2017-03-16 / Editorial

Sunshine Week an important observation

Things have been interesting both locally and nationally since last year’s observance of Sunshine Week – a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Sunshine Week is observed each March and focuses on the public’s access to public information. The public has a right to know how its government is spending taxpayer money, how it is acting and what decisions it is making. Whether it be through Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or its Open Meetings Act (OMA), the public’s right to know should be of utmost importance and defended vigorously.

The Resorter believes in an open government and works diligently and daily to fight for it. The business of the public should be done in public. This is important at all levels of government, from township government to school boards to the Michigan legislature to the governor’s office to the White House. Keeping information from the public erodes our democracy.

FOIA statutes are not just for the media, they are also for individual citizens. We have many citizens who use FOIA laws to get information. It is good for citizens to keep elected officials accountable.

FOIA and OMA laws were created for the benefit of both the public and and governmental bodies. A public body’s integrity cannot be questioned when they conduct their business in front of the public. Closed sessions are a necessary component of government, but they should only be used sparingly and when absolutely necessary. Special meetings – held at odd times and not widely publicized – should also be avoided in our opinion.

We also believe people should make it a priority to be educated on what is going on in their government. Most people pay hundreds – if not thousands – of dollars each year in taxes. Not taking an interest in how your investment in our government is spent is inane.

We often receive calls or have conversations with people who are flabbergasted at something “they just learned about.” They are riled up and ready for an argument. Most often, and unfortunately, it is an item we have been covering. The person simply was not following the news. It is frustrating as a news organization to speak with those that do not take the time to become informed. It’s like making a Sunday dinner and having nobody eat it.

Our position remains that an open government is a better government. We simply ask that our public officials – and members of the public – learn the laws and follow them.

Let the sun shine on an open government.

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