Armstrong: Put government records online by default

Complete Colorado: We pay for government. We deserve to know what’s going on with government. Yet public records remain far too difficult for the public to access. The Colorado legislature needs to fix this problem as an urgent priority.

Indeed, the legislature should totally reverse the burden here. Right now, journalists and other citizens have to beg government officials for access to records and often pay for the privilege. In the Twenty-First Century, the Internet Age, government should automatically make all records available online for all to see, in easy-to-search formats, except in cases of overriding issues of privacy or security. In those cases, government officials should minimally redact documents and put them online, withholding documents only in clearly and narrowly defined cases. At least government should make redacted documents available to anyone who asks, at no charge, unless an agency can prove before an impartial panel that a request is abusive.

Here is how Alex Burness of the Denver Post summarized the problem: “Colorado’s open records law actually functions to limit public access to records. Journalists know this, public information officers know this, lawmakers know this. It’s very fixable, should anyone in power decide they want to do something about it.”

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