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This is Sunshine Week. No, that doesn’t mean we’ll have temperatures above 60 and be able to soak up rays for seven days, though that would be nice.
Sunshine Week is when citizens of this great democratic nation and we as journalists highlight, illuminate and enlighten the necessity for a transparent government.
At the heart of the matter is the public’s right to know. To paraphrase James Madison, the father of the transparent government concept, citizens must understand what their government is doing. If we don’t have that knowledge, then how can our elected officials expect us to agree with or support them?
Conversely, how can we intelligently and articulately disagree with those same officials and decisions or policies if we don‘t really know what‘s going on?
Open and accessible government is vital to establishing and maintaining the people’s trust and confidence in their government and in the government’s ability to effectively serve its citizens.
In recent weeks, area citizens have become more and more vocal about wanting access to local government information.
The newspaper has taken the initiative to upload more original documents on our website and links to the same information that our local leaders and decision-makers see. This may be a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.
So, as we celebrate Sunshine Week, let us all — citizens, journalists, government officials, elected representatives — make a commitment to a more open and more accessible government.
Let’s make in Sunshine Year.
• Have you identified local or state open government shortcomings? What are they? Do you have suggestions for how those shortcomings should be addressed? What can government bodies do to improve communication between themselves and citizens? E-mail your information to email@example.com. To learn more about Sunshine Week, visit www.sunshineweek.org.