Ohio Checkbook follows taxpayer money

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel talks to the the Shelby County Liberty Group about his attempts to make government more transparent during a town hall meeting at the Sidney VFW Hall Monday, July 13.

SIDNEY — Follow the money.

That’s what Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has done with the creation of the Ohio Checkbook.

That’s what Heidi Huber has done as founder of Ohioans for Local Control in her mission of getting Common Core out of the public schools.

Both Mandel and Huber, along with Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, 85th District, were guest speakers at the Shelby County Liberty Group Town Hall Monday night at the Sidney VFW.

Government transparency, said Mandel, is vital to Ohioans and the American people.

“In Nino, in me and in Jim Jordan, you find people who are conservatives before being Republicans. We stand on our conservative principals,” he said.

Two years ago, he said, the state of Ohio’s ranking in transparency was 46th in the nation. He began evaluating how taxpayers could follow the money paid by the state.

“There’s $400 billion of spending going on in the state,” said Mandel. “I decided to put it online so the citizens can follow the money. This information doesn’t belong to the government. It belongs to us. We have the right to know how our tax money is being spent.”

Mandel said he wants to empower the taxpayers to hold the politicians in the state accountable for what they are spending. So he created OhioCheckbook.com. Individuals can search the site to see where the state money has been spent.

“You can also see where the money is coming from,” said Mandel. “Any expenditure that’s appropriated by the Ohio government is here.”

There are some things that aren’t on the website and Mandel is working to change that. He’d like state universities and local government bodies like city councils and school boards to put their information on the site.

Some information, said Mandel, is considered personal and confidential and isn’t included on the website. For instance, if a rape victim is getting paid through victim’s service, the person’s name isn’t released.

“Our ranking now is No. 1 in the nation after launching the site,” said Mandel. He said he has been contacted by governors and treasurers in other states to see how they can start the online program in their states.

Mandel was asked if there has been any positive interest from the federal government about the online checking program.

“That’s my ultimate mission,” said Mandel. “If we have the local government online and the state online, then we take our band of governors and treasurers and march to Washington. It’s time to do this at the federal level with our tax money. If we can make the government smaller, then we can make the people bigger,” he said.

Mandel said he is also on a mission to get Common Core repealed in the state of Ohio.

“No where in the U.S. Constitution does it say the federal government should be involved in educating our children,” said Mandel. “These are the same people who brought us Obamacare and that website. Why would we want them involved in education?”

He said education control needs to be brought back to the local educators.

Huber told the group that Mandel’s support in getting rid of Common Core in Ohio has been huge.

Two things, she said, which should never be nationalized are health care and education. Two House bills, she said, have been introduced about eliminating Common Core. Neither was adopted.

“It’s been two and a half years since I started this,” said Huber. “I’ve faced closed doors and closed ears. I’ve heard name calling. We’ve picked up a few more seats who are active in this fight. Who’s directing Ohio’s education reform? You have to follow the money.”

Common Core is a set of federal standards that have been mandated for schools by the federal government. Huber said citizens need to look at who is making the rules for education; who is enforcing the rules; who is reporting it; and who it benefits financially. She cited Jeb Bush, Bill Gates and Linda Darling Hammond as people who are supporting Common Core.

“The future for Ohio education should be what the parent chooses it to be,” said Huber. “It’s your responsibility to reclaim authority over your school and your child’s education. We have a whole lot to say about who sits in the White House. You need to ask each person, ‘How do you stand on Common Core?’”

Vitale outlined three things the Supreme Court has acted on recently and his response to one of them: he has introduced the Ohio Pastor Protection Act, which would protect pastors/clergy from being sued if they don’t perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and would also protects churches from being sued. There are 26 co-sponsors of the bill.

“Not one person in Republican leadership has signed on to sponsor the bill,” said Vitale. “All I’m interested in is doing what’s right.”

Vitale said he will be on a PBS program later this week — “State of Ohio” — in which he and a Democrat will discuss the bill.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4822; follow her on Twitter @MelSpeicherSDN. Follow the SDN on Facebook, www.facebook.com/SidneyDailyNews.