Let the sun shine in on public’s business

Openness in government is not a liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Independent, TEA party or Libertarian issue. The importance of transparency in local, state and federal government should transcend parties and political ideologies.

Checks and balances provide few checks and little balance when officials broker deals behind closed doors and conceal documents that contain important information that citizens have the right, and often the need, to know.

Local government has the biggest impact in the lives of citizens on a day-to-day basis. Whether it is in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, personal property taxes, business taxes, state-shared dollars or federal grants, loans and funding, local government is 100 percent taxpayer funded.

The decisions being made, the monies being spent and the records being kept by city hall, the county commission, the board of education or the utility district all belong to liberals, conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, TEA party volunteers, Libertarians and even politically disinterested individuals. All stakeholders have a stake in open meetings and public records and should care about transparency issues.

This is Sunshine Week. The theme is “Open government is good government.” Sunshine Week focuses on transparency, participation and accessibility.

This week, The Inter-Mountain is highlighting local agencies that operate openly and with transparency, as well as instances when public information has been harder to come by, and officials have been reluctant to let the public know what was going on behind closed doors.

We believe most government officials want to conduct the public’s business openly and with transparency; nonetheless, there are times when questionable decisions are made.

In recent weeks, local governmental agencies – including county commissions, town councils and boards of education – have held meetings at odd times, on unusual days and even on weekends, all without making an effort to alert The Inter-Mountain beforehand.

Inevitably, officials have said the issue was just a misunderstanding or an oversight. However, when the media doesn’t know about a meeting – and therefore can’t cover it – the public doesn’t know what government is doing.

Everyone reading this paper should remember, government is owned by you.

It is for you, the public.

It is for you, the taxpayers.

It is for you, to whom the government is supposed to be accountable.

It is for you, to whom the government is supposed to be accessible.

Sunshine Week strives to educate government officials, so they do there best to operate openly and with transparency.

Sunshine Week also strives to educate the public, so they demand that their government’s business be conducted the right way.

– courtesy of sunshineweek.rcfp.org