The attack on transparency

Published 7:38 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Recently we have been critical of Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) and those among his colleagues whose actions seek to keep Virginians in the dark. Among the things to which we have objected is Senate Bill 560, which was written and introduced by Norment with the intent of removing foreclosure notices from newspapers.

Last week, Norment’s bill was voted on by the full Senate and was defeated by a vote of 21-17 (two Republican senators did not vote). Senator John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), another Republican representing a portion of Suffolk, has proved himself to be disinterested in government transparency— if not actively opposed to it.

While the bill’s defeat is good news for those who believe public notices should remain just that, the bad news is that each and every year several bills are submitted that would allow government to restrict the way vital information — much of which documents the activities of the government — is disseminated to the public.

Email newsletter signup

Each year these bills pick up a little more steam, as citizens prove themselves willing to cede a little more transparency in exchange for not having to exert the effort to resist a government that is every day pulling the wool a little bit further over their eyes.

Government control over the content and manner in which public information is communicated is not an issue the people should take lightly.

Whether it be a state legislature attempting to kill public notices in newspapers, a local school board deciding if you can utter the name of a government employee during citizens’ time or a local city council brazenly violating the Freedom of Information Act by holding a meeting in closed session during which it discusses pay raises and bonuses for an entire city department, government transparency — and your right to know — is under perpetual attack.

And unless those who desire a government of, by and for the people publicly and loudly demand accountability and transparency from those whom they have elected to serve, those who would seek to operate in the shadows will win.

When that happens, the rest of us will lose.