Sunshine week sheds light on truth

The public deserves to know the details of how and why its elected officials and public figures conduct their business and make their decisions. This week is “Sunshine Week,” which celebrates the Freedom of Information Act.
Openness within public entities leads to better communication, stronger scrutiny and progress locally and nationally.
With an inaugural grant from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has continued to support the effort, Sunshine Week was launched by the American Society of News Editors in March 2005. This initiative is celebrated in mid-March each year to coincide with James Madison’s birthday on March 16.
In 2011, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined ASNE as a national co-coordinator of Sunshine Week, enabling the organizations to join forces and resources to produce materials for participants and keep the website and social media sites engaged.
Though created by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public’s right to know what its government is doing, and why.
Unfortunately, the White House enacted a new, troubling policy this week that flies right in the face of that act. The Executive Branch is now apparently exempt from Freedom of Information Act, except “when it’s appropriate,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the Washington Post. This coming from a President who has touted his administration as the most open in history.
This at the same time that former Secretary of State (and possible Presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton revealed she’d used a personal email account for her governmental correspondence while she held that title.
A personal email account is not subject to FOI laws — something a career politician should know.
Flaws in open governance occur on both sides of the aisle, but it is particularly troubling when the highest held office in the country sets the example that public is on a “need to know” basis, when in fact, the public is on a “right to know” basis.
This is not the example that public officials on any level, including Milford and other communities like it, should follow. Elected officials serve their constituency, not the other way around.
This is a reminder to elected officials that their business is open to the public, and a reminder to residents that Sunshine Week is not only to serve as a tool for the press — it’s a right of any resident to know, and ask, what their public officials are doing.
Every week — not just Sunshine Week — let the sun shine in.
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