Candidates discuss transparency in state government

Two men – State Rep. Matt Baker, of Wellsboro, and Jonathan A. Ruth, D-Covington – are vying for a chance to represent the voters of the 68th Legislative District.

The district covers all of Tioga County and the following municipalities in Bradford County: Alba, Canton, Sylvania, Troy and the townships of Armenia, Canton, Columbi, Granville, Ridgebury, Smithfield, South Cree, Springfield, Troy, Wells and West Burlington.

Baker is a native of Westfield and is seeking the Republican nomination in the May 20 primary election.

Ruth teaches music in kindergarten through 12th grades in the Southern Tioga School District. He is seeking the Democrat nomination.

Q: Do you think that the Legislature is transparent enough? If not, what needs to change?

BAKER: “I think there has been tremendous improvement but there is always room for improvement.

“In general, I think it is important for elected officials to be as transparent and accountable as possible. Tremendous improvement over the years has been made and hopefully those efforts will continue.”

RUTH: “I do not think it is, I think one of the biggest problems is corporate influence, big money influence. I think there needs to be more transparency in who is funding candidates regarding their support of issues that affect the donors.”

Q: Do you think there is a connection between government transparency and government accountability?

BAKER: “There is a connection between government transparency and government accountability. All I can tell you is my office returns phone calls from newspaper reporters all over the state. I’m as open and transparent as possible and compliant with all existing laws without violating privacy rights.

“We have the Sunshine law, ethics laws, the attorney general can do investigations if there are concerns about impropriety.”

RUTH: “Yes, I think that government should be first and foremost of, by and for the people, and people should be involved every step of the way. Elected officials should be transparent and more accountable to their constituents than the donors or the statewide party.”

Q: Do you believe that government agencies should put most documents/information online, so that interested citizens don’t have to make requests for public records?

BAKER: “As long as it doesn’t violate privacy rights. As the author of three identity theft laws in Pennsylvania, we need to have a proper balance between open accountability and transparency and becoming victims of crime ID theft happens every four seconds in America and costs billions of dollars per year. So we need to have a healthy balance when it comes to people’s information, primarily Social Security numbers and dates of birth because those are key elements criminals use to obtain people’s identities credit cards and loans. Identity theft takes many different forms and results in tremendous damage if we are not careful.”

RUTH: “Yes, I think any information that is of public record should be available publicly. With today’s technology, there is no reason not to make information available to the public.”