Editorial: Letting the sun shine in
This Sunday marks the beginning of Sunshine Week in Ohio.
It is not a reference to spring coming and starting to get a couple more hours of daylight.
Rather, it refers to celebrating the press’ and the citizens right to access government information. Celebrating Sunshine Week began in 2005 with American Society of Newspaper Editors. It coincides with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, who drafted the U.S. Constitution and was a strong advocate for the Bill of Rights.
For a democracy to work well, the government has to be, to use a favorite buzzword, transparent. And to do that, the public and the press have to be able to know what the government is doing, not just what they say they are doing.
It is one thing for a government official to say that they are getting the best value it can, for example, a road project. That is what is expected of them.
It is another thing for someone to do a little research and find out that the official is getting a kickback from the road contractor who has a crew pave a driveway for free at that same official’s house as a way of saying “thank you.” That is unethical, dishonest and a crime.
There are plenty of real life cases where people can access public records. Whether its a reporter covering their beat or a someone researching their family tree via public records to researchers trying to track incidents of particular disease, access to government records is to keep functionally honestly and in the open.