It’s a brave new world of transparency in South Carolina.
Citizens have gotten their first tastes of government accountability in the digital age as records are increasingly easier to access and as governments respond to the public push for transparency measures online.
But it’s not enough. People are hungry for more honesty, ever pressing for purer government at all levels, especially those levels that are easiest for them to track.
What do to deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have to do with newly elected state House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington?
Absolutely nothing. Except that they are case studies in transparency. Brown and Garner illustrate the need for it. Lucas, a victory for watchdog citizens.
We don’t yet know whether the deaths of those two men will lead to stricter punishments for officers who kill unarmed citizens, and whether they will lead to more lives being saved in the future.
But we do know people are increasingly aware of the use of excessive or deadly force by police. Law enforcement also knows people are watching.
Transparency is reportedly one reason officers in the Columbia Police Department will begin wearing body cameras by the end of next year.
Just down the street from the CPD is the capitol. Average citizens frequent its marble halls during the first half of the year to watch how lawmakers vote and to try to sway their policy decisions.
For years some of these watchdogs have criticized ex-House Speaker Bobby Harrell for allegedly ruling the chamber with an iron fist. Harrell resigned his post in October after pleading guilty to charges that he misused campaign funds.
Jay Lucas, who delivered an acceptance speech centered on transparency, was elected in his place. Harrell’s resignation was a victory for watchdogs who began sniffing around his campaign accounts two years ago. But they remain cautiously optimistic over the new leadership.