Public records training must not be overlooked
Welcome to Ohio, the state whose motto may quickly become: What the taxpayers don't know won't hurt them.
Besides ignorance is bliss, isn't it?
That's the only logical message we can see in a recent comment by Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
Seitz was speaking about House Bill 9, a bill aimed at bolstering Ohio's public records laws. The bill would require the state's public office holders to be trained on the laws governing public records access.
It seems like a fairly logical notion - train the folks in charge of protecting the rights of the state's citizens.
But that logic apparently doesn't make much sense to Seitz.
"I will not let any bill get out of this committee that mandates public records training for all elected officials," Seitz said.
In April 2004, a statewide audit coordinated by the Associated Press showed the state's public records were often not so public.
In fact, the audit showed that quick, unconditional access to public information was denied nearly half the time it was requested.
Too bad protecting the public good isn't like horseshoes and hand grenades where "close" is good enough.
House Bill 9 is a critical step in the right direction in the journey to provide good, sensible and open government access to all citizens.
Short-sighted views such as the one apparently held by Seitz are roadblocks along that path.
John Q. Public has the right to see public documents. The opportunity to question and monitor the government is a critical part of what makes our country great.
But unfortunately, the torch of protecting that opportunity rests firmly in the hand of public office holders, who often have no real interest in doing that other than the knowledge that it is the right thing to do.
But relax, sit down and keep your mouth shut. Don't ask to see that, we're the government and we're running this state. That's what Seitz said recently.
Ignorance, even elected ignorance, is bliss.
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