Roberts: Taking time to educate the public about importance of open government

From The Gazette (Colorado Springs): By Jeffrey A. Roberts “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

Louis Brandeis wrote these words a century ago, before his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, to note the power of publicity as a cure for “social and industrial diseases” like the inequities fostered by the corporate monopolies of his time.

Today all states have “sunshine laws,” a catch-all term for statutes requiring openness in government – rules meant to guarantee access to public records and proceedings. Justice Brandeis would probably approve: Shed light on the workings of government and society is better off.

Transparency is now such a popular concept, it’s become something of a buzzword. Mayors, school boards, city councils, the president – public officials at every level tout their transparency initiatives. Indeed, the Internet has made it possible for governments to easily share important information – budgets, agendas, minutes, databases – like never before.

It’s a trend worth applauding. But not every bit of information regarded by the law as a public record is free of charge and easy to download. Far from it. And elected officials in some communities still conduct some public business behind closed doors.

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