Tupac or Biggie? We Need More -- Not Less -- Info About Public Officials

As Riptide reported yesterday, Barbara Jordan believes Miami-Dade public employees' salaries shouldn't be available online. She's even introduced a resolution to strip that info from the web.

Maybe it was the county commissioner's commanding Aug. 14 re-election that emboldened her to make such a move. Or perhaps, as she claims, it's the fear that public officials will have their identities stolen. But whatever her reason, the reasoning is shoddy. With corruption high and public confidence in elected officials low, we need more -- not less -- information on our representatives.

So, in the interest of transparency, we've compiled a list for Jordan of all the other info about public employees that should be made public to taxpayers.

Tupac or Biggie?
Lean, mean West Coast snarl or the East Coast's mush-mouthed master of metaphor? You have to choose sides, Barbara. And no, Will Smith is not an acceptable answer.

Boxers or briefs?
Miami lawmakers are infamous for saying one thing and doing another. That's how we ended up with new baseball stadium but no decent ball players and more than a $1 billion in debt. But if we can't know which way our legislators are leaning, we should at least know which way they are hanging. So let's hear it, Bruno Barreiro. Boxers or briefs?

Little spoon or big spoon?
"You are putting county employees up for scrutiny far more than the public demands," Jordan said yesterday of the current practice of listing salaries online. "We don't know who this information is being shared with. It could lead to identity theft."

Disclosing public employee pay is not invasive, commissioner. It's common sense. Invasive would be demanding to know whether a politician calls big or little spoon during snuggle time. Expect our Freedom of Information Act request any day now.

Scientology: Cult or insular group of rich people who believe humans are infested by alien souls sent to Earth by galactic overlord Xenu?
No wrong answer here.

Corrupt or clean?
One good reason why people deserve to know how much their public officials are making is so that they can judge for themselves when people are living beyond their means. Take Barbara Jordan's brother, Florida City mayor Otis Wallace. As we wrote in February, Wallace has amassed real estate worth several millions of dollars despite what was until recently a very modest public servant salary. When we asked Jordan about a Miami-Dade corruption investigation against her brother, she hung up on us.

But maybe the commissioner is right. Maybe it is nosy of us taxpayers to know how many of our dollars end up in public officials' pockets. And instead of posting their salaries online, we should just put up a box for them to tick: corrupt___ or ___ clean.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.