Editorial: Celebrate your right to knowPublished 10:52am Monday, March 11, 2013
You have a right to know. This is the start of Sunshine Week, a time to celebrate access to government and to remind officials that their records and meetings are your records and meetings.
Your tax dollars have funded government, and thus you have the right see what city, county, school, township, watershed, state and federal officials see. Nearly everything from court files to police reports to marriage licenses is available for your inspection. You have a right to attend public meetings, even the ones they want to call workshops or retreats so they can get out of the public view.
It’s not a perfect world. From lawmakers to bureaucrats to local leaders, not everyone grasps the concept of open government. Many simply want the public to trust that they are doing their jobs and to go away and leave them be. It is how big matters such as campaign finance or simple matters such as Albert Lea sewer rates can become so convoluted and difficult for the public to grasp — because the information is either limited or filtered or disputed.
Sunshine Week aims to remind public officials to be respectful of open records and open meetings laws. This newspaper for years has been a strong advocate of open government and has pushed local officials to change their ways where needed, with some success. But there is much to do. A person need not be a member of the news media to push for open records. You have the same right as anyone and you, too, can be an advocate of open government. Don’t let them keep their documents from you. Ask, ask and ask again. It’s good citizenship to keep an eye on the government.
After all, they are spending your tax dollars.