Editorial: Sunshine Week a celebration of public and press access to government information

The Durango Herald: The belief that good government flourishes when it is well-supervised by citizens has been deeply held in this country since its founding. As firmly entrenched as that value is, Americans shouldn’t forget that the rights that uphold their informed participation require constant tending.

Sunshine Week, March 11-17 this year, focuses attention on the open-meetings and open-records laws that give ordinary people the right to observe the workings of government. Such laws are foundational to our representative democracy. Coloradans’ rights are strong because of decades of advocacy by journalists, government watchdogs and lawmakers who believe in transparency.

Such laws are upheld, though, by the insistence of the public on pushing open illegally closed doors and digging for documents someone says cannot be found, and then on taking action based on what they find. Those basic laws are not permanent guarantees; Colorado residents know what can happen when deep-pocketed outside interests breeze in with a new agenda. Don’t assume you have a right to information that affects you; be vigilant in ensuring that everyone does. Local elected bodies follow those laws most closely when they know constituents will call them on violations.

Access to information is only the first step; accountability requires something more. Those who seek to govern must be willing to stand in the light, and when they falter in their commitment to do that, the light must come to them. They must care what their constituents think and want; they must be responsive, and they must know that constituents will insist on that.

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