Public dissatisfaction with government, both federal and state, is at all time highs. Many people, perhaps most, believe that the problem with government lays primarily with the people we elect to represent us. From this perspective, the way to improve government is fairly simple, at least in theory: just throw the bums out and elect better people.
Without a doubt, a good government requires good people, i.e., educated, experienced, thoughtful, honest individuals who genuinely want to serve the public interest, not their own. In my view, however, those are the kinds of people we usually elect. I spend more time these days over at the General Assembly, meeting with elected representatives from both parties. The overwhelming majority of our representatives are thoughtful, honest people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, who want to serve the public to the best of their ability. (Whether they constitute a fair representation or cross-section of the people they are elected to represent is a different question. See “The Gerrymandering Problem.”)
If the people are not the problem, what is? The answer to that question lies in large part in the design of our governmental system and the rules that govern its operation, including elections. The structure and design of government, the formal rules and informal conventions and customs that govern the manner in which individuals are elected and how government operates and “makes decisions,” are integral to the effectiveness of government. A well designed government does not guarantee good policy outcomes, but a poorly designed one surely does, no matter the quality of the persons elected, appointed and hired to run it.
The premise of this site is that good governance is a critical ingredient of good (or at least better) government. Good people are essential, but good governance will help attract good people and get the best out of them too. To the maximum extent possible, the constitutional and statutory rules, the formal legislative rules and procedures, the informal customs and conventions that establish and control the processes by which public officials make decisions, all of these should reflect the principles of good governance. Doing so will, in turn, improve the effectiveness of government and the confidence of the people in their government. In short, good governance will improve our democracy.
If the premise of this site is that good governance leads to good government, the objectives of this site are two-fold: (1) identify aspects of our state, and occasionally federal and local, governments that do not comport with one or more of those attributes; and (2) provide concrete proposals to remedy those governance weaknesses.
One last matter. Although my experience as an open government advocate for more than 15 years motivated me to create this site, there are many other people, including public officials, who are even better positioned to identify good governance problems in the Nutmeg State and to offer concrete solutions. I invite all good governance proponents, whatever their political affiliation, to contribute their thoughts and proposed solutions to this site or its associated Facebook page. Good governance should be a bi-partisan, if not non-partisan, issue.