Sunshine week celebrates open government


Sunshine Week 2011 runs from March 13-19 this year, and that is indeed a time all of us ink-bloods truly appreciate.

According to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), Sunshine Week will “highlight ‘Local Heroes’ across America who have played significant roles in fighting for open government.”
What exactly does that mean?

Well, it’s designed to call attention to those who have conducted the proverbial “fight city hall” by causing governmental organizations to open their files and reports in the interest of public knowledge.

The winner of the contest held last year, Suzanne Harris, of Florida, filed a lawsuit against county officials that forced that organization to make significant changes in the way they handle public records. A couple recognized by the American Society of News Editors gathered more than 100 pages of government documents that showed their city treasurer had allegedly mishandled about $400,000 in public monies.

These are real-life Erin Brockovich characters who have forced governmental bodies big and small to “open their books” to the public.

And that is something we greatly admire.

“As a society, we often associate the word ‘hero’ with movie stars and athletes,” said Tim Franklin, co-chair of the ASNE Freedom of Information Committee. “But in a self-governing democracy like ours, it takes the commitment and passion of average citizens doing extraordinary things to make government more open and more accountable.”

President Barrack Obama has called time and time again for more transparency in the federal government. Local officials consistently call for the same thing. But for whatever reason, it is still a battle to secure information in a timely manner without putting forth amazing effort. By bringing Sunshine Week to the public forefront, the hope is that will change.

For more information on Sunshine Week, visit the Web site at www.sunshineweek.org or www.ombwatch.com. Their are event listed on both sites regarding the celebration of Sunshine Week 2011 throughout the nation.