Editorial: Sunshine Week reinforces of the importance of government transparency

Colorado Springs Independent: Sunday is the start of daylight saving time … an opportunity to turn our clocks forward by an hour and embrace an extra hour of sunshine. Appropriately, it also marks the start of Sunshine Week, a 14-year-old initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It’s designed to throw light on the importance of media’s watchdog function over our government.

Just as the sun fends off the darkness, so too does a vigilant news team fend off dark intentions and shady, back-room dealings. It does so by attending meetings, reviewing huge stacks of paperwork and digital data, and requesting and then reviewing public documents.

Oh, and for the record, all citizens absolutely have the right to do this — not just the media — and our community watchdogs are some of the most steely-eyed observers of local government out there. That commitment is commendable, given that Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests can come with pretty hefty price tags. (The city of Colorado Springs charges a quarter per page after the first 25 cost-free pages of copied documents and $20 per hour — in 15-minute increments — for research after the first two cost-free hours.)

The Indy’s Pam Zubeck, in a somewhat ironic use of the open records act, recently obtained Colorado Springs statistics related to the frequency and cost of CORA requests. What she learned is that in 2017, the city fielded 678 requests, of which 25 incurred fees that totaled $2,010. In 2018, the city responded to 951 CORAs, for which 29 requesters paid $2,470.

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