Misappropriated funds, back door meetings, and misdeeds are reported more often now than no doubt ever before, even as rules and regulations on access to public information are under increased scrutiny. It takes a particularly strong level of vigilance to fend off the pushback that often follows when misdeeds are uncovered.
That’s why we value Sunshine Week — and why you, our readers, should also.
Shining a light in dark places where the public has a right to know is what makes Sunshine Week of such value to us all.
Sunshine Week, which runs this year March 13-19, is the aptly named nationwide effort at shining light on laws and policies designed to benefit the public’s right to know.
While this effort is often championed in newspapers and media publications like ours, Sunshine Week is really not about media access at all. It’s about promoting transparency and valuing its importance for all of us.
We are all our own community’s watchdogs. We have to be.
If we aren’t, how else will we know when our government officials meet in secrecy to decide where our tax dollars go? Or our local boards make decisions that put our health in danger — look no further than the Flint, Mich. water crisis as just one such example.
Or even locally as just last year our own city council was found in violation of Open Meetings Law by the state attorney general’s office.
As citizens, we have a direct responsibility ourselves — to seek information, to attend public meetings, to ask questions on how our tax dollars are spent, to do the research and be mindful of how we vote and of our voting impact. We have a responsibility also to hold our elected and appointed leaders accountable when they fall short in governing. It’s about all of us becoming aware.
These are the laws that help us know whether there are burglaries in our neighborhoods or if a convicted sex offender lives down the street. These are the laws that show us how our tax dollars are spent. These are the laws that give us access to information on what type of business is going up next door to our property and our schools. These are the laws that give us access to back door deals that some don’t want us to know about, and others choose to ignore.
Sunshine Week is a reminder that transparency and open government isn’t just about media — it’s about all of us — and our legal right to know.
We must remember that there is strength in numbers and when we all stand behind the principals Sunshine Week aims to promote we all are better for it.