Saturday (March 17) marks the end of Sunshine Week.
You might be asking yourself, “What is Sunshine Week?”
This week marks a time when transparency in government is stressed, highlighted and celebrated.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote discussion of the importance of open government and freedom of information, according to www.sunshineweek.org.
The week is not just for news media; it is for everyone who has an interest in the public’s right to know. That includes government officials, schools, libraries, civic organizations and nonprofit organizations.
News media are not the only ones that demand transparency in government and stand for freedom of information. Citizens can, do and should continue to do so. Officials are elected by you and therefore actions they take that affect you should be done openly.
The week is usually held in March, and this year it runs from March 11-17. Recognized annually, it coincides with the birthday of James Madison.
It is a great reminder of how important transparency in government is and why we should all fight for freedom of information. It’s about empowering us to take an active role in our communities and their leadership.
Some things done in honor of Sunshine Week include the hosting of a public forum centered on open government or making a Freedom of Information Act request of local and state government officials.
While the week consists of only seven days, open government and freedom of information are two things that should be considered daily and stressed year-round. When there’s a public hearing about a multi-million-dollar building project or if a city employee unexpectedly resigns, if you want more information, request it. You have a right to. It is your community.
If a meeting is closed due to the topic being discussed, ask your city administrator to explain the law that allows city councils to meet in closed session. You have a right to know. And, for your information, there is a law in Minnesota that allows certain meetings to be closed.
We should not wait for Sunshine Week to talk about open government. Think about it and stand up for it beyond these seven days in March. It should be at the forefront of our minds year-round. After all, information is power.