Let the sunshine in

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2005

This is Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week was established to focus public attention on what are described as &uot;Sunshine Laws,&uot;

Sunshine laws are those that force government – local, state and national – to conduct the public business in open view of the public, something that’s central to our republic and personal liberty.

It’s said that such a week has to even be established. Open, honest government is your right. When the public business is conducted behind closed doors, bad things happen. However, more and more, that is just what is happening. A recent poll of college students found that a majority of them believe that the American press enjoys too much freedom.

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Too much freedom? It’s hard to believe, as well as frightening, that we are raising a generation of Americans who appear to be willing to sacrifice the freedoms their fathers and grandfathers fought and died to defend.

The reason for it is ignorance, plain and simple. That’s why we need events like &uot;Sunshine Week&uot; to focus public attention on such matters and remind them what is important.

Writing in Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Thoams A. Silvestri, president and publisher, in a front page editorial, wrote the following:

&uot;&uot;We see danger in a post 9/11 America blindly trusting secrecy by government. In addition, we agree with government watchdogs that the electronic age, despite its hype about easier access to records, may instead allow bureaucrats to more artfully hide databases that tell us how and what elected officials and government workers are doing.

&uot;An open government isn’t a press issue. It should be the concern of every citizen. Our job, we believe, is to improve public understanding of why freedom of information is vital to an open and fair government that well represents its people.

&uot;Thing about this: When is the last time government delivered to your house or apartment an explanation of how it conducted the public’s business in an open, unfettered way?&uot;

(The Times-Dispatch, by the way, did a wonderful package on Sunshine laws in their Sunday, March 13 paper. Please check it out online at www.richmondtimesdispacth.com)

Please take time this week to educate yourself on the importance of open government and the public’s right to know. Sinister forces in our government increasingly want to conduct the public business behind closed doors – whether it’s to give fat contracts to business cronies or to solidify their power, such activity is almost always wrong and detrimental to the health of our democracy.

Those of you who care and ask the tough questions of your elected representatives are the true patriots. We wish there were more like you.