The national health care debate may not be any closer to a conclusion than before the arguments began, but because of all of the attention the debate has generated we’ve learned that our elected leaders don’t always read the legislation they are voting on. The 2,000-some-page health care bill was an example, but its failure of passage followed a lot of critical press - printed, verbal and televised. Had the negative news about the bill not been the major news topic before its vote in Congress that bill might have passed without any member having read it. That’s not how the system is supposed to work; major pieces of legislation are to be debated and all of their provisions known and understood.
So a free press, and again we mean print, verbal or televised media, remained a stalwart defender of our right to know and protected us from legislation that was neither read nor understood.
We elect leaders as our representatives. They become our voices in all matters from local government to the highest government positions in Washington D. C. We give elected officials the authority to work for our best interest and we give them that authority through our vote. But, we have to make sure they do represent our best interests and we accomplish that through many means, including the media. Our government is open and our representatives are charged with the responsibility to keep it open and honest. We have “Sunshine” laws which mandate that our government proceedings A kind word Sunshine Week word are open with few and limited exceptions.
The City of Detroit paid thousands of dollars out in a lawsuit when its mayor used a lawsuit settlement to hide his inappropriate behavior. The Detroit Free Press investigation into Kwame Kilpatrick’s office and text messages ended up costing not only the taxpayers but the mayor his job and freedom.
Under the guise of savings, your right to know what your government is doing is under new attack. Meeting proceedings are being printed in synopsis form with full minutes available at governmental offices or in some cases over the Internet. It’s almost like the health care bill that no one could read because there wasn’t time before a vote was taken. It’s government working in the dark, away and out of the spotlight. Meeting proceedings must be kept in a permanent printed form and away from opportunity for interference or corrupt manipulation.
Saturday is the first day of spring, which also happens to fall during the annual Sunshine Week observance, a week set aside to highlight the importance of an open, transparent government where all citizens have the right to see what their government is doing and what their elected representatives are accomplishing. We also have the right to watch our government’s spending and in an election year that is of paramount importance. Our voting decisions are based on what we know of our elected representatives. Our knowledge keeps us free.