Keep the Death Penalty — For Local Governments

The death penalty may be prohibitively expensive when it comes to prisoners. But that doesn't mean we should eliminate the death penalty entirely.

California still needs a death penalty for local governments.

One reason for such a penalty is the sheer number of them: more than 4,500 local governments.

That's simply too many governments for citizens and the press to monitor and hold accountable.

Local governments' responsibilities and regions overlap, making it unclear to citizens who is in charge of what.  So local governments need to be open and transparent.

But many of them are anything but.

That's the second reason for a penalty.

Local governments simply ignore essential laws requiring them to provide public information. Just take a look at this piece from Thomas Peele of the Contra Costa Times.

He describes how local governments won't provide the most basic public information -- how much they are paying people.

If you won't tell the public -- and that means any member of the public who asks -- how much you are paying people, then you are a government that simply can't be trusted.

And a government that exists so outside the law shouldn't be allowed to stick around.

That said, local governments in California need more authority, especially over programs they administer.

Gov. Jerry Brown and a host of good government groups are trying desperately to move the state in that direction.

But it is crucial that, if such authority is to be returned to the locals, governments abide by basic rules on public information.

Of course, there are virtually no penalties for local governments who won't meet their basic legal responsibilities.

There need to be. One of those needs to be the death penalty -- the elimination of governments who won't tell us what they're doing with their money.

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