OPEN GOVERNMENT -- "Forgive me for not
running to the newsroom parapets with a trumpet when Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger finally decided to join the 21st century earlier this
month and order the posting of government contracts and audits online," writes Thomas Peele in the Contra Costa Times.

Imagine that, California government transparency on the Internet. Who'd have thought?

Actually,
a lot of people have. Like every member of the Legislature, every open
government advocate and just about anyone with a computer and a smidgen
of common sense.

So here's the governor, with barely 18 months to
go in office and presiding over a fiscal apocalypse, he finally follows
through on campaign promises to shine a light into California's dark
fiscal corners.

None of what Schwarzenegger did by issuing
executive order S-08-09 earlier this month is a new idea. In fact, he's
twice vetoed bills that would have done more for online transparency.
Now, when California's coffers looking as if John Dillinger just paid
them a visit, he does a little two-step?

In the past,
Schwarzenegger has been nearly Pollyannaish about access. He vetoed
reform legislation in 2006 claiming that access wasn't a problem
because he issued an order telling his bureaucrats to be sure to comply
with the Public Records Act.

If he expected people to believe
that, he might as well have stood on the Golden Gate Bridge telling
tourists he had its deed in his pocket and was taking bids on it.

He claimed that releasing his
appointment calendar after passage of Prop. 59 in 2004 was a sign that
he understood transparency. But what the governor did, in reality, was
gut any chance that advocates had of establishing a clear judicial
interpretation of the meaning of Prop. 59.

Sure,
Schwarzenegger did the right thing by releasing his calendar, but his
decision bound no one else. He didn't even declare that it was the
policy of his administration that the calendars of all officials in
state government were to be released.

Among the ideas the
governor rejected was creating an office of open government, which
could have turned Prop. 59 into a hammer to pound away at openness
issues. The legal meaning of Prop. 59, which amended the state
constitution to require that the government always take the broadest
possible interpretation of disclosure, remains untested and largely
ignored.