Let’s let the light shine in

Published 4:17 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunday marks the start of Sunshine Week. It’s the time each year when the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press work to raise the awareness of the importance of open government and freedom of information.

Here in Alabama, we have the Open Meetings Act, which replaced the old “Sunshine Law.”  This law guarantees that Alabama’s citizens have open access to agencies, boards, commissions, and other governmental bodies that conduct the people’s business.

The intent of the law, the way we view it, is to keep government information available to the public. After all, despite popular opinion, “sunshine laws” aren’t written for journalists. They’re written for you, John Q. Citizen.

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These laws are meant to shine light into the dark nooks and crannies of government secrecy.

Without freedom of information, we, as citizens of Butler County, couldn’t analyze public spending. Our government officials wouldn’t have to tell us where our tax dollars are going.

Without sunshine laws, our council members and commissioners wouldn’t have to tell the public when they’re meeting. They wouldn’t have to make known their votes or discuss topics in the open.

If there were no sunshine laws, the police department and Sheriff’s office wouldn’t have to say why they arrested a person.

These laws, which are meant to create accountability, are foundational to democracy.

We know that like all laws, the sunshine laws can be abused. But for the most part, they serve to keep politicians and bureaucrats in check.

We’re fortunate here in Butler County.

The majority of our local officials have nothing to hide and support open government. And for those that don’t, this law helps make sure they provide you with the information that is rightfully yours.

Here’s to hoping for a bright, sunny forecast in Butler County for years to come.