11 hrs ago
The Town Talk
Sunshine Week: Beware actions that cloud open government
<![CDATA[MONROE, La. -- The long-range weather forecast for this week is for us to enjoy springlike temperatures and some sun peeking through the clouds. That's only fitting, because it is Sunshine Week. But the sunshine we're celebrating is not caused by the fiery star. It's the light shining on open government that allows citizens to participate and learn how decisions that affect their lives are made. These days, the climate for open government is partly cloudy and, in some cases, quite stormy. While some efforts are being made to provide citizens greater access to the workings of their elected officials and governmental departments, some troubling winds are blowing. We see that Louisiana's state government is transparent in many ways. The budget, contracts, campaign finance reports, audits, legislative activity and many other pieces of vital information are readily available to the public. But we also see a state government that stalls on public records request and has wound up in court on more than one occasion when citizens have challenged government's inability to comply with its own laws. Transparency, you see, is in not in the eye of the beholder, it's in the eye of any governmental agency's custodian of records. Enforcing that transparency when someone does not want to comply with a request becomes a matter of who's got the money to pay for a lawyer and take it to court. Most people don't care about transparency in government until they are denied access to information they want. And unfortunately, these days, individual laws are being passed that are slowly closing up access to information that you may some day want to know. Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger. Citizen involvement in actions that hold government accountable is essential in a democracy. Please take a minute or two this week to think about the importance of letting the sun shine on government activities and consider supporting efforts to keep government operating in the sunshine. --The News-Star, Monroe, La.
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