and sheer arrogance.

The Pew Research Center has been tracking how much Americans trust their government since 1958. The most recent survey results, released this past April, show that only 17 percent of Americans trust their government to do the right thing most of the time or almost always. The only worse result in the history of the Pew survey occurred in October 2011 when 15 percent of Americans acknowledged strong trust in their government.

To show how badly Americans’ trust in their government has declined, nearly 75 percent of Americans said they had strong trust in their government when Pew first started its government trust poll more than 60 years ago.

The fact that Americans’ current trust in their government is significantly worse than during the Vietnam War — a conflict many historians believe nearly tore our country apart — says it all and should alarm all of us, especially our government’s leaders in East Idaho, Boise and Washington, D.C.

Idaho Controller Brandon Woolf has looked at the Pew government trust survey results through the years and has correctly been concerned.

If the vast majority of Americans don’t trust their government to do the right thing, our nation clearly has some very serious problems.

Rather than just expressing some worry about the Pew poll results and moving on, Woolf took the matter to heart and it’s one of the reasons he created the “Transparent Idaho” website, transparent.idaho.gov, in 2012.

This past week, Woolf updated the website with much more information about our state’s government, right down to how much money the state’s various departments are spending on pizza.

Woolf, a Preston native, said there’s enough data on the upgraded “Transparent Idaho” website to literally turn every one of Idaho’s 1.7 million citizens into state auditors capable of taking a deep dive into how every state government agency and office is spending taxpayers’ dollars.

“This is truly our opportunity to open the books,” Woolf said. “This is the citizens’ money, and they have the right to know how that money is being spent.”

Even individual state government contracts and expenditures with specific vendors can now be explored via “Transparent Idaho.”

Woolf said that in the future he wants to add information on how Idaho’s school districts and city and county governments are spending tax dollars. Unfortunately, it appears some of those entities are resisting his push for such information.

They shouldn’t because during these times when the vast majority of Americans look at their government as at best incompetent, anything government can do to heal the rift is extremely helpful.

We can’t heap enough praise on Woolf for doing more than his part to repair the obviously deteriorating relationship between our government and we the people.

If our government had more people like Woolf working for it, those Pew survey results would definitely be less frightening and more encouraging.

Hopefully Woolf’s peers throughout Idaho and beyond will take notice of “Transparent Idaho” and follow in his footsteps.